Are you a Guerrilla Enterprise Architect?


There’s a broad agreement that an enterprise architecture effort really needs to have an executive sponsor at the outset to be successful. But what about the case where you are hired into an enterprise architecture role, only to find out that this desirable state of affairs is not the reality? Or when it is initially true, and events change the reality to something different?

There are several ways that this happy ideal of an executive sponsor can end up not happening. The original sponsor may move on and be replaced by someone hostile to enterprise architecture. I remember one interim CIO who told me with a straight face that since EA didn’t have traceable results that he could use to justify his bonus there was no point in doing it. Another problem that can occur is where the Head of Enterprise Architecture can find themselves bogged down in firefighting that has nothing to do with EA. Or the head of EA may have just given up the fight and not be just be looking to hold on as long as possible.

Whatever the reasons, I’ve known enough cases where the individual enterprise architect can find themselves in a situation where they are not receiving any direction from line management on pain points or where they are needed to add value. In such a situation, the individual EA can do one of two things:

  1. Give up and look for other opportunities while you wait for the axe to fall
  2. Search out ways that you can add value on your own – effectively start your own miniature enterprise architecture initiative!

So how can you go about doing this?

Firstly you need to identify the best candidates for your mini initiatives. These will be areas where there is some level of interaction between groups. Some sample candidates could be:

  • Compliance Departments – matching external regulations to the systems, data and processes that they affect is extremely helpful in ensuring and demonstrating compliance
  • Capacity Planning – tracking systems and infrastructure against the usage patterns of user groups will assist capacity planners in performing their job
  • Data Security – tracking data entities and the access to the same by different user groups will help ensure that the right levels of access are being granted to the right data

Now in the midst of all this, it is still necessary to get buy in from the most important stakeholder – your own line management. A lot will depend on personalities here – how you present the fact of reaching out to organizations will depend on a knowledge of how to make this seem non-threatening and supportive.

Striking out on your own in the way described is not the ideal. But where the executive sponsorship has withered away for whatever reason, this guerrilla enterprise architecture approach is a way that an individual EA can try to show their value – and at least extract some kind of success story from a decisively bad situation.

Do you think this approach could be helpful to you in your situation? Or perhaps you’ve already started striking out on your own mini-initiative? Share your projects in the discussion below!