What is an enterprise architect?

What is the role of an enterprise architect?

The answer is blurry because no one has defined the role, said Carolyn Strano, former professor of systems management at the Information Resources Management College at National Defense University.

Strano, who spoke Sept. 11 at the Enterprise Architecture Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C., said she dove into this question as the basis for her dissertation. She found that agencies defined the job differently, as their needs required. Despite the lack of a concrete definition, her research showed that enterprise architects have an important, multifunctional role within agencies.

Architects are leaders, Strano said. They must be good communicators and listeners, visionaries and agents prepared to change an agency to make its operations more efficient and effective.

“The enterprise architect can see the value of changing” because he or she has an enterprisewide perspective, “a maestro’s view of the enterprise,” she said.

“They can make the symphony play together as a whole,” Strano said.

Architects also should be embedded within the agency, she said. “People should know them by name and see them in the elevator,” she said. She emphasized that architects could not live in an ivory tower.

For her dissertation, she interviewed 12 federal chief architects at large and small agencies, reviewed more than 30 enterprise architecture-related documents and observed a day in the life of four enterprise architects.

After the research, she could not come to a consensus on the enterprise architects' role.

But as the complexity of an agency’s business strategies and information technology grows, she said her research showed that the importance of the enterprise architect’s role also increases.

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