This is apparently a discussion that comes up on a repeated basis on LinkedIn, and was asked again recently. Fortunately, Jeffrey Smith (Chief Architect, Lockheed Martin) was kind enough to post a summary of the last time this discussion came up, and I’d like to share his words with you. Excellent insight from the EA community on “the value of experience” in Enterprise Architecture.
“While it is hard to determine when a consensus is reached on a forum like this, we did come to some general agreement. I will try and summarize what came out of that discussion as best I can from memory.
- We all agreed that it is experience, not age that is the determining factor. With that in mind, however, there is going to be a minimum age in order to gain the experience. Most agreed that someone under 30 marketing themselves as an EA either did not understand what EA entailed, or was being unrealistic. To be effective as an EA, the person must have a combination of business and technical experience that would be virtually impossible to attain at a younger age.
- We discussed the types and levels of experience that were required. Obviously an effective EA needs to have both technical and business experience to be effective. The amount in each category will vary depending on the person and the industry they are working in. Someone that wants to be an EA in an industry that relies heavily on technology would need more experience in the technology area than someone looking to work as an EA in a less technology intensive industry.
It was also discussed that the both the technology and business experience ideally should be from working at a number of different companies. This was viewed as important to provide a more well rounded view than what would be seen in working for a single or very small number of companies. Every company has it’s own approaches to both business and technology and understanding the different approaches allows an EA to better work in whatever culture they find themselves in.
Experience in only on business approach or technology approach is just a limiting as having experience in only one technology area. The experience also needs to include working at management levels in order to get the big picture understanding needed.
- There was a discussion about various certifications and there value in determining the competence of an EA. While certifications can provide a good foundation for someone going into the field, certifications are no substitute for experience. By the same token, someone with 25+ years experience should not be viewed as unqualified simply because they do not have a piece of paper. For someone with 25+ years in architecture, going to get certifications is not likely to add much in terms of their skill as an EA.
There has been a lot of debate about what makes a good EA, and I think this debate will continue for some time to come. The main part of the debate seems to revolve around whether it is better for EAs to come from a technology background or a business background. There are plusses and minuses to each. One thing that is needed in the EA field is the establishment of mentorship programs to help train the next generation of EAs. Successfully establishing industry recognized mentorship programs would go a long way towards advancing EA as a profession.”