Your team success is your success. We often forget the pivotal role of a team in determining any manager’s success, especially if we talk of an Enterprise Architecture team.
If you find yourself managing an Enterprise Architecture team, like most of the other global function managers, you will probably have your days filled up with vendor meetings, strategy discussions, budget cycles, building relationships and scoring engagements, executive dashboards reviews, and probably once or twice a year having the privilege of filling up year-end or mid-year reviews using some expensive overcomplicated HR system.
Meanwhile, your team delivers, and your success will be tightly coupled with the perception of your team across the enterprise.
So, what is the secret to building an effective, high performing, cohesive Enterprise Architecture team? In the first instance, let’s assume for the purpose of this conversation that we miraculously agree on the definition and scope of Enterprise Architecture, and which role and scope Enterprise Architecture plays (or should play) within the enterprise. This topic would probably deserve a separate conversation, and most probably generate some significant debate. Assuming we all agree what it is that we want to do with an Enterprise Architecture team, how do we build one?
Like most of the direct questions I get asked on a daily basis, the most appropriate answer is “it depends”.
Many factors influence the success of a team, and an Enterprise Architecture team is no exception to this rule; it depends on the context in which the team operates, and its level of maturity: is the team newly formed? Has the enterprise ever experienced or even heard about something called Enterprise Architecture? If so, are we talking about a strategy team delivering WORN documents (Write Once Read Never) or a more a technical team embedded in the delivery function and buried under the time to market pressure?
Never the less, in such a complex landscape, it is still possible to identify some characteristics and ingredients that can foster the development of a successful Enterprise Architecture team.
The digital revolution has undermined the traditional Enterprise Architecture module based on strong centralized governance that could act as a central control point. The proliferation of Agile as delivery methodology, and the recent adoption of concepts like DevOps, have shifted the decision power to product managers, creating a distributed complex network of dependencies and capabilities impossible to manage centrally. Processes, financial management of IT, cost control and the need for IT rationalization have in the past encouraged the definition of Enterprise Architecture as a controlling body, often generating a conflict with the rest of the IT organization. Too often the Enterprise Architecture teams have then been relegated to IT functions, and progressively perceived as an ‘Ivory Tower’, custodian of processes and goals for the good of the enterprise, holding a vision of the future often not shared or understood by the rest of the Enterprise, and progressively disconnected from the reality of the day-to-day delivery pressure that the fast-paced agile delivery teams have embraced and addressed.
Enterprise Architecture has been progressively squeezed between accountable business owners, owning investments and corporate strategy, and technologists, delivering solutions that are fit for purpose.
More and more, the purpose of an Enterprise Architecture team in a digital world is to provide guidelines for technologists and possibilities for accountable business owners, or in simple words: to provide leadership
So what are the characteristics that a good Enterprise Architecture team should have in order to provide thorough leadership?
Modern work environments have seen an exponential increase in the number of dependencies, connections, relationships and organizational structure complexity. A good architect needs to be able to navigate such complexity and understand how to leverage it to deliver change.
Look for talent that can cope with such variegated environments, and can understand priorities and master contexts, maximize paths for success in a world with fewer or even no reference points at all; the talent that can think in terms of probabilities and not only facts and numbers.
If you manage an Enterprise Architecture team, it is likely that you probably only own an operational budget made exclusively of people. This is your only asset, and you are part of it. Keeping your team motivated and focused is a fundamental factor to maximize the outcomes of an Enterprise Architecture team.
In the same way as defining unequivocally the scope of Enterprise Architecture team is a hard job, motivating a team is an equally complex and fairly difficult task.
In my personal experience, Architecture teams benefit from diversity: construct a team that compliments you rather than mirrors you.
In the new digital world, with considerably fewer reference points, a variegated diverse team with complementary skill sets will be better equipped to navigate the complex dynamics of transformation.
As a manager of an Enterprise Architecture team, accept, embrace and foster diversity; identify talent, analyse strength and opportunities and put every individual member of your team in the best possible position to leverage their qualities and improve in the areas that they see themselves motivated.
Very often Enterprise Architects come from a technology background and naturally tend towards intellectual knowledge over presence or gravitas. In a world where influencing has a predominant role for success, it’s important to have team members that can fill leadership gaps, inspire change, be brave and bold to go beyond the scope of their contingent role and grab opportunities. Enterprise Architecture needs leaders with gravitas that can create the conditions for change, and this quality is as much if not more important than technical knowledge for a good Enterprise Architect
Let’s be honest: if you have held a significantly senior position in a technology function for a number of years, most likely you know your stuff. But how much do you know about the business you operate in?
To construct a good Enterprise Architecture team you need people that master the context they operate in and can create an open dialogue with accountable business owners on strategy and objectives.
Enterprise Architects need to be able to translate technology into business meaningful language and provide principles and measurements to the technical team allowing them to deliver solutions within the context of enterprise strategy and functional impact.
Easy then? Not really! The business world and the technology world are merging at a very rapid pace, and the bar for defining a good Enterprise Architecture team is raising constantly.
Change is happening at a speed that can be unsettling, and Enterprise Architecture is the global function that is in the best position to stay on top of such change and provide guidance.
Requirements are complex and finding the right talent can be challenging.
Take your time, rely on experts to scan the market, mould and flex your team based on context, priorities and objectives, and always aim for personal and team growth.
Your team success is your success.
Valerio Fuschini - VP & Chief architect at Carlson Wagonlit Travel