Enterprise Architects – What attributes do you look for?

Building on my previous post Starting Your EA Practice – What roles would you pick?, this post looks at attributes of individuals and suggests some that have worked in our strategic practices of which Enterprise Architecture is one.

When my colleague and friend, Dave Cresswell and I started working towards building an EA practice, we coined the name “Strategic Practices”. Disciplines like Enterprise Architecture (Business Analysis/Architecture, Solutions Architecture), IT Security, Project/Program Management and Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (Risk Management) cut across all areas of an organization are all represented in the Strategic Practice group.

First we discussed the difference between skills and talents.  Skills are critical for us to deliver services and it is management’s responsibility to ensure the people in their care have the skills to perform their duties.  I put as strong focus on personal learning plans for my team to ensure that together, we plan to keep them current and advancing in their chosen field. 

Our belief is that Talent is significantly more important than Skills – skills can be taught, talent is something a person brings with them.

Skills (examples)

  • create complex technical solutions
  • creating structured documents
  • manage structured processes
  • utilize complex tools
  • analytical skills (added Sept 12, 2010 – thanks to Doug Newdick @dougnewdick)
  • technical skills
  • writing
  • logic

Talents (examples)

  • conceptualization – explaining complex ideas
  • enterprise perspective – big picture thinking
  • innovation – willing to try and fail
  • facilitation – consensus building
  • leadership – creating a vision and guiding people
  • communication – listening as well as presenting

As we looked for people to fill the roles, we needed a way to describe what “type” of person we thought would be successful as a “Strategic Practitioner”.  To start we identified two types of people 1) the specialist and 2) the generalist. Neither quite fit our picture of a Strategic Practitioner.  Below are the attributes for each role type:

The Specialist

  • deep skills and experience
  • narrow scope (domain)
  • peer respect and recognition
  • unknown outside their domain (few interactions)

The Generalist

  • shallow skills and experience
  • broad scope (multi-domain)
  • lack of peer respect and recognition
  • widely known (many interactions)

What we needed was a blend of both the specialist and the generalist – the strategic practitioner!  This is a very hard person to find. I really believe organizations need to create career development programs to help develop these attributes.

The Strategic Practitioner

  • deep skills and experience
  • broad skills (multi-domain)
  • peer respect and recognition
  • widely known (many interactions)

Well what do you think? Are these the kind of people you would expect as Enterprise Architects? We do.

I blogged on a complementary theme in March 2008 – Being a Teacher Works for Me.  Also reading Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” helped us  in our thinking about a “Strategic Practitioner” as well as leveraging our Gartner subscription for ideas.