Who should be Chief Enterprise Architect?

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’.

EA Dimensions

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 Strategy Development
  • EA Framework and EA process development & management
  • EA Domains Standards Development. EA domains include Business Architecture, Application Architecture, Information Architecture and Network/Infrastructure Architecture
  • EA Program and Project Management
  • EA Change Management
  • Solution Architecture planning and management
  • EA Governance
  • EA Repository and Tools Management

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 [1]. 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:

  • being a driver of change and innovation
  • realizing and communicating IT’s role as a business value creator rather than cost center, optimizing ROI and TCO on IT investments and operations
  • enabling business strategy goals by identifying and prioritizing business capabilities and aligning Business and IT Architectures

CTO – Responsible for technology vision, planning, and integration. CTO should expect EA program to:

  • research emerging technology trends e.g., cloud computing, open standards, social media and identify their relevance to the business operations, as necessary
  • align technology portfolio with business strategy[2]
  • research vendors’ capabilities and integrity to support business operations
  • continuously optimize and rationalize technology portfolio life cycle management

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.

Critical Skills

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 [3]

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

Personality Attributes

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:

  • Develops and leads both EA and Project teams
  • Develops followers and commands respect among EA stakeholders
  • Influences and motivates across a variety of audiences within enterprise and industry
  • Gains support and develops consensus for proposed architectural recommendations and decisions
  • Identifies and develops future EA leaders by mentoring, training and leading by example

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.



  1. 1.Roeleven, Sven and Broer, Jonathan: “Why two thirds of Enterprise Architecture Projects fail”. IDS-Scheer White paper, 2010
  2. 2.Leganza, Gene: “Four Best Practices to get EA program on Track”. CIO Magazine, September 2010
  3. 3.Saha, Pallab: “Six Reasons why EA should not be assigned to IT department”, Business Architecture Community group discussion @ LinkedIn, February 12, 2012


Badar Munir is a management consultant who focuses on Business Transformation, Enterprise Architecture and Business Architecture. Badar has created Enterprise Business Architectures (EBAs); developed many new Enterprise Architecture offices and programs and reengineered some existing ones for clients in different industry verticals. Badar earned a BS in Aerospace Engineering from St. Louis Univ. (SLU), a BS in Computer Science and a MS in Industrial Engineering/Operations Research from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK.  Badar can be found at LinkedIn or contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comments (2)
  • James  - Chiefdom or leadership

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
    —Marianne Williamson

    People often wish for a savior to save them, to show them the way. We need a chief EA, without such a person our EA will be loss!

    I believe that people underestimate their own greatness and capabilities. I believe that we also do the same with teams. Why can't a team be help accountable of EA leadershi ? Why can't each people in a them demonstrate EA leardership ?

    I believe that Taylorism has created organisational shapes and forms which have disempowered people by creating hierarchical structures which implicitly brings people to act "as if" somebody higher up the ladder knows better then me as well as making them "believe" that leadership is about having "one" person making-decisions.

    Referring back to my article, I believe that organisations need more collaboration and teamwork, rather then more chiefdom.

  • agagen  - Chief Architect

    I think the Chief Architect should be home grown from within the company. It should be someone who came up through the ranks and really understands the business, the industry and the technical environment. Then this person will be in a position to partner with senior leaders to help define a realistic business strategy and ensure that the technical components of the strategy can be delivered by the IT organization. The Chief Architect needs to know the challenges and opportunities facing the industry and who the competitors are, what they've been doing and how to stay ahead of them.

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