Enterprise architects build a future beyond the CIO

Enterprise architects are increasingly advising CIOs on IT-related issues, but they’re also absorbing other prominent IT roles within their organizations.

Asked to help their firms make better use of solutions already in place, enterprise architects are seeking to bring order out of

chaos not only by getting rid of unnecessary solutions, but also by creating and maintaining computing infrastructures.

And while CIOs control the purse strings as far as IT spending is concerned, enterprise architects are using their specialized skill sets to tangibly contribute to the decision-making process.

“”We look at what’s going to be our two-year strategy going forward, what the architecture (is) going to look like and we feed that back into the CIO and the CIO’s office so that they can help formulate their strategy as well,”” said Dean Fernandes, director of network services, information systems, Nortel Networks, based in Brampton, Ont.

Although Fernandes doesn’t have “”architect”” in his job title, he performs the task of an enterprise architect, overseeing the engineering and operations of Nortel’s internal network globally.

Occupying the role of an IT architect, for Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Compugen is Zbigniew Kowalczyk.

“”My role within Compugen is (to provide) a general overview of the projects that encompass our internal IS infrastructure. The second function would be managing the main projects within Compugen and coordinating those projects if someone else is managing them,”” said Kowalczyk.

Cameron Conville, corporate architect at Teranet, a Toronto, Ont.-based provider of e-business applications, said that he conducts research into what solutions would meet the company’s requirements both now and in the future. He stressed that he tries to identify appropriate technologies, processes and standards as well as tries to get the right people to implement the solutions.

“”I do advise all the directors and the CIO, and I do work closely with all of them,”” said Conville. “”I lead a department called architecture planning, and within architecture planning, there are several architects in a direct reporting relationship and a number in an indirect reporting relationship. Those architects within an indirect reporting relationship work on specific projects related to various line of business initiatives. So they would be reporting to an appropriate project manager with an understanding that there’s still a dotted line back to me for technology decisions.””

CIOs, too, see enterprise architects as valued consultants.

According to Michael Harrison, CIO and vice-president of IT at NexInnovations, a Mississauga, Ont.-based provider of technology consulting and services, his architects meet with him, members of the business community and other executives to help determine what needs to be done and what groundwork is required to get it done.

“”There’s no way a CIO can accomplish what they need if the architects aren’t there working in concert with them every step of the way,”” said Harrison. “”And the architects don’t have any mandate to do what they need unless the CIOs are there describing and articulating the business vision into some IT vision. So they have to work very, very closely together.””

Acknowledging the increasing prominence of enterprise architects, Lenny Louis, product manager for developer tools at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said that enterprise architects are uniquely positioned to reinvigorate their companies. And they often do this by being the yin to the CIOs’ Yang.

“”CIOs typically are looking at ensuring the ROI whereas what I see the enterprise architects doing is they’re looking at it from a business and technology standpoint—almost saying, ‘This is where you need to invest in,’ said Louis. “”And then the CIO will look at it, take the recommendation from the architect and go, ‘I know I need to invest it here, so let me figure out what the best ROI and TCO is here.’””

Meanwhile, Brian Sharwood, a principal at consulting firm SeaBoard Group said another strategic advantage of employing enterprise architects is that they could help to ensure that third-party service providers are properly handling outsourced functions.

“”It sounds like the role is being used to manage the outsourced accounts,”” said Sharwood. “”As people go to outsourcing, they manage the accounts. They use something like an enterprise architect to basically keep them under control.””

The IT architects within Royal Bank of Canada‘s IT group are accustomed to looking at things from an integration standpoint, said Chris Pepper, a spokesperson for RBC, Canada’s largest bank in terms of assets and market capitalization. The IT architects guide the technology and architecture processes from an enterprise-wide perspective, determining how common technologies can be used across RBC’s five business lines so that clients can benefit from a common operating infrastructure.

And the role RBC’s IT architects play, continued Pepper, will likely evolve over time as new and improved technologies emerge.

“”What we’re trying to do is go to a point where it’s a common operating infrastructure because it allows us to better serve our clients and introduce value-added technology features.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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