Enterprise Architects in the Boardroom

Enterprise Architects in the Boardroom

Where do the Enterprise Architects (EAs) fit into the organizational structure at your company or agency? Do they report to the CEO? More likely the CIO, or even a manager buried somewhere in the IT organization like the VP of Architecture, right? If so, there’s something very wrong with your architecture efforts. Perhaps the EAs aren’t doing Enterprise Architectureat all. Or at the least, they have an insufficient mandate.

But you’re not alone. Rarely if ever do EAs report to the CEO, or have a seat in the boardroom. And it’s a shame, because shouldn’t the EA team be responsible for establishing best practice policies for organizing and running the entire enterprise? Shouldn’t your chief EA be your CAO (Chief Architecture Officer, of course), on a par with the COO and CFO?

Instead, most organizations with EAs consider them to be part of the IT organization. As a result, the scope of their efforts are inherently technology-centric. There’s no question large organizations need enterprise-class IT architecture, to be sure, but IT-driven architecture isn’t Enterprise Architecture.

What’s missing from the typical EA’s role isn’t simply responsibility for the business half of the architecture equation. Fundamentally, most EAs lack a true architecture mandate from the CEO. In other words, such organizations lack adequate governance.

Without a sufficient architecture mandate, architects may do great work, but their organizations haven’t decided that their recommendations should actually be put into practice — and this problem doesn’t only apply to EAs, but in fact, to any kind of architect. They can craft the most wonderful architectural policies, but without a mandate, at best they are recommended policies, which aren’t really policies at all. A policy isn’t a policy unless executive management says that yes, we’re going to follow the policies the architects come up with.

You may never get a CAO in your organization, but successful EA depends upon effective governance, and effective governance requires an executive mandate. Otherwise the architects are stuck in their Ivory Towers, doing wonderful, but optional work.

And for you executives out there? Establishing the appropriate architecture mandate is a best practice approach for running an organization. Do you have perennial issues aligning business and IT priorities, and you’re looking for a better approach? An architecture mandate is a good place to start.

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