Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hardest IT Job to Fill

For the fourth year in a row, Gartner is reporting that the hardest IT job to fill is that of enterprise architect. I'll leave the specifics of the numbers to the fine folks who did the survey, but suffice to say this is either really bad news or really great news - depending on which side of the interview table you sit.

For me, it's a little of both; a little bit bad news and a little good. I have a responsibility to find enterprise architects (that makes the news bad) and I also receive an annual performance review (which makes the Gartner study fabulous).

I attended a university sponsored discussion recently on the topic of enterprise architecture and during one of the breakout session we discussed what collegiate level qualifications we would want to see for an inexperienced enterprise architect. The consensus was that a recent grad would have to have a BS in Computer Science and a Master in either Business Management or Information Science. And that was after we all had a great chuckle over the oxymoron of "inexperienced enterprise architect!"

One of the reasons, I think, for the difficulty in finding enterprise architects is due to the inability to define enterprise architecture. If there is one area of unanimity in the field of EA, it is that there is no unanimity in defining EA. In fact, the opening remarks at the aforementioned university sponsored EA discussion included the comment that our tasks for the event specifically excluded trying to define the term. Right - let's have a conversation about enterprise architecture predicated on the proposition that one cannot define it.

Different organizations ask very different things from their EA teams and programs. For some, EA is a pure efficiency play - drive down the cost of IT. For others, it all about achieving some level of consistency, reducing the number of disperate systems whether or not that is cheaper (though it ought to be). Still others see it as a business play - truly advancing the business through the analytical processes usually attributed to technology. And of course, every permutation in between.

The practitioners inside each of these differently-defined EA teams are all called Enterprise Architects. So in addition to wanting 10 - 15 years of experience, possibly advanced education degrees, and a plethora of soft skills such as communications, presentation, facilitation, and more. In addition to all of that we want enterprise architects that fulfill our particular definition of EA.

If you are an enterprise architect there is god news here. Assuming you have the qualifications you are one of the most heavily sought IT talents worldwide. If you are a hiring manager / recruiter looking to hire an enterprise architect, start with articulating your vision for EA - counter-intuitively, you may find the search easier if you narrow it down to the needs of your business.

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