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Draft: Required traits of an architect

posted Mar 21, 2013, 1:22 PM by Jake Vosloo


Would the employers rather have another specialist in a business field (of which there should be enough already in their business), or would they rather have someone who has the capacity to analyse and strategise and approach problems of all sorts encountered at the confluence between business and technology, someone who fits the parts together?

In plain terms, what a recruiter and employer should be asking for, "do I want another specialist or a generalist the architect is? The EA architect should be the universal man of the business. The Renaissance man. This is what you should be looking at.

Ask yourselves or your clients this question, because that determines your EA candidate selection. Your rarely can get both at the price of one that is, at the quality you demand for the price you pay. Employers have to balance the EA with the specialist demands. If you go on asking for both you would probably end up with a specialist with TOGAF or Zachman training. Beware. 


Very few EA architects would be able to create their own framework able to link the disparate parts of your business in a big picture. This is what you ideally want.  But it's hard to find. You'll discover a lot of show off, ranting and hype.


You'll have to make sure that the architect understand how business parts and designs fit together in a blueprint or set of them. Ask them to show you a sample integrated blueprint.


The architect may document and design for you the many parts of an enterprise. But if you put them together would your enterprise fly same as an airplane does when you fix the parts together?


Enthusiastic: A passion for life, work, and EA goes a long way. Far too many architects are rendered much less effective simply due to a lack of enthusiasm in their communication about EA.


Technology-agnostic: Unfortunately, many strong technical people are also quite biased in their views toward vendors/products and tend to “go with what they know.” Architects must be vendor/product-neutral and maintain an objective perspective.


General in technology outlook: It is important to understand enough about the broad range of technologies that an architect can engage in discussion with technical experts and not be swayed by inappropriately biased personal agendas in technical decisions.


Well-respected and influential: Architects need the support of senior IT and business managers and the ability to influence them as well as the IT organization at large. Those that are already well respected and have influence have an advantage. New hires must establish this credibility early. It should be noted that influential persons are not always in management positions.


· Able to represent a constituency: Members of an EA team have a constituency - part of the organization they represent in the process. Some individuals are too focused on their own agenda to properly represent others. Although it is fine to assertively share an individual opinion, he or she must yield to the position that best represents and serves his or her constituents.


· Articulate and persuasive: Enterprise architects must spend substantial time communicating and educating. Therefore, it is important that they have the skills to clearly communicate ideas in a persuasive, compelling manner.


· Persistent: Enterprise architects are strategically inspired change agents. People tend to resist change (in most areas), and we certainly find this with the behavioral change being introduced by an EA program. Therefore, it is critical to be persistent in pursuit of positive transformation.


· Good at “helicoptering”: Effective enterprise architects have the rare ability to zoom out and be able to conduct a worthwhile discussion about business strategy with the CEO and, a minute later, be in a technical expert’s office with a zoomed-in mindset discussing technical details without getting lost.


· Strategic: Strategic ideas are, by definition, those that contribute to defining or fulfilling the transformations described in the business strategy of the enterprise while tactical issues pertain to executing well with operations. Architects must be strategically driven, while recognizing the need to have balance in the organization with effective, tactical operations.


· Focused on what is truly best for the organization (limited personal agendas): Although it is human nature to have a personal agenda, the best enterprise architects are leading or participating in an EA process designed to yield whatever will best serve the enterprise (even at the discomfort on one or many along the way).


· Knowledgeable of the business: It is important to avoid the trap of technology for the sake of technology. Enterprise architects are leaders and therefore must have a strong interest in and understanding of the business, its strategic direction, dysfunctions, strengths, etc. It is not good enough to be a superior technologist.


Able to facilitate: Enterprise architects are frequently counted on to facilitate content development meetings or lead subcommittees. In this capacity, effective group facilitation skills are important.


Able to negotiate: It is important to seek the win-win positions/solutions on issues as architecture content is developed. There are difficult decisions to be made. Emotion can get in the way. Effective negotiation skills are invaluable for peacefully resolving these situations with powerful decisions to benefit the organization.


· Focused on the long term: The idea is to take a series of short-term steps that not only deliver near-term value, but also contribute toward achieving a longer-term vision for the enterprise. This demands focus on identifying and driving toward that longer-term goal.


· Able to effectively use the whiteboard: Architects are visual people and tend to feel compelled to draw diagrams in their communication. Some people even like to use this reality in interview techniques.


· Able to lead: Taking the initiative to persuade, inspire, motivate, and influence others, plus the ability to make quality decisions with a high level of stakeholder buy-in.


· Able to be taught: It should be noted that a strong understanding of EA is not on this list. This is not an oversight. We have learned that if a person possesses all or most of the aforementioned traits, and he or she is “teachable,” then he or she can learn EA best practices quickly and rapidly become effective




Have the ability to conduct a worthwhile discussion about business strategy with an executive and, a minute later, discuss technical detail with an expert without getting lost.


Strategically driven, while recognizing the need to have balance in the organization with effective, tactical operations.


Focused on what is truly best for the organization


Effective group facilitation skills


Effective negotiation skills to peacefully broker powerful decisions to benefit the organization.


Able to take a series of short-term steps that not only deliver near-term value, but also contribute toward achieving a longer-term vision for the enterprise.


Lead by taking the initiative to persuade, inspire, motivate, and influence others to make quality decisions with a high level of stakeholder buy-in.

A: Agile. An enterprise architect creates an agile organization — maybe even with the help of the Agile Architecture method! But by agile in this context, I mean an inherent personality trait, the ability to move from business-speak one minute to geek-speak the next, for instance, or being quick to leverage the briefly exposed soft spot of a line-of-business manager that can be played to so as to build project buy-in. 

 R: Range. An enterprise architect, it almost goes without saying, can’t be solely invested in creating complex technical solutions and structured documents. That person’s range needs to extend to understanding the business. Dare I say, even to loving the industry he or she is in. And loving it enough to dig in beyond the systems requirements that drive retail supply-chain activities, for instance. And enough to stay abreast of overall industry trends and directions, emerging global challenges in the vertical sector, and the company’s strengths and weaknesses within these contexts. 

 C: Communicative. An enterprise architect cannot be the guy or gal off in the walled garden creating models and diagrams that are to be implemented by faceless individuals. He or she is the great communicator who facilitates IT and business alignment by facilitating and fostering IT and business interactions. And the enterprise architect must remember that communication is a two-way street: He or she must help lead the discussion as well as patiently LISTEN to the viewpoints of colleagues, customers, and partners – even when the conversation seems redundant or the answer seems obvious.

 H: Holistic. An enterprise architect thinks holistically, about system design, problem solving, technical- and business-domain structures and processes … and the people who engage with them.

 I: Innovative. An enterprise architect knows that the work is about more than helping the business do what it always has done, but better. For example, it’s about exploiting opportunities to fundamentally change workflows instead of simply improving their execution. 

 T: Transformative.  An enterprise architect excels both at driving the short-term steps to achieve quick wins for improving tactical operations and fitting them into a strategic vision for long-term business transformation.

 E: Experienced. An enterprise architect needs to have experience at multiple levels. There’s the technical aspect of experience, of course, with skills honed in application development and maintenance, business requirements engineering, and infrastructure planning and support. But also the architect needs to be experienced in the art of politicking — negotiation, compromise, persuasion and consensus-building all come into play.

 C: Conflict Confronter. To extend that thought about politics, the enterprise architect is aware that others in the organization are going to be invested in exploring other technologies or other ways of doing things from what the architectural direction is. And he or she knows one can’t be timid in dealing with that. Nice, yes; timid, no.

 T: Techno-freethinker. As discussed in our recent article, Enterprise Architecture: Strategize Before You Modernize, the enterprise architect has to come to the table with no preconceived notions of or allegiances to specific technologies or technology providers. You can’t lead — as you must — if your mindset is narrow, rather than open to all options.