Enterprise Architecture is not enough!
Does your organization employ enterprise architects? You might be one yourself, or you might have worked with them. What has been your experience with enterprise architects? For me, from what I hear and see, enterprise architects, and I take a positive formulation here, have a somewhat mixed reputation. I think this all boils down to the following.
Where are we?
Enterprise architects are well known, and mostly valued, for their high-level views of the future state of an organization and its supporting technology. Their contribution to the actual realization of that future state is questioned however. When switching from planning to realization, delivery teams receive deliverables from enterprise architects, and are likely to take a look at them and mostly conclude that this is not enough to actually guide the implementation. So these deliverables disappear in the lower drawer. I would say, there is quite a ‘divide’ between enterprise architecture results and solution delivery needs!
I think the reputation and position of enterprise architects have grown this way because organizations have been a bit sloppy in formulating goals for their architecture efforts. Architecture roles have therefore been defined a bit sloppy as well.
Today we find many types of architects. They discern themselves by their focal areas: business architect, security architect, data architect, network architect. Though I think the most essential distinction we need to make here is the types of clients that architects work for. For architecture deliverables to be used and therefore to be useful, they need to match with client needs and abilities.
I believe an important distinction we need to make in architect’s clients is the one between clients at the management levels and clients at the delivery level. Clients at the management level are concerned with the organization’s strategic and tactical decision making. Clients at the delivery level execute the change programs that create new or changed business and IT. These types of clients are very different groups of people with different goals and scopes. Architecture deliverables for these groups are therefore quite different as well.
Enterprise architecture is the type of architecture that focuses on the needs of the decision makers. Enterprise Architecture details the structure and relationships of the Enterprise, of its business models, the way the organization will work, and how and in what way Information and IT will support its business objectives and goals. Its end-result is a project portfolio and a view showing major relations between projects. This is all valuable material during strategic and tactical decision making
On the other hand, solution architecture is the type of architecture that provides the support to the solution delivery teams that create any new Business and IT. Solution architecture defines a high-level design for a specific solution, whether this be Business or IT, and make sure it is in line with organization goals, objectives and directives. This high-level design provides structure, standards and guidance to the solution delivery teams for the detailed design of the solution. It should fit seamlessly in the delivery approach taken by the solution delivery teams.
This requires solution architects that can make the match to the enterprise architecture, are very much ‘platform aware’ (that is, they know the technologies that are used for realization) and that are able to earn trust and influence in the delivery teams. For SAP environments this would require solution architects to have extensive knowledge of – and experience in the SAP portfolio. My estimate: 5 years at least.
Recent research by Forrester (Scott and Smillie: ‘Leverage Solution Architects to drive EA results’, March 2008) shows that some 80% of organizations have defined or are defining the role of the solution architect. It doesn’t surprise me! Enterprise architects can only be effective in organizations if they can guarantee realization of the plans as designed in the enterprise architecture. And it is the Solution Architects that are indispensable for this.
So it’s time to make ‘SAP Solution Architect’ a recognized role and profession. Do you have any experience in this role? Can you share some of this experience?