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Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Enterprise Architects' Role In Aligning IT With Business

The growing importance of the enterprise architect and the need to take ownership of the business planning process were highlighted at Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum.

Such bifurcated enterprise architect roles may be common by 2020, Leganza said. "CIOs will need to consciously evolve IT's role to enable the empowered business," he added.

Soon after his talk, a questioner from among the 320 enterprise architects attending the Palace Hotel event asked Leganza, "What motivates business executives to accept help from enterprise architects?" In responding, Leganza played on the sense that most enterprise architects realize most of their fellow workers don't know what they do. "Desperation. They've already looked everywhere else," he said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Chief Enterprise Architect Ira Grossman took the stage after Leganza to say enterprise architecture is about "getting the right information to the right people at the right time."

Responding to a disaster takes many varied forms of information, and immediately re-established communication systems to make it available. In some cases, FEMA sets up its own cellular network with trucked-in towers and generators to insure the information can be gathered.

"The enterprise architect must be a leader, a visionary, and also a contrarian. If he becomes too IT centric, he will fail," Grossman warned.

In May, FEMA will test its ability to capture and move information after a mock disaster, a magnitude 7 earthquake in the populated corner of Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. A series of four, 7+ earthquakes known as the New Madrid series hit the region two hundred years ago with a force that "moved the Mississippi River." If it occurred today, it would break gas and water lines, disrupt communications and medical services, and shake down buildings, Grossman said.

Planning for the event was disrupted recently by a few inches of wet snow falling on Montgomery County, Md., which knocked out power to 108,000 people for a week and closed roads. The FEMA staff had to halt what it was doing and help the region recover before proceeding with plans for a the mock disaster.

The disruptive nature of minor disasters should give us an indication of how hard it's going to be to cope with a real disaster, when one happens.

On the other hand, ubiquitous connectivity, an Internet that refuses to go down, and flexible, reliable systems may make it easier for the enterprise architect to design resilient systems in the future. And insist that the enterprise continue to adopt them, regardless of how well they fly with low level employee technology preferences.

If the enterprise architect is part of the business staff by 2020, then the notion of aligning IT with the business will have become more than a slogan. It will be an established fact. But there will still be a struggle to keep the technology implementation in step with the business strategy.

Even with bifurcated enterprise architects, alignment could remain a point of contention. Instead of IT and the executive staff arguing with each other, however, a more realistic channel would be in place. Perhaps in 2020 an architect on one side of the aisle will push against pressure and lobby his counterpart, while at the same time appreciating the problems on the other side and seeking a solution.


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See all stories by Charles Babcock

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek.

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