CIO Fast Track for Enterprise Architects? Enterprise Architecture Skills & Career Paths

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For many senior enterprise architects the next career step from VP Enterprise Architecture or Chief Enterprise Architect is CIO or CTO. How can architects advance their careers? What does an enterprise architect do? What enterprise architecture skills are needed to foster effective IT and business engagement and lead other leaders?

We asked a panel of professionals with a range of experience and seniority to give their experience and insights. The panellists are: Güliz Capar, Jeff Moore and Jill Chang.

Here are key takeaways about enterprise architecture skills from their discussion:

How is the Enterprise Architecture changing?

Güliz: “Enterprise architects have become strategic thinkers.

“It was about modeling and design patterns and stable re-usable components.

“Our concerns are now about managing the business efficiently, having the most sensible business capabilities, best of brand technology landscape, or providing a planning operating model for digital transformation of the enterprise.

“Enterprise architects now require many more skills:  strategy development, business administration, financial portfolio management, project management, product management, risk, governance.”

Jill: “I can see companies are using EA differently. It’s not just one central EA team, but individual EAs embedded in each of the business functions and then collaborating under the one architecture team. It’s a flexible approach developed for the companies’ needs.

How is the CIO role changing and what traits and skills will future CIOs need?

Jill: “The IT function has changed from being an operational role, to it’s now part of the business strategy. That certainly impacts how the CIO role is evolving. Many CIOs now don’t come from tech, they come from finance, marketing or the business side.

“A recent survey of a technology leadership community gave the surprising finding that more than 70% of the IT leaders in this community did not come from a traditional IT or tech background.”

What are the most important enterprise architecture skillsets, traits or qualifications for moving from EA to a CIO or a CTO role?

Jeff: “Managing a budget, and the balance sheet, is absolutely required at the executive level.”

Jill: “When I wonder what can I do further to have more impact. Not necessarily moving up, but having an impact on the organization. When I look at the skills I need, I think EAs have expertise, knowledge, analytic and structured thinking. However, when communicating to the business, sometimes you only have 5 minutes to explain, decide actions. You don’t have time to explain 20-30 pages of diagrams or layers of analysis. It’s how we prepare this information for different audiences and how we communicate this message. That’s a very key and important skill.

“Communication is not necessarily just the language, but how we collaborate with stakeholders – applying different techniques to help them to engage.”

How can Enterprise Architects communicate effectively?

Güliz: “Enterprise architects need to simplify the concepts. Because most of the time these methodologies and concepts are so abstract, we need to simplify the concepts and demonstrate real life solutions.”

Do enterprise architects want to become CIOs? How can they do this?

Jill: “For people who want to move in that direction and advance their career. What I think is useful is to have a wider exposure. Aim to move around in an organisation and pick up any knowledge or skills that you can. Operations, people management, all those skills are critical for senior leadership roles.”

Jeff: “I can give you my perspective from the banking industry. COVID has had a big impact on the role of CIO and how a CIO must lead. Communication, specifically communicating and leading virtually. Now, people are working at home, and to get those teams to mesh and build trust is a big change and a difficult thing. Leading by example and providing visibility day to day and doing this virtually is difficult.”

Güliz: “EA is a passion and a sign of methodological thinking. I was really passionate about connecting modeling, abstraction and methodological thinking with other corporate processes to find more genuine solutions for corporate problems.”

“I think enterprise architects make quite impressive CIOs. Probably this comes from their experience along the way, seeing many different things and trying hard to generate value. Architecture skills can be a great insurance package for crossing the career chasm, it’s great experience.”

What role can Enterprise Architecture tools play in supporting Career Progress?

Jeff: “Using ABACUS has been a key to my understanding, our teams understanding, and our ability to evolve our practice.

Güliz: “Certifications are important, but I would suggest trying an enterprise architecture tool. Because when you use an enterprise architecture tool you can easily understand how to abstract information in a very practical way.”

Which Technical Certifications are Important for Enterprise Architecture Career Progression?

Jeff: ”If you want to move up to an executive role,  business architecture background and executive education are important. I am hesitant to hire people with lists of certifications because they may have lived in the education world. Yes, I will look at TOGAF certifications and other certifications. But technical certifications can be a double edge sword – they can sometimes get you set in a very structured way of thinking.”

To see the panel discussion in full, watch below:

Güliz Capar is the Founder and Chair of Imperitech Consulting Group Inc., a market leader consultancy and technology company operating in Turkey, Europe and ME.  Her over 20 years of professional and consulting experience spans both the public and private sector. She holds qualifications in Computer Science and Business (Harvard).

Jeff Mooreis VP Director of Enterprise Architecture & Innovation at First Interstate Bank in Montana, US, where he has also worked on technology strategy and planning.

Jill Chang Jill Chang is an enterprise architect with career experience of 20 years. Jill works with corporate clients on digital transformation, with a specific interest in projects involving complex systems and post-merger integrations. She has also written on enterprise architecture careers.

This panel was part of Avolution’s Digital Enterprise Architecture Summit 2023. The topic was inspired by a LinkedIn article by Jill Chang, available here.

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