Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Enterprise Architecture 101: Should Enterprise Architects Offshore re-brand themselves as General Managers*?

During the past few months, I spent some time coaching and mentoring Architects working at offshore development centers. A perennial challenge highlighted by Architects is the lack of 'global exposure' and stakeholder engagement. This is not surprising since much of the IS services – both at captive centers and IT firms – are focused on IS and business services for the global operations of their organizations or clients' business units.
The role of EA in offshore centers can be nebulous, especially in organizations where they lack frequent interactions with a wider group of functional stakeholders. Most of the EAs day-to-day activities focus on servicing requirements from clients or their global teams. In larger organizations, they try to ensure alignment of BIDAT aspects with their global counterparts, but such engagement generally adds a degree of abstraction from their end-users and clients. I am making a couple of broad assumptions here:
  • Assumption 1: Architects in many organizations have a hard enough time engaging with business stakeholders; more so for EA's in captive and offshore centers who work with their counterparts or other client facing business partners for such engagement.
  • Assumption 2: The bulk of an Architect's time and effort is spent on ensuring solutions are delivered in accordance with agreed principles and guidelines.
Visible aspects of "strategy realization," i.e. engaging in business funded programs and projects is where most Architects demonstrate value. They do this by reconciling roadmaps across functional and technical domains (link). Well defined roadmaps take into account the existing application platforms, infrastructure and processes. Architects also ensure that roadmaps focus on technology enablers, including Non-Functional Requirements (NFR), Integration principles, Data and analytics that will underpin successful digitization.

Follow the money : EA as a General Manager

Successful Enterprise Architecture teams try to ensure stronger Architecture governance by embedding it with the portfolio governance processes. While Roadmaps, Architectural artifacts and solution designs are important, it is equally important for these artifacts to be aligned with platforms and solutions being delivered to clients. After all, the clients and business stakeholders pay for a well functioning solution and not for the 'Architecture' and artifacts alone.
In many organizations, especially among the offshore delivery teams, the term 'Enterprise Architect' is loosely used to denote a senior technical or delivery lead. Therefore, it may make sense to take on the responsibilities and title of a 'General Manager.' Not only does it sound more operational, but in some cultures and organization the title may enable one to engage in broader aspects of Enterprise Architecture, that goes beyond typical 'solution design' activities, and may include:
  • Influence and enhance daily operations of the business unit or organization
  • Define and track Key performance indicators (KPIs) for a group or division and ensure 'profitability.' Tracking such KPIs and profitability may help influence specific organizational needs.
  • Engage with external vendors and wider group of stakeholders on broader organizational strategic planning activities.
  • Communicate strategy and results of strategy realization.
In many organizations, Enterprise Architects seem to have a hard time explaining the title and their role and responsibilities to stakeholders. Aligning the role with a title like 'General Manager' should bring them closer to the operational aspects of business, while continuing to influence strategy realization. This will not only enable them to gain credibility with their functional counterparts, but also engage in business funded initiatives they can influence. 
* There is another unintended, practical benefit here too: in large organizations with matrixed reporting structures, 'titles' still matter (even though the HR would like us to believe they are 'flattening' the organization.). In a few organization I have seen my counterparts include titles like "Director, Enterprise Architect" or "Vice President, Head of Architecture," therefore extending the title to include "General Manager" may be the logical next step too. 

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