The Chief Architect’s role in ensuring EA success | Real IRM

Real IRM

Leading Enterprise Architecture Value™
Monday, 26 October, 2015
Published by: ITWeb

The role of the Chief Architect in ensuring EA programmes deliver value

Analysts confirm the single biggest reason for failed EA programmes is lack of leadership skills within the core elements of the guiding coalition and the EA team. At the nucleus, the chief architect is required to lead by example and inspire others, while remaining acutely tuned in to the business' needs.

Acting as the keystone in the EA structures being built, the chief architect must be flexible enough to continually adapt the business case for EA, but remain unwavering in the eventual vision – that of modernising and optimising the way the company functions.

The resilience of the EA function ultimately depends on the strengths of the chief architect.

As EA inevitably takes some time to generate sustainable returns, the chief architect must maintain the enthusiasm of executive stakeholders and business partners, while dealing with the ever-present threat that some individuals may revert to old habits, divert funds to other projects, or focus on short-term wins.

This is a delicate balance, and the skills that qualify someone as a great architect don't necessarily make him/her a strong leader. The most essential attributes include business acumen, the ability to translate technology into simple business outcomes, the ability to listen, communicate, present to groups, articulate the vision of the EA function, and inject enthusiasm for the EA practice.

"...the skills that qualify someone as a great architect don't necessarily make him/her a strong leader."

It goes without saying the chief architect must also possess the right technical skills that allow him/her to guide and govern the EA portfolio. In staffing the EA function, companies should consider candidates in the context of defined career ladders and skills assessments. It is only with the right skills background that the chief architect will be in a position to enhance the strategic importance of the EA function. If s/he does not add value within the first year of his/her tenure, the practice is at risk of dissipating.

Leadership also includes aligning the differing EA visions held by the various business units and stakeholders. Everyone has a slightly different spin on what EA should achieve, and how the company will achieve it. While keeping stakeholders involved in the project, the chief architect must influence, guide, and delicately meld these visions into a single, cohesive EA strategy.

Finally, the EA practice is at risk if the chief architect and his/her team are not skilled in communicating with key stakeholders across both business and technology domains and at multiple levels within the company. Results need to be clearly measured and demonstrated to the business. The EA vision must be constantly reinforced throughout the programme as the practice develops in maturity.

In my next Industry Insight, I will look at the broader EA team that executes on the vision of the chief architect – and ways the team can collaborate to ensure EA success.


Carla Bell, Real IRM Solutions, 011 805 3734,