As Enterprise Architecture matures and focuses on solving complex and strategic issues facing enterprises, a dilemma often arises: what are the skills, personality attributes and core competencies an individual should possess to perform the critical role of successfully leading an Enterprise Architecture program? Before answering, it would be important to understand EA program’s dimensions and its executive stakeholders’ expectations.
Industry titles for this role include, ‘Director of EA’, ‘Head Enterprise Architect’, ‘Chief Architect’ and ‘Chief Enterprise Architect’. In this article, the role will simply be referred as ‘Chief EA’.
The Chief EA should understand, develop and manage different dimensions of a mature EA program. It takes a long time to establish and mature all these dimensions and related organizational competencies within an EA program. EA dimensions include but are not limited to:
EA Executive Stakeholders
According to an IDG study, not enough executive support exists for EA programs from C-level executives. This is among the key reasons for EA programs failure . This situation can be reversed if stakes of C-level executives, being EA stakeholders, can be correctly determined and pursued by EA programs. Current situations create a huge disconnect between many EA programs and its executive stakeholders.
Therefore, Chief EA should understand and satisfy EA executive stakeholder’s specific objectives in a given EA program. It may not matter if these stakes would be identified collaboratively between EA program and the executive stakeholders, provided by the executive stakeholders themselves or might be assumed by the EA program itself. Either way, executive stakeholders would correctly expect Chief EA to communicate the progress regularly and become a partner in meeting their objectives and stakes in EA program and its outcomes. Listed next are some major stakes from each executive stakeholder’s perspectives. These stakes are not absolute and would vary for each EA program.
EA Steering Committee – Should expect EA program to follow EA Strategic plan, perform and deliver as mandated and implement changes when required by EA Change Management plan.
CIO – Being responsible for overall IT operations and delivery, A CIO should expect a robust EA program to support CIO’s mission by:
CTO – Responsible for technology vision, planning, and integration. CTO should expect EA program to:
CFO – Many EA programs are shut down since they cannot justify or communicate their business value to the executive management. This should not be happening. Like any other program, CFO would want EA program to quantify its real business value to a company’s bottom line to avoid appearing as a line expense item in the corporate financial books. CFO would expect Chief EA to quantify, communicate and present EA program’s business value to C-level executive management.
COO – Should look upon EA program to become a critical partner in planning, designing and optimizing enterprise capabilities and operations including ‘Architecting the Enterprise’ issues such as M&A, divesture, validating future business strategic goals etc. Mature business architecture would play a critical role in architecting future business structures under operating constraints while Enterprise IT Architecture would enable better operations management, ensuring products and services are developed and delivered as planned. COOs might also expect EA program to be a strategic partner in reducing operational complexities.
Chief EA Role – Skills and Attributes
The brief survey of EA dimensions and EA executive stakeholders indicate that Chief EA deals with multiple issues and outcomes, manages expectations of diverse executive stakeholders, communicates at different levels, while simultaneously thinking and delivering strategically and tactically. This is no easy job. Keeping this in mind, the critical skills and personality attributes this role should possess and demonstrate are discussed next.
Complexity Management: Skilled in dealing with ambiguity and minimizing complexity across the board. It has been argued that Chief EA also wears the hat of ‘Chief Complexity Manager’ since the individual in this role should understand enterprise complexities and ensure coherent function of enterprise systems 
Enterprise View Development: Capable of articulating and developing holistic and discrete views of enterprise functions, their related dependencies, capabilities and operating environments
Industry Vertical Knowledge: Should understand business trends, market influencers, future outlook, customer preferences and operating constraints for the industry vertical of which a given enterprise is included
Business Improvement: Defining and managing Enterprise change, BPR, and Continuous Improvement
EA Value Development: Identifying, quantifying and presenting business values created by EA program
EA CORE: Experienced and skilled in at least one domain architecture area and a few other EA dimension areas; EA and related industry frameworks and applying related techniques to EA initiatives
Business Knowledge: Enterprise culture, customers, products, services, capabilities and dependencies
Architecting the Architecture: Modeling and maturing an EA program is more an art than science as there is no cookie cutter approach. To be effective, Chief EA should be skilled in ‘continuous architecting’ an EA program and ensure its alignment with organizational culture, values, and maturity
Team Leadership: Successfully lead and motivate diverse talents which comprise an EA program team
Business & Technology Integration: Chief EA doesn’t need to be a technology guru but should be skilled in mapping challenges and identifying impact from business operations to technology space or vice versa
Strategic Thinker: Performs EA activities from business and technology strategy perspectives. Develops sound strategies to address business and technical issues using EA techniques. Collaborates with senior executives to evolve strategic directions for enterprise.
Visionary: Develops and executes realistic vision for Enterprise Architecture program and its integration with enterprise business vision. Ensures that EA vision complements enterprise vision goals. Visualizes EA program’s role as ‘game changer’ for an enterprise to successfully operate in evolving trends such as Cloud computing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Innovative digital networking and socializing platforms.
Thought Leader: Develops reputation as highly respected and sharp thought leader who can quickly grasp key issues and assess their implications across the board in business and technology landscape
Innovative: Achieves technical leaps by developing unique solutions and proposing alternatives
Business Leader: Possesses and demonstrates great leadership qualities as discussed next:
Business Savvy: Continuously identifies business challenges, provides quick turn-around to problems, providing solutions using EA techniques thus adding to company’s bottom line and value for EA program. Visualizes and defines business benefits before embarking upon any EA initiative.
Consultative: Acts as internal consultant to EA program’s stakeholders and EA clients. Transforms an issue into a business problem, develops and presents value added business solutions from EA perspectives.
Communicator: Effectively communicates EA program’s message, activities, plans and accomplishments across the enterprise and beyond. Ensures EA program develops and maintains different communication channels. Communicates the message in terms of audience expectations. For example: CFO would always be more interested in business value from a numbers perspective e.g., savings, ROI due to EA program while COO would expect to hear EA’s role in business agility or operations improvements.
Relationship Guru: Develops and manages relationships with a wide variety of professionals and entities within and outside of enterprise.