Enterprise architects, or EAs, develop the long-term IT strategy for organizations to support business strategy. They provide the technology and applications roadmap which directs and steers the organization based on standards for technology infrastructure. They are responsible for ensuring that every part of the technological flow is defined, and that IT and IT-enabled processes run smoothly from start to finish.
Approaching the technological infrastructure from a big-picture perspective, they are the people responsible for making sure all of the different areas work within the defined structure. From security and data to servers and hardware, an enterprise architect has to be decisive and incredibly knowledgeable about each aspect of the structure.
There are many different paths to becoming an enterprise architect. It is essentially the end goal for a wide range of technological fields, so a person can start from anywhere within the tech industry. The key is to learn about the other areas over the course of your career. It is a big job that pays well, but requires dedication and flexibility.
The Appeal of Being an EA
Long hours and responsibilities the position entails are two points every aspiring EA needs to keep in mind. Enterprise architects get to oversee and help determine the paths that a company will take and ensure that the technological infrastructure stays current. For the more forward thinking companies, you may get the chance to work with the leading edge of technology, getting to try new approaches.
Because EAs often need a high-level perspective and operate at a high-level within an organization, statistically, only 5% of industries have a designated Enterprise Architect role. However, the position could be identified under a different name since the role essentially entails overall management of the IT department.
The median salary for EAs is a whopping $140,000 a year. They also enjoy other benefits, such as bonuses and profit sharing. Companies that have EAs hire them as full-time employees, so once you reach this level, your job is relatively secure. The full salary range is $103,000 to $188,800, with the salaries at the higher-end typically achieved toward the end of a person’s career.
The Enterprise Architect Personality
Being an EA requires a lot of technical knowledge, but it is the other skills that really make an EA successful.
- Inspirational and motivational – you need to be able to infuse your teams with the right motivation to get the job done.
- Communication – the success of every project relies on your ability to effectively communicate the path forward and ensure that all team members and other departments know what is happening and when.
- Negotiator – your ideas will not be set in stone because there will be other departments that have plans that could contradict them, as well as being limited by your resources.
- Problem solver – coming from pretty much any technical field will give you plenty of problem solving experience, but you will need to hone it over time to be a successful EA.
- Business and tech savvy – you need to understand both, how your business works, and what different technologies are available to make the job more agile and efficient.
Expectations and Responsibilities
EAs generally work on transformational programs across various portfolios, managing a number of different meetings and projects.
- Architecture Strategy – all aspects of IT architecture strategy, such as determining the current state, transition, and desired path for the strategy.
- Architecture Review Boards – a regular meeting of people who discuss the current architecture and approve changes.
- Portfolio Management – the health and status of the IT infrastructure.
- Governance Committees – committee that makes the organization’s decisions on standards, policies, and protocols, particularly about security and requirements.
- Technology Life Cycles – determines how versioning and changes will be implemented for the different technologies.
Paths Leading to Being an EA
EAs have taken many different paths to reach this position. Many system admins, programmers, DBAs, network managers, and product owners can be filtered into the position. You don’t even have to want to be an EA in the early part of your career to end up as one 20 years down the road.
The best way to start working towards being an EA is to start participating in meetings, volunteering to be part of committees and leaders for teams, and to continually learn about other aspects of technology. Improve upon the breadth of knowledge and IT knowhow, and understand fully the business domain the company operates in.
For instance, if you are a DBA, start learning more about cloud and programming so that you have a greater overview of how those departments of the company work.
Additionally, a certification in a globally-renowned framework for Enterprise Architecture, such as TOGAF, can significantly cut down on the time it takes to reach the EA level, and add enormous value.
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