The end of the enterprise architect?

Posted on February 6, 2012 by


A few days ago I was catching up with an old and good friend. A formidable enterprise architect (EA) with 20 years of experience my friend was expressing a serious concern about the future of his profession. In his view, new methodologies for software development are delegating EAs to the ash heap of history. Of course he was talking about agile development and its fast iterative style. Was agile an instance of the infinite monkey theorem, he wondered. In my friend’s view the cost for agile development is dropping fast. Consequently, he believes that development shops would prefer the quasi-random approach of agile development to the orderly planning an execution that an EA could command. He also pointed to a declining number of EA positions in the Chicago region.

Are enterprise architects an endangered species in the IT ecosystem?

As I sought to reassure my friend that his profession was still alive and that his skills quite relevant and valuable, I realized that his concerns were reflecting a systemic change in the IT business landscape. Certainly enterprise architecture is not about software development. An organization that replaces an EA with a scrum leader, has never taken EA seriously. Software development is the result of EA, not its function. What my friend was talking about was the increasing number of IT companies that bypass EA entirely.

Startup companies have a reason to bypass enterprise architecture at an early stage. That’s understandable. But many medium size enterprises seem to bypass the concept in favor of ad hoc solutions and outsourcing. Even bigger corporations, according to my EA friend seem to be questioning the usefulness of his trade.

Enterprise architecture is a process to internalize the business concept — as such it is time consuming and its benefits may not have an immediate impact on the next quarterly statement. Therefore it takes a special breed of CIO/CTO to recognize the importance of EA and defend its value for the organization.

The cloud provides us with nearly infinite resources at prices that were unimaginable a few years ago. IT infrastructure is no longer a capital expense but an operational one, assigned to the same ledger for toilet paper, light bulbs, and toner — at least metaphorically. Traditionally the enterprise architect’s job was to align technology to the business mission and values; along the way EAs were expected to save a few bucks. If similar savings are materialized by the CAPEX-to-OPEX transformation of IT infrastructure, thanks to the cloud, my EA friend has plenty to worry about.

Posted in: Leo's