Architectural Interest: Myth Busters #2 - Enterprise Architects Live in Ivory Towers

SOLUTION - Information Management, SOLUTION - Strategic Services


Vernon Smith, Senior Principal - Noah Consulting

Continuing the Myth Busting series on Enterprise Architects (EA), myth #2 is about the enterprise architect’s perceived status of living in an ivory tower. Historically, the ivory tower reputation is based on the notion that someone is so far removed from anyone else that they certainly have no idea or context about what is going on. It is understandable how this reputation came to be applied to EAs among the business people, given that most EAs came up through the ranks in highly technical roles, and therefore, are usually focused on technical issues and how their deep knowledge across numerous technologies can solve the problem. This can lead to EAs appearing detached from the practical realities of business; yet, their purely technical approach is reasonable, especially if the business presents a problem without explanation or context. However, truly exceptional EAs seek to understand the needs of the business and add real, tangible value. As we discussed in the previous article in this series, a true enterprise architect is just that - an architect for the entire enterprise, not just for its technological side. True enterprise architects sit comfortably in both the business architecture and the technical architecture communities and are often the broker between those communities. This is best accomplished when they partner with the business to provide essential business capabilities. Another contributor to this reputation comes from EAs not communicating the complexity of solutions. A good EA will get the business to understand the implications of that complexity and the technical options available to solve the business problem. The most successful and effective architects are able to establish credibility by knowing the major business challenges and then articulate how and why the proposed business, technical, and information architectures fully support near and long term business goals. In the end, Enterprise Architecture (EA) must add to the business. Fully understanding the business issues and effectively communicating the technical options will put any impression that your EA lives in an ivory tower to rest.


Vernon Smith is a Senior Principal and Canadian Practice Lead with Noah Consulting. Vernon is a highly experienced Enterprise Architect and Strategist, with full-lifecycle experience gained over 30 years. He has built and delivered entire architectural practices for major organizations, and was responsible for creating the Architecture Profession at one of the world’s largest global companies. He has established and implemented cultural change at the most fundamental level, changing the way that organizations think about their corporate information and driving transformation as a direct result. By bringing a business focus to Enterprise Architecture, Vernon is able to lead change in an organization with his passionate and engaging approach that brings together management consulting and IT strategy in a way that shows true value and benefit to both.

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