Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Enterprise Architects and the Time Machine

We live in a society that cherishes youth, the energy, the enthusiasm, idealism, and their money - or at least their potential income. Our company has a stated interest in courting a youthful audience, not only as customers, but as the next generation of employees, managers, and leaders.

I was working with one of our thought leaders in the training group trying to design a program for growing Enterprise Architects. I've been involved in a number of these conversations outside of the company with various colleges and universities as they try to construct an EA discipline. Pretty much everybody agrees - you can't create one of them with a four, six, or eight year program.

This led my training discussion to the question of just how many years does it take to really develop an enterprise-level architect. Rather than guess, we decided to survey the individuals in our company that are currently in an EA role, i.e. we asked the members of the Architecture Review Board how many years of IT experience they had and how many years they had been with the company.

As you might expect, there were some outliers on both ends of the spectrum. One fellow has been in IT for 36 years. Another had only 8. What was most surprising was that virtually all of these individuals had worked in multiple companies. Furthermore, they had worked more years elsewhere than here. On average, enterprise level architects in our company have worked here for over ten years, and have just over 23 years of total IT experience.

Stated another way - our most trusted architects have over ten years (on average) experience in our company, industry, and culture, but that pales in comparison to the additional 13 years of experience they gained before joining our team. THAT, by the way, happened after their formal education.

How many times have we heard (or said), "If I could go back and do it again..." with the proviso that you could take your accumulated knowledge back with you. Well, there are no time machines - but consider the opportunity we have to connect the youth, energy, and enthusiasm of our new hires with the knowledge and perspective of our architects gained over decades of success.

Imagine you want to have an experienced person assess the design of a fresh, new business solution. You want someone trusted, someone who knows your business, and someone who has a stake in your success. The enterprise-level architects who review all key technology initiatives at my company have a combined 644 years of experience upon which to place your solution into perspective.

Ya' just can't grow that overnight.

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