Google’s ngram viewer shows that the word “architecture” had a stable usage from 1800–1980. It slowly rose through the 1980’s then sharply spiked in the 1990’s and remains stable at a rate double it’s previous usage since about 1998 ( you can see the architecture ngram here). That rise was interestingly co-incident with the rise of computers (and computer architecture) and the birth and growth in the 1990’s of that beast known as an Enterprise Architect. In the 90’s, enterprise architects went on a search for the computer systems equivalent of physic’s Grand Unified Theory. Creatures such as TOGAF, DODAF and other “universal architectures” were born and have succeeded to varying degrees at organizations around the globe.
The biggest problem when the launch was not a stellar success was that most of the enterprise architectures ended up layering on more overhead, processes and paperwork than they actually supplied solutions. At the same time that enterprise architects were looking to create massive universal guidelines, developers were moving to Xtreme programming, becoming Agile and sitting side by side with their customers.
With the shift to a services mentality, the need for enterprise architects is stronger than ever, but only if they learn some lessons from the Agile approach.
Enterprise architects should not be looking at how they can design and dictate global, universal frameworks, but should use their deep technical knowledge and ability to abstract to patch some of the biggest gaps in the services life cycle for most companies. Here are the top opportunities for enterprise architects to make a difference in the business bottom line:
1) IT Departments struggle to translate Business Services into technical requirements. This impacts cost, value and risk for the business and creates lots of unhappy phone calls to the CIO. Enterprise Architects wondering what their role is in all of this “service stuff” should be working with the service owners to design and build focused frameworks and tools that translate business demand into IT requirements.
2) Someone with an Enterprise Architecture background and training is perfect for the vendor evaluation process. Using their translational skills, they can easily help the business talk with vendors and understand if the product being pitched actually meets business requirements while meeting corporate security restrictions.
3) Working for a large corporation with large purchasing power? Now is the perfect time to partner with a service owner, help them abstract out the critical business features missing in the market place and work with vendors to shape the future to your company’s advantage.
The new Enterprise Architecture group is agile and focused on services and service owners. These architects use their powers of abstraction and design to make IT services better for the business.