In a recent seminar on Enterprise Architecture as a Career on 16 November, a panel of experts presented at the SCS Resource Centre, sharing their insights about the qualities and qualifications needed for someone to become an enterprise architect.
Peter Tan, principle architect at IHiS, said that experience is important and that most enterprise architects he knew had been in the industry for at least a decade. “By the time I started doing architecture I also had been in IT for more than 10 years,” he said, doing things ranging from national IT master planning to project management to system administration of www.gov.sg to managing software development. He also wrote policy papers for IT governance. He believes that to be a good enterprise architect, you have to go through a lot of different experiences with different roles.
When Peter talks to an operations person, he can empathise with his concerns, and when he talks to a developer, he will talk with a different perspective. And it’s the same when he’s talking to someone who is in business.
Peter feels that one of the reasons for the shortage of enterprise architects is that the very people who would be good for this kind of work – those with broad experiences in various fields – are exactly the kind of people who would make good managers and CIOs. As IT management is seen as a “sexier” and higher-paying job, such talent would naturally gravitate towards that career path instead.
Wee Eng Hin, Service Delivery Director at NCS, says for technically-inclined architects, the typical candidate would start from an engineering role, such as a network engineer or systems engineer. “For example, as a network engineer progresses and learns how to build larger networks, you start to become a network architect,” he says. “Later you expand your to knowledge into other domains like systems, backup, security.” The one who oversees everything is the chief architect who is in charge of various domain architects.
On the issue of whether it is necessary to have an IT background, Peter says it is not crucial because your role is in bringing together both the IT and business sides. He illustrated this point by saying he knows of a trained nurse who had become the CIO of an organization. “Nurses can become good IT professionals because of the nature of their professional training involves processes, procedures, etc…” he says, adding that the most important thing is that you have a logical mind, understand processes and have a rationale way of making decisions.
So far we’ve looked at the type of qualities that are needed for enterprise architects. Now, let’s look at the qualifications needed.
Kia Siang Hock, Deputy Director Architecture & Innovation at the National Library Board (Singapore) says that it’s important to have a broad scope of knowledge while also having a very deep specialization of one or two areas. “My architects get their certification in TOGAF – broad understanding comes from that,” he says. However, he doesn’t think it’s necessary to get TOGAF certification right at the start, adding that many of his architects get it while on the job.
Peter agrees saying that he doesn’t think TOGAF is a pre-requisite for being hired although the majority of his staff are TOGAF-certified. “Having TOGAF certification is an indication of interest,” he says. “It tells me this person has sufficient interest beyond his current job role to go and take a class. But we don’t outright reject people who are not TOGAF-certified.”
He points out that having TOGAF-certification alone is not sufficient and if the rest of the applicant’s qualifications are not suitable, they will be rejected.
On that point, Aaron Tan Dani, the Chief Architect at ATD Solution, recounts an incident five years ago in Hong Kong which illustrates the importance of having TOGAF-certification. When talking to some government architects over dinner, they told him that whatever he says lacks credibility because he was not TOGAF-certified. He subsequently got certified.
Aaron agrees with the notion that TOGAF alone is not enough. “TOGAF is just a framework,” he says, adding that to do proper EA, other components come into play. In addition to the framework, there is also need to have a sound understanding of technology, possess the right skill sets as documented in the IASA’s ITABoK (IT Architecture Body of Knowledge) and familiarity with EA notation, in particular ArchiMate as the EA language.