Nowadays, Enterprise data architecture is on every many business and IT leader’s agenda—especially when it comes to integrating digital platforms. In business operations terms, competitive advantage has shifted from digital platform capabilities to cross-platform data traceability and continuity: the ability to find the right data at the right time, getting it to the relevant people so that they can make the right decisions, within the wider enterprise ecosystem. Typically, Solution Architects focus on solving problems, i.e. delivering ‘solutions’, whereas Enterprise Architects (also possibly referred as Integration Architects) have a more specific focus on data continuity, enterprise standards, interfaces, considering data migration solutions and other service-oriented architectures.
Enterprise Architects translate business strategies into technology architecture roadmaps and data strategies, aligning master data strategies to integration service contracts and associated data model requirements.
In this post, I review key responsibilities, competencies and skills expected from Enterprise Architects, discuting how they complement activities performed by Solution Architects.
The rise of enterprise integration
Integrating business platforms starts by defining clear data purpose, coupled with functional and non-functional interface requirements. Business analysts often refer to ‘integrating data cross the Digital Thread’ when highlighting the need for technical standards which relate to data alignment.
Such standards typically translate into meta-data mapping, understanding how teams collaborate across multiple IT systems, what triggers data feeds, what data format are used, what data payloads are expected, what sequence of events is to be followed, transforming and transporting data from A to B. Broadly speaking, the Digital Thread refers to enterprise data architecture foundations to ensure that the relevant technical principles are adhered to when it comes to connecting systems.
Enterprise Architect: key responsibilities
The Enterprise Architect is a technical leadership role with direct interface with the Product Owner, Delivery Managers, and other IT architects and SMEs; the Enterprise Architect has a duty of care to ensure effective integration alignment across the enterprise. It is perhaps less of a business facing role, when compared to the Solution Architect. The Enterprise Architect represents a very technical authority, driving data governance across business and IT stakeholders, working with digital transformation leaders to:
Derive the required integration elements to validate and deliver upon the technical roadmap.
Assess selected technologies and tools, including technical building blocks specific to Extract-Transform-Load patterns.
Develop, maintain and govern holistic integration and data model standards across the enterprise.
Develop detailed technical specifications for each integration elements and obtain business sign-off.
Interface with Solutions Architects and other IT Architects to align the required infrastructure and middleware elements related to data integration; with different flavours of the work required based on SOA architecture and other data management standards.
Prepare gap analysis and present design trade-offs, sanction technical decisions in formal review forums—across the integration landscape.
Keep in touch with technology advances, such as enterprise service integration, communication protocols and services, queue management solutions, message-oriented middleware, hybrid-cloud integrations, etc.
Enterprise Architect: core competencies and skills
Integration is a very technical and niche domain yet expanding into new possibilities in recent years; so are the required competencies and skills to design such solutions. Enterprise Architects need to:
Have experience in dealing with technical complexity, have excellent understanding of business data and process requirements.
Be able to look at the “big picture” integration landscape and standards across the enterprise.
Drive master data principles and technical overlaps among digital platforms, from PLM to ERP, MES, SCM, etc.
Design message and event queuing and sequencing, including exception handling, considering data security, route messages, etc. and enforcing communication service quality for scalable and flexible integration platforms.
Have in-depth understanding of design patterns, coding and customization languages, middleware and other IT principles; and able to interface openly with IT and Solution Architects on such related matters.