Phew, I can now stop feeling like a fraud

Inspired by my colleague and good friend @MartinHowitt ‘s blog post “The discipline that dare not speak its name“. I thought I’d reflect on the Enterprise Architecture Journey here at the council from my perspective.

The role of Enterprise Architect is being deleted here at the council and is being replaced by a new role with a much reduced scope. Firstly I agree with Martin’s assessment on the role and the lessons he learned but would like to share my viewpoint.

My observations on my 2 years in the EA Team:

The first year I felt very much out of my depth and always felt like a fraud when telling others especially Technical Managers in IT that I was an Enterprise Architect (raised eyebrows and all that). An issue for me in not gaining an understanding and more self-confidence quicker was actually down to the team itself – not intentionally of course.

We spent too much time discussing what we thought Enterprise Architecture was and what it meant, instead of actually agreeing on what outcomes we all want to see and allowing individuals to define their own style supported by some broad models and frameworks.

It all changed for me when we defined a set of EA Services and associated processes and standards. This gave me focus on the *how* and also defined the role into meaningful services that were much easier to explain to people when they asked “So, what does an Enterprise Architect do?”.

My second year, I can honestly say, was the most interesting, not because of the work I did, but because the level and depth of the conversation I had with colleagues in the team (in particular Martin) about how what EA is, how it can be delivered effectively within a Political environment and where we can start to make changes and refocus efforts to reinvigorate the EA effort.

So it was a sad day in February when we were informed that the Enterprise Architect posts were being deleted and we all face the prospect of redundancy….for me I was actually more concerned about the loss of the role than whether or not I had a job or not in a few months time.

In terms of Enterprise Architecture, we achieved quite a lot, but no one cared about the stuff we did, it was all really background and context setting for us to understand how and where we could apply EA in the council. We created strategies, programmes, which no one wanted to accept. But we kept going and simply refocused and re-purposed all of the early work we did in to a manageable piece of work and presented in a context that was actually relevant to the council.

We made mistakes, quite a few of them and we learned, we missed opportunities, quite a few of them but we learned, we made progress but it is only now looking back that I can actually see how much progress we made. I’d like to think that if the right people remain in the council then an element of Enterprise Architecture will continue in a covert way and the council will start to see the benefits of adopting Enterprise Architecture approaches without really knowing. I could live with that.

Martin and myself have already made progress in enabling and equipping others in the council with the skills by adopting a virtualisation of Enterprise Architecture, you can read the blog posts that Martin and myself put together back in February on this very topic (caution – read only if interested in EA) – Virtualising EA for Sustainability and Virtualising EA – Process.

So one of my reflections is that I always thought that for practically 95% of my time as an EA I was a fraud, incapable of actually doing the role – But looking back now, I was more than capable, but I failed to realise what opportunities it presented me. I was also distracted by my lack of confidence and unnecessary discussions about approaches, I realised that these discussions were driven by the lack of confidence of others and their own insecurities. We were all learning, but we didn’t have an effective team culture to really be open about those insecurities and lack of confidence.

So as I type this I am in a position where I am looking forward thinking about what my next move will be – continue with the process and apply for one of the new posts or leave the council and find new challenges. Either way I can stop feeling like a fraud as I have now graduated from the DCC School of Enterprise Architecture.

What I do know is that the skills, approaches and general philosophy of Enterprise Architecture will always stay with me – once an EA always an EA, I just won’t tell people. :)

My lessons learned and observations from my time as an Enterprise Architect are as follows and they are applicable to most jobs really:

  • Be pure of vision but pragmatic in delivery.
  • Don’t get distracted by other people’s insecurities.
  • Their simply isn’t any substitute for effective leadership
  • It’s more about who you are, not what you know.
  • Enterprise Architecture is a professional where most people don’t agree on a common definition but come together around outcomes.
  • I believe that Enterprise Architects can come from any part of an organisation and don’t have to understand the deep complexities of IT, Information or Business Process.
  • Enterprise Architects exist already in pretty much every organisation – you must learn to spot them.
  • Use your social and business network to full effect to access knowledge and constructive challenge and feedback.
  • Your ability to communicate to all people at all levels in multiple ways will directly influence how successful you will be.
  • No one really cares what you do, they only want you to help solve their problems.
  • Accept that politics exists at ALL levels of ALL organisations – ignore this at your peril.
  • Never tell anyone you are an Enterprise Architect :) Unless you absolutely have to…

There are plenty more lessons I could share, but they maybe better shared over a beer or two, so if you are interested and you see me around, don’t be afraid to ask.

Filed under: Knowledge Share, Learning, Personal Tagged: enterprise architecture

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