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Solutions vs. Enterprise Architects: The Great LinkedIn Debate
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Solutions vs. Enterprise Architects: The Great LinkedIn Debate Over the past couple of months, the AEA discussion board on LinkedIn has been buzzing with an ongoing debate over the differences between Solutions vs. Enterprise Architects and the benefits of each. This debate—which has generated well over 100 comments on the forum—was prompted by a simple question: Why should we hire an Enterprise Architect when we have so many great Solutions Architects?

 

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Top tags: EA profession  Enterprise Architect  role of EA  Solutions architect 

Solutions vs. Enterprise Architects: The Great LinkedIn Debate

Posted By Birgit Hartje, Monday, April 21, 2014

Solutions vs. Enterprise Architects: The Great LinkedIn Debate

By Steve Nunn, CEO, Association of Enterprise Architects

Over the past couple of months, the AEA discussion board on LinkedIn has been buzzing with an ongoing debate over the differences between Solutions vs. Enterprise Architects and the benefits of each.  This debate—which has generated well over 100 comments on the forum—was prompted by a simple question: Why should we hire an Enterprise Architect when we have so many great Solutions Architects?

The lively debate sparked by this question is one that EA community is all too familiar with. Enterprise Architecture—what it is, why it’s important, what we do as EA professionals—has been an ongoing debate for many years. Most organizations still do not understand the function of enterprise architecture nor do they understand why or how having an enterprise architecture or having a staff of enterprise architects can help their organization.

The difficulty in defining who we are and what we do is, in part, because we deal in abstractions. Enterprise architects, by nature, work with the big picture. In order to come up with the solutions needed to architect an entire enterprise, we have to look at the big picture. We need to be able to walk the walk of IT and talk the talk of business—and fill in the gaps between the two. The ability to have a broad perspective, communicate the big picture and come up with comprehensive solutions across an entire organization is exactly what sets the Enterprise Architect apart from the Solutions Architect. EA is an ongoing, never-ending function that is always evolving. In a twist on the old saying, an EA’s work is never done. Solutions, on the other hand, are just that—they solve a particular problem—they are project-oriented with a beginning, middle and end (subject, of course, to updates as requirements or regulations change).

Whether or not an organization needs Enterprise Architects or Solutions Architects—I would argue that they likely need both—is a question that each organization must ask itself. In small organizations, the roles may in fact be interchangeable simply because roles in small organizations are often less defined and people are required to do more. Large organizations, on the other hand, absolutely need people in both roles in order to get things done, just as any team needs both leaders and workers.

As has been reflected by this Great LinkedIn Debate, there are many opinions out there as to what the roles of both positions should or should not be, and those of us who care about this profession could continue this discussion until the proverbial cows come home. But ultimately the larger issues for us as a community of professionals are these:

  • How do we end such debates?
  • How do we raise our profiles within organizations and validate our worth?
  • How do we more easily articulate the separate functions of these roles within organizations?
  • How do we make sure that the C-Suite understands why they need Enterprise Architects and Solutions Architects?

Answering these questions is part of the work of a professional organization such as ours. It’s the reason we exist—to help professionals like you boost your hiring potential, keep up your skills, interact with others within the profession and to be advocates for Enterprise Architecture as a profession. It’s also the reason why the AEA is looking at ways to elevate EA to the status of a profession so that people will understand our role within organizations.

As with anything that deals in abstractions and intangibles, we may never be able to put an end to debates such as why organizations should hire an Enterprise Architects vs. Solutions Architects. But the more we can work together as professionals to showcase the results of our work and help others understand what Enterprise Architecture is and why it’s important through real, measureable and tangible results, the further the profession will get toward making the question moot. 

Tags:  EA profession  Enterprise Architect  role of EA  Solutions architect 

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