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The Mindset of a Disciplined Agile Enterprise Architect

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This blog contains details about various aspects of PMI's Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, including new and upcoming topics.

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Organizations face an increasingly competitive marketplace.  To be competitive, organizations must be able to react to environmental changes and bring new offerings to market quickly.  This requires an adaptive approach to IT, which in turn requires a flexible and malleable approach to enterprise architecture.  To succeed in this new organizational climate enterprise architects require a new mindset, and new ways of working, that reflect the realities that they now face.

In this blog posting we describe a disciplined agile mindset for enterprise architects.  The following terms describe this mindset:

  • Collaborative.  First and foremost, disciplined agile enterprise architects (EAs) collaborate closely with their stakeholders.  These stakeholders include business executives, IT executives, IT operations staff, and of course IT solution delivery teams.  Disciplined agile EAs will spend the majority of their time working with stakeholders.
  • Learning oriented.  Every day, disciplined agile EAs strive to learn more about the people they are working with, about the business, about the business environment, about the technology and its application, and about the process they are following.
  • Sharing. Disciplined agile EAs, and disciplined agilists in general, constantly look for opportunities to share their skills and knowledge with others.  An important part of their job is to help those around them to get better.
  • Business focused.  Disciplined agile EAs must have an understanding and appreciation of the business and the way that it operates to effectively interact with, and support, business leaders.
  • Multidisciplinary.  Enterprise architects will often start their architecture career as a solution architect, or a data architect, or a business architect, or some other architecture specialty.  Although these are good starting points, enterprise architects need to consider a wider range of issues than those focused on by each of these specialties.  Just as enterprise architecture frameworks such as TOGAF, Zachman, DODAF and others all take a multi-view approach, disciplined agile EAs must have the skills, or be in the process of gaining them, to address a wide range of views.
  • Evolutionary. Disciplined agile EAs work in an evolutionary manner.  As you see in the following diagram, when your enterprise architecture team is first formed it may invest a bit of time to perform some initial architecture envisioning.  The team should come to an agreement around their overall vision and get some of the fundamentals captured.  Then the EAs will work with business stakeholders to understand and guide their vision for their lines of business, in particular how they can leverage technology more effectively to provide greater value to the organization.  The EAs will also work closely with IT delivery teams, often taking on the role of architecture owner on the team, so as to help guide and coach the team in architectural skills and concepts. The EAs will also meet on a regular basis, perhaps weekly for a couple of hours, to share what they’ve learned amongst themselves to evolve the architecture assets based on their learnings.  More on this evolutionary approach in a future blog posting.

Agile Enterprise Architecture Process

  • Practical.  Disciplined agile EAs are not afraid to get their hands dirty, which is why they will work collaboratively with their stakeholders.  They recognize that for developers, who are important stakeholders of their enterprise architecture efforts, that the proof is in the code.  As a result disciplined agile EAs will produce working code examples as the primary component of their reference architectures.  They realize that developers are much more likely to work with (and then copy) high-quality working code than they are to read a detailed white paper or detailed model extolling the virtues of some architectural concept.
  • Pragmatic. Disciplined agile EAs know when to trade-off short and long-term gains and more importantly can help guide their stakeholders through these decisions while coaching them on the implications of what they’re doing.
  • Improvement oriented.  Disciplined agile EAs are always looking for ways to streamline the processes that they run into.
  • Reuse.  Disciplined agile EAs promote a reuse mindset with both their business stakeholders and with IT delivery teams.  To achieve reuse on a large scale within your organization there needs to be a guiding vision, and that vision is provided by your enterprise architects.  More on this in coming blog postings.
  • Technical debt savvy.  Disciplined agile EAs should be a driving force within your organization for addressing technical debt.  They will guide and coach IT delivery teams on both avoiding new debt and on removing old debt.  In parallel they will work with business leaders to understand the implications of technical debt and help guide them in supporting IT delivery teams in addressing it.
  • Technical.  And finally yes, disciplined agile EAs must have a technical background so that they understand the implications of the technologies in use (either now or in the future) within their organization.  As noted earlier, a critical strategy for keeping their technical skills fresh is to collaborate with IT delivery teams on a regular basis.

All the features on this list should sound like common sense – that’s because they are.  It’s probable that you’ve worked with enterprise architects in the past whose mindset exhibited many of these features, but did they exhibit all of them?  Likely not.  No matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement.

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Posted by Scott Ambler on: May 26, 2015 05:12 PM | Permalink

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Thank you for this great article. I have shared within our Architecture Owner CoP! Please note that the related readings are pointing to invalid URLs since has been decommissioned!

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