A team that I work with is hiring an application architect.  (Solutions architect, if you prefer that title).  This hands-on position requires someone to take day-to-day responsibility for the design level artifacts of large distributed systems being developed in the Microsoft IT setting.  It’s an excellent position.

Of course, this means revising the job description for posting on the recruiting sites.  So we’ve been going over some key elements.

One thing that interest me: the interface between app arch and enterprise arch.  I’m the enterprise arch that most closely works with this team, and I really want to make sure that I do a good job of helping to set clear expectations and to develop a healthy relationship with this new individual. 

So looking at the boundary is a kind of introspection.  My opinions about the relationship between an application (or solution) architect and an enterprise architect:

Both must:

a) be able to communicate using shared diagrams and concepts at a far higher level than the typical functional spec.  UML is a must, as is a generally broad business foundation.

b) be willing to ‘play their roles’ in the team, deferring to the other the items that belong with the other, to keep responsibilities aligned with accountabilities.  This includes a high element of interpersonal communication and the ability to trust in the experience and advice of the other.

c) love design.  It’s a geeky job.  Not everyone is cut out for it.

d) be passionate about system quality.

The Enterprise Architect and Solution Architect are really just two sides of the same coin.  They are architects guided by different alignments but with common goals and interests.  The EA is aligned to “developing the enterprise view and buiding for the enterprise” while the solution architect is aligned to “delivering quality for the current business need within the enterprise context”.  Each makes the other successful.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

2 thoughts on “Enterprise vs. Application Architect”
  1. Enterprise Architect is little bit wider role than Application Architect. By wider, I means that EA role include defining strategy/solution at Enterprise level instead at project as in case of Application Architect. Secondly, EA do more assurance/governance in comparison to AA.

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