• Jonas Van Riel

The lifelong learning of Pi

A story about the need for lifelong and dual learning for the Enterprise Architect.

"It’s (also) about Business, stupid!"

When people talk about Enterprise Architecture, they all too often talk about I(C)T architecture. Allow me to reuse some famous words from a famous past US President, albeit with some creative modifications: “It’s (also) about Business, stupid!”. I’ve never cared much for the ‘Business vs IT’ viewpoint myself, because after all, isn’t IT just a part of your Business just like HR or any other supporting domain is?  

For me it all boils down to the fundamental purpose of Enterprise Architecture (if you’re lost on what Enterprise Architecture is about, let me know in the comments. I might write a piece on this quite soon). And that fundamental purpose can be described with 2 key words:

  • Alignment (keeping everyone aligned)

  • Direction (making sure everyone is going in the right direction)

Alignment means that (people from) different domains need to understand each other and the impact they have on each other. Direction means that everyone (Business and IT) in an organisation should work to achieve the same strategic targets. So there’s no denying it: Enterprise Architecture is about Business AND IT, simple as that. However, making sure these 2 purposes are taken care of is not an easy job and it is the responsibility of the Enterprise Architect to get it done. 

Keeping all these domains (related to Business and ICT) in line and aligned, is something that requires a very specific set of skills, skills one should acquire over a long career (skills which, I’m quite sure, Liam Neeson does not possess). I like to differentiate between 3 domains in which the

Enterprise Architect needs to be a master and gather sufficient skills:

  1. Leadership

  2. Knowledge

  3. Behaviour

Leadership is about making sure organisations are being guided through transformations and programmes to realise their strategic targets. It’s about making sure Enterprise Architects provide the right direction.

Knowledge can be seen as domain specific knowledge. It’s about understanding Business and IT, it’s about the different options and solutions there are and about the consequences of selecting specific ones. It’s about making the right decisions, fit for purpose, given specific ambitions and resources.

Behaviour is about having the right mindset and drive. It’s about willing to listen to other people and understanding their stake in all of this, where the key words are ‘open and collaborative’, not ‘defensive and hidden’.

When we take these domains, we can see that they form a sort of Pi-model, where knowledge is rooted in Business AND IT, not just one or the other.

In yesterday’s world this role was difficult, in today’s world it’s even harder and who knows what tomorrow will bring, when the pace of change in the world and technologies is increasing every day? I did not write this story to only introduce the Pi-model, I really wanted to think about the following: do you believe anyone can learn this set of skills in a single course in the middle of a career? Or in 5 years at the University, when you have 0 tot no relevant work experience? I don’t believe so. Enterprise Architects are grown by experience, guidance and introspection. This is done on the job, in schools, by mentoring and even in an autodidactic manner, making it the perfect example of why we need to think about lifelong (which means throughout your entire career) and dual/multi-channel (which means via different ways) learning.

"Enterprise Architects are grown by experience, guidance and introspection. This is done on the job, in schools, by mentoring and even in an autodidactic manner."

In tomorrow’s world driven by technology, it will still be about people, but we need to make sure we prepare them well and I’m quite sure the traditional educational approach won’t cut it anymore.

Check out our Master in EA and our HEAT program on the website!

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