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Digital business upends the CIO and enterprise architect role

IDC analyst Mike Rosen explains how new digital business pursuits amplify enterprise architects and CIOs into newly amplified roles that put business goals and requirements first.

Both the CIO and enterprise architect roles continue to change significantly as companies learn to articulate their digital business strategies. Not long ago, CIOs were charged with keeping their organizations' software up and running. Today, they are expected to own and orchestrate a comprehensive digital business strategy. Mike Rosen, analyst at IDC, discusses this notable shift in both the CIO and enterprise architect roles, including how it creates the need for dedicated business-centric architects.

How will calls for digital business affect the role of the corporate architect?

Mike Rosen: If you were in a company with only one enterprise architect, then their role in understanding business is probably evolving. A company with an existing architecture department will often add a business architect team to its existing department rather than shift the role of traditional, technology-focused architects more toward business. The business architect's scope of focus is broader, and their level of technical detail is not as deep.

Where do business architects come from? Are they former enterprise architects?

Rosen: Business architecture requires the skill to understand the big picture and abstract the relationship between technology and business. Lots of people have those skills. Some are business analysts that have moved up in the world of understanding business and translating business requirements into technology initiatives. Others are former technology architects or information architects that have a good command of the business. But fewer than half of the business architects I know evolved out of the technology background.

So, where does the CIO sit in all this? Are they bringing business architects to the C-level table?

Rosen: The CIO helps the business understand the opportunities that technology presents. But I don't see architects -- whether they're business architects or enterprise architects -- being called to the table with C-level executives. The CIO has moved up [an executive] level. With that, the architect has, in a way, moved up to the level that the CIO once held.

So, if the CIO role has moved up, what does that mean for architects?

Rosen: Often, it means that the scope of the architect's job has broadened. Now, [the architect] needs to help articulate how business strategy can translate into business and technology initiatives. [They need] to pick the right kind of projects that align with that strategy and determine the platform on which those projects will be built.

Typically, business architecture was something that the CIO supported and managed. That role has shifted to provide input for a higher-level strategy. And the architecture role has shifted -- they use their knowledge around the values and characteristics of certain architectures to translate that strategy into an executable set of initiatives.

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