Top-Performing EA Teams – A Panel Discussion

I had the opportunity last week to moderate two panels at the Troux Worldwide Conference. The first panel included EAdirections’ Tim Westbrock along with Mike Walker from Microsoft, Aleks Buterman from SenseAgility and Paul Preiss from IASA. The theme of the panel was a general discussion on characteristics of top-performing EA Teams. To begin the conversation, I asked each panelist to describe what a top-performing EA team meant to them. What I had originally believed to be a softball question that would show the breadth of issues and perspectives on EA turned out to be more controversial than I had expected.

The panel became caught up in the role of EA and the role of IT architects. Unfortunately, the conversations became focused on the differences in the roles instead of how they work together, diving too far into a differentiation of the “primary” roles and skills of each. It revealed some of the confusion around EA and shone a light on many of the issues that practicing enterprise architects must deal with on a daily basis. What I had hoped would be a conversation addressing how the EA function must be multi-purposed, strategic and tactical, business and IT-oriented, and with an eye to both short and long-term value delivery became overly focused on narrower perspectives. We had a few rough spots as we worked our way through the session, but luckily we ended well. We landed at the recognition that while the roles are different they share some common skills and, after all, they should be collectively working to achieve positive results for their organizations. Individuals in both of these roles will inevitably be working closely with each other.

Personally, I believe that the biggest part of being a top-performing EA team is learning to strike the right balance across the perspectives listed above. It isn’t about doing just one thing or having a “primary” concern as much as it is about how well the EA leaders cover the bases, shifting emphasis from strategic, business-oriented concerns, to helping certain initiatives head down the right path, and then back again as dictated by the situation. It is about breadth, and reach, and longevity.

In future posts Tim or I will examine several of the questions asked by the audience, some answered by the panel and others that we didn’t have time to address.