Enterprise architecture a potentially lucrative field

* Enterprise architecture profession still in its infancy, standards group says

By now you've probably heard the phrase "enterprise architect." People in the know are hard-pressed to describe exactly what an enterprise architect is, but they say one thing is clear: the relatively new job title represents a growing and lucrative field for IT pros.

An enterprise architect is sort of like a city planner, says Allen Brown, president and CEO of the Open Group, a standards organization. Rather than tinkering with individual pieces of hardware and software, the architect attempts to ensure proper integration of all the infrastructure and applications throughout an organization, Brown says. A global bank is likely to have 400 architects, but the profession is still in its infancy, he says.

That’s why late last year the Open Group created the Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects, which seeks to give members a forum for collaboration and promote certification standards such as ITAC (IT Architect Certification Program) and TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework).

Although frameworks have been in development since the early 1990s, Brown says enterprise architecture hasn’t yet reached the level of respect that comes with having recognized standards for operations and ethics.

“It’s a new area and a new profession,” Brown says. “We’re looking at how we can actually address enterprise architects as we would a profession like legal, accounting, or building architects. We’re taking baby steps at the moment.”

Efforts to train, certify and professionalize IT architects are underway not only at the Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects (AOGEA), but within the U.S. Department of Defense, Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute, the International Association of Software Architects, and the Microsoft Certified Architect program, writes Open Group vice president Len Fehskens in a recent article.

The vagueness of the term “enterprise architect” has led cynics to suggest that it’s just a phrase to put on a business card to justify a higher billing rate, Fehskens writes.

“Given that enterprise architecture promises to be such an important concept and is generating such a frenzy of activity, I’m surprised, and a bit dismayed, by how blithely we assume not only that we all know what it is, but that we all know it as the same thing,” he writes.

Daniel Minoli, writing in Network world two years ago, says the purpose of an enterprise architect is to “create a unified IT environment of standardized hardware and software systems across the firm, with tight links to the business side of the organization.”

The Open Group has no explicit definition for enterprise architecture, Fehskens notes.

Fehskens ends up quoting Wikipedia, not always the most reliable source, but which in any case says the following:

“Enterprise Architecture is the description of current and/or future structure and behavior of organization’s processes, information systems, personnel and organizational sub-units, aligned with the organization’s core goals and strategic direction. Although often associated strictly with information technology, it relates more broadly to the practice of business optimization in that it addresses business architecture, performance management, organizational structure and process architecture as well.”

Got that? What might be most important is that there is a potentially lucrative field here. There’s plenty of interest, with more than 5,200 people joining the AOGEA in its first year. But demand for enterprise architects is outstripping supply, and salaries are going up, according to Brown. The Open Group lacks good data for the United States, but salaries in the United Kingdom for TOGAF-certified architects range from $150,000 to $200,000 a year, he says.

More than 4,000 IT pros have been certified on TOGAF, an information systems architecture framework developed by the Open Group. Click here for information on the certification.

The other major Open Group architect certification, ITAC, is designed to go beyond simply testing a body of knowledge, by verifying an architect’s skills and experience. More information can be found here.

Any enterprise architects out there? What’s your take on the certifications available in this emerging field? Are there any major challenges faced by aspiring enterprise architects looking to advance their careers? Feel free to post a comment below or send me an e-mail.

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