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An Update on the AEA with Steve Nunn, CEO
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At The Open Group’s recent San Francisco 2014 conference, we sat down with Steve Nunn, CEO, of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA) to catch up on what the association has planned for 2014, efforts toward making Enterprise Architecture an official profession and the global demand for skilled Enterprise Architects.


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Top tags: EA career path  EA profession 

An Update on the Association of Enterprise Architects with Steve Nunn, CEO, AEA

Posted By admin, Thursday, May 22, 2014

An Update on the Association of Enterprise Architects with Steve Nunn, CEO, AEA

At The Open Group’s recent San Francisco 2014 conference, we sat down with Steve Nunn, CEO, of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA) to catch up on what the association has planned for 2014, efforts toward making Enterprise Architecture an official profession and the global demand for skilled Enterprise Architects.


Our discussion follows below. 


What initiatives are priorities for the AEA in 2014?

I think we have our infrastructure together nicely now, so it’s about running programs that the members want to participate in. Essentially, it’s about adding value to membership. The key ones we know are of interest are continued work on a career path for Enterprise Architects and what does it mean to be an Enterprise Architect? Can you go in at beginning of your career? Can you switch from something else? And, if so, how do you make the transition? What qualifications are appropriate? Where do you go to get them? All of that type of stuff. There are lots of people in the industry worrying about some of these issues, but nobody’s really pulling that together. So we’re trying to do that, with the goal of being the professional body for Enterprise Architects. We’re trying to get that in shape so that we can help everyone know what it means to be an Enterprise Architect and how they go about doing it.


That involves various things like looking at relevant certifications, looking at relevant training programs. The particular challenge with Enterprise Architecture is that when you’re looking for relevant qualifications, there’s very little that’s not relevant. There are soft skills, there’s marketing. You’ve got to, ideally, be able to understand all sorts of aspects – strategy is a key one, as is technology – at least, enough to get what you need from the technologists. So, as you can see, lots of different disciplines are relevant. Project management is another.  It’s hard to exclude things, but obviously we need to be able to say we need a bit of this and a bit of that. There’s a lot of information out there – different certifications in different disciplines that might form part of it, but we need to put it together in conjunction with the members. So that would be the key priority as I see it.


Another is to continue something we already do, which is the quarterly Journal of Enterprise Architecture, which seems to be very well received and it’s a pretty polished publication. What we want is to really ramp up the number of the submissions from members, to make it really feel like their publication. So that’s something we’re going to focus on, to encourage members to submit. We have repositioned it in the last year to be more of a practitioner’s publication than an academic one. We haven’t flipped a switch -  there’s still a balance -  but the direction is to err more on the side of being a publication for practitioners. For example, what everybody wants is case studies, tips and tricks, so I think we’ll be seeing more of that type of thing in the Journal.


The other sort of broad category of initiative is work groups and special interest groups. We’ve got close to 40K members now, and some of them have a particular interest or an industry specific interest. Or perhaps there’s a group that’s interested in a topic such as Business Architecture, or the different types of architecture within the gamut of Enterprise Architecture. We have a great association management system that allows collaboration online because we are - apart from our local chapters – a mostly online community, a virtual community. So we have the functionality on our website to create groups very easily and get people started. We have one group right now, quite an active one, called the Technology Management Work Group. They came along, got themselves together, and started using the system to communicate and have their discussions.  So, I expect us to be starting more of those. We have some functionality that we can offer the members; we just need to have champions for different areas to pick up the ball and start running with it.


One of the initiatives the AEA has been exploring is the process of making EA into an official “profession”? What’s the process for that?

There is an accepted definition of or set of criteria for what it means to be a profession, and, obviously, it has to be more rigorous than people just deciding to call themselves ‘Enterprise Architects’. There needs to be a community. Some professions have a body of knowledge that needs to be written down; other professions, like law or accountancy – and they’re really more our models – don’t have one textbook that every lawyer or every accountant learns. There’s a whole range of things, and we’ve got to work out what that is, what the appropriate body of knowledge is, what professional qualifications you need to be an Enterprise Architect, etc.


Which takes me back to my earlier point  - what academic qualifications, if any, you need. Personally, I would like to see a path to the profession that doesn’t involve a particular academic qualification. It’s important nowadays where a lot of people aren’t going through college, choosing not to either because of cost or some other reason. There are a lot of bright people out there that we could capture into the profession if we didn’t mandate certain qualifications. Not everyone feels the same, but that’s my personal view.  


Professions need things like a code of ethics, so we have just reinvigorated, just relaunched, a Code of Ethics Work Group, aimed at getting a code of ethics worked out. That is one of the requirements [for a profession]. We have a starting point, we have a framework, and now we need to look at what it is that is specific to Enterprise Architecture in terms of its ethical requirements. My initial guess would be it wouldn’t be very different to the other professions that we talk about in terms of ethics. That, along with other things, is our approach - to not reinvent the wheel where we can avoid it, and try to get a head start there.


There are various criteria that we need to work through one by one, but a code of ethics is one that’s in our sights, and we’ve started work on. Then when we have that, we will get into the area of disciplinary codes and things like that, which is a little further out for us, but is needed for us to be a profession.


What would be the benefits to practitioners if Enterprise Architecture was officially recognized as a profession?

 I think part of being a recognized profession is there’s a ‘feel good’ factor to it - intangible things, like an element of pride of being part of a profession. When you are able to say ‘I’m an Enterprise Architect,’ and it means something to someone on the street or at a party, that recognition is a big part of that. When the person to whom you are talking says ‘OK, yes I know what that is and it’s a respected career.’ So there’s that aspect. I think also there are some important, tangible benefits around the marketability of Enterprise Architects. If they are considered professionals inside their employing organizations, then they may be treated with more respect, perhaps being paid more money or better compensation overall. All of those things, I believe, come with being a profession.


The other side of it is, it comes with responsibility, as well, and some obligations, such as to follow code of ethics or about behavior and how you conduct yourselves. Although that sounds like a negative thing, I think it’s a very positive thing. Yes, it’s an obligation, but it’s one that everyone should have anyway.


There are also some universities, such as Penn State, that are exploring making enterprise architecture part of their curriculum and providing certification for graduates or developing degree programs in Enterprise Architecture. How is the AEA involved in those efforts?  Does that go against the current model of experience-based certification?

I’ll answer the second part first. I don’t think it goes against the current model of experience-based certification; I think it’s complementary to it. The current certifications based on experience or even knowledge of a particular methodology or even framework, have been popular because there weren’t really any academic qualifications. Even as we start to see more academic qualifications, I still think that the current type of certifications will play a very valuable role. Vocational training, and other sorts of certifications will play a very vital role in the future, but I think the academic path to Enterprise Architecture is an important part of the career path.


So, yes, we are involved with various academic institutions that either have or are planning courses and different offerings. Many are already offering modules in Enterprise Architecture in their courses or post-graduate courses in Enterprise Architecture. Penn State, I believe, are certainly the first in the U.S. planning to offer an undergraduate degree program for Enterprise Architecture. What we’ve discovered recently is there are universities in other parts of the world are doing this as well.


The goal of the AEA here would be to bring the common parts of those together and see where that leads us in terms of an academic curriculum. We’d like to think that we would play a part in defining what the right curriculum would be for Enterprise Architecture.  If we’re the professional body, we would need to know that people are learning the right things when they’re at university.  The first thing I heard from the academic community was that these things don’t happen overnight—approval for an undergraduate degree course would typically take 5 to 10 years.


In what regions worldwide are you seeing the most demand for certified Enterprise Architects? Why is that?

I think the real answer is globally. There really does seem to be a demand for Enterprise Architects across the world. I’ve often heard that in the United States, organizations, even when they’ve had hiring freezes across the board, if they come across someone who appears to have skills to be an Enterprise Architect or the right experience, they’ve made exceptions to their hiring freezes. So they’re in short supply because of the breadth of skills that are ideally required. That appears to be becoming true everywhere.


To look specifically at where AEA members are growing most, I think India is an important territory. We actually have six local chapters in India; there’s a lot of interest in the professionalization of Enterprise Architecture there. There’s a real hunger, thirst for people to have the qualifications to put themselves ahead of other people. It’s very competitive in India. Other areas where we’re seeing a lot of growth would include Australia. We’re seeing a lot of Enterprise Architects getting trained, and moving from other disciplines into Enterprise Architecture in Australia. South Africa has always had a level of maturity that might be beyond what people would expect in terms of Enterprise Architecture. But I think, where there really is a demand, and it’s nowhere near fulfilled, would be the U.S. and, to some extent the U.K., both areas we know well. Whereas South Africa would be more mature than you’d expect, those are less mature than you’d expect, but there’s a lot of opportunity for growth there.  


One of the things we have on our AEA website is a job posting area. We’re seeing an increase in the number of jobs posted there - mostly in the U.S. or the U.K., but there are  a few in Europe, a few in Australia, etc.. We don’t see too many other territories where the jobs are advertised, but I hope that’s just a matter of time. One I was very interested to see was MI5 advertising on our site for an Enterprise Architect!


One of our primary goals is for our members to be more marketable and to improve their career experience and progression. In order to achieve that we need employing organizations to see value in Enterprise Architecture to start with, and then Enterprise Architecture professionals, and then members of the professional body. What we’ve had in the last few months, which is good to see, is prospective employers calling us to verify that somebody is a member of the AEA. This tells us that members are putting it down on their resumes, and putting it forward as another reason why they should be hired.  There is quite a long road ahead of us, but it’s an encouraging start.  


You recently launched a new blog on the AEA website. Can members contribute to the blog and how can they do so?

We spent a lot of time developing our association management system and getting the website up. We have areas to put lots of different material, lots of different content, to enable the interaction between members through the system. I think what we’d like to end up achieving is that is one of the first places Enterprise Architects go to get information. So to do that, we have to get content that’s relevant to Enterprise Architects – not just getting content available and on the site, but keeping it fresh and new.


We’ve recently relaunched our blog and will have a series of blogs coming out over the next weeks and months. Hopefully, they will be of interest to the Enterprise Architects who are members and stimulate some discussion and interaction between members and lead to others contributing. We’re trying to stimulate this by getting it going, and it would be wonderful to get submissions from members. They do that by going to the AEA website homepage and clicking on ‘ Community Blog’ on the left and that takes one to the Community Blogs page which lists all blogs.





Tags:  EA career path  EA profession 

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