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How much authority does an EA need?

Posted By Nilotpal Das, Thursday, January 16, 2014

How much authority is enough authority for Enterprise Architecture. This is a question that has haunted practically everyone who has anything to do with enterprise architecture. There have been debates and discussions about whether or not enterprise architecture should have authority of what goes down in an enterprise. There have been given analogies of the Enterprise Architect being the advisor to the king and doubts raised if enterprise architecture has any teeth if all it does is map the enterprise and advise on the future course of action. What if project teams decide that they don't want to follow the guidance in the interest of delivery and margins? What if they are too lazy to follow the standards? What if the enterprise doesn't understand the vision that the EA team is showing?

Ideally and academically (and I am only going to talk about the academics here), I would say that Enterprise Architecture is an advisory board. Enterprise Architects do not get projects executed or standards implemented. They do governance, but they do not hold a baton in their hands to get their standards implemented. In the ideal world, they set standards, provide valuable advice and their governance process is just reporting to the senior management about what's going on in the enterprise. Whether the standards are being followed or not and if they are not then what are the holes, aspects of why they are not being followed and what can be done to fill those gaps.

It is the senior management's job to provide directives to their respectable teams to follow standards and stick to the long term organizational vision. After all enterprise architecture is not about IT or any other part of the business in solitude. It is about the enterprise as a whole, which means it is about meeting organizational objectives.

What happens in the real world is that the word Enterprise Architecture is misinterpreted, misused, misrepresented and sometimes even raped. Sometimes designs applications for the enterprise, they call that architect an enterprise architect. Because the application is targeted for the enterprise, which means it will collaborate with other applications in the enterprise. I wonder if there are any applications left that are not for the enterprise in that definition, any more. I have also encountered senior managers, delivery managers, technical leaders and so on to be misrepresented as enterprise architect.

I often see a job requirement that asks for Enterprise .Net Architect or Enterprise Java Architect. In my opinion, enterprise architects are technology agnostic. In fact, I tend to think that enterprise architects shouldn't even belong to IT. The team of enterprise architects, should be reporting into the senior managing directors and should be working with the business as a whole. After all they provide the necessary insight to the senior management to ensure the organization is aligning to the short term and long term strategies that the senior management has for the organization from not just the IT perspective, but from all other perspectives as well.

So bottom line, Enterprise Architects do not require authority in fact they should not be given any. However, they should report into an authority that forms long term strategies and makes organization wide decision.

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