Choosing a career as an enterprise architect can be the most important decision in a young person's life, writes Stuart McGregor, MD of Real IRM. It opens many doors, locally and internationally, and ensures that they are well rounded in their general approach to a wide range of business and IT issues. It challenges them to take the step up in terms of strategic thinking.

The key to a career as an enterprise architect is TOGAF, or The Open Group Architecture Framework, an industry-standard architecture framework that can be used freely under licence by any organisation wanting to develop and implement an enterprise architecture internally.
There is enormous demand for TOGAF skills, as shown in the UK. ITJobsWatch reports that in the three months to the end of June 2007, the average maximum salary offered for IT jobs that cited TOGAF was £93 817, compared with £74 105 in the same period last year. In addition, this figure was compared to the average maximum salary in the processes and methodologies category, which amounted to £53 330.
EA is a long-term career, however, one in which it takes at least a decade to reach maturity given the right individual characteristics. But once gained, such maturity means the sky is the limit for a TOGAF-certified enterprise architect.
The number and variety of enterprise architecture (EA) certification initiatives is increasing steadily. Numerous architecture framework standards have been developed and have matured over the past decade and the focus of these frameworks is diverse. However, one that has evolved in recent decades and stood the test of time to become one of the principal standards bodies in the world is The Open Group.
A vendor-neutral and technology-neutral consortium, the Open Group's vision of Boundaryless Information Flow aims to enable access to integrated information, within and among organisations, based on open standards and global interoperability.
With over 300 member organisations whose headquarters are spread across 19 different countries, more than 6 000 individual participants, and the combined IT purchasing power of $50 billion each year (about 25% of the total IT purchasing power worldwide), The Open Group, through its members, will realise its vision.
TOGAF has an interesting history. The US Department of Defense (DoD) Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management (TAFIM) was the parent of TOGAF, and the US Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) invested millions of dollars in the development of TAFIM. The Open Group has taken TOGAF forward through annual updates.
Adoption of TOGAF is on the up in South Africa, as more and more companies begin to recognise the benefits of an international standard to guide and structure their approach to EA. Participation will continue to rise as companies internalise the value of TOGAF.
Among the metrics which reflect the surging adoption of TOGAF:
* 9% of the members of the Architecture Forum worldwide are South African, way above the traditional average, which sees ,75% to 1% South African representation in global economies and industry forums. These members include organisations such as Telkom, Eskom, University of Johannesburg, Investec and Armscor.
* Out of 2 500 certified TOGAF practitioners worldwide, more than 250 are from South Africa, again way above the global average. This number is expected to double in the next year.
There is no doubt that the adoption of TOGAF by international giants such as CapGemini and SAP has given the local market greater confidence in the fact that TOGAF is here to stay. Global membership of HP, IBM, EDS, Johnson & Johnson and NEC is further indication of how TOGAF is burgeoning. Based on demand, the EA market is seeing a TOGAF groundswell, with organisations such as Sasol mandating the framework.
As EA gains traction as a meaningful career choice, so certification is vital; doctors, lawyers and accountants, to name just three, are all certified in a standard way and now, so too are enterprise architects. The Open Group sees the need to recognise enterprise architects who possess the necessary skills to deliver this EA capability and has two critical certification programmes. The first is TOGAF certification, which attests to a person's knowledge of TOGAF.
The second, in response to the industry's growing demand to standardise skills of enterprise architects is ITAC, the IT Architect Certification programme.
The Open Group's IT Architect Certification programme is the premier, global certification programme for certifying skills and experience in the enterprise architecture community. The programme was developed in response to the growing demand for highly experienced IT architects with proven track records of success.
Based on the proven best practices in the industry, it sets an independent, industry-wide standard for enterprise architects and creates a foundation for trust between suppliers and customers.
Under the programme, practising IT architects can achieve the IT Architect Certification based on demonstrating substantial skills, experience and success in architecting solutions across the whole lifecycle. The programme in effect provides the missing element, a set of recognised standards that allow organisations to benchmark against the required skill level, experience and knowledge, and choose the right people for the job.
Through standardised certification, the enterprise architect today has a limitless career path and can obtain a post anywhere EA is applied, worldwide. As a result, EA is now acknowledged everywhere as a great career. However, because it bridges the world between business and IT, it requires certain personal characteristics, knowledge, and skills, and it is critical to spend time engaging the right people for this important function.
Gartner predicts that by 2011, 40% of people affiliated with the IT
organisation will have gained business experience outside IT. By 2010 market demand for IT specialists will shrink 10% annually. By 2011, IT organisations will suffer an imbalance: too few business-oriented commercial skills, and too many technology skills. These reflect the rising importance of the enterprise business architecture and the need for a more balanced skill set beyond technical architecture.
Here are some of the characteristics to look out for:
* Conceptual thinker: Ability to think at different levels of abstraction, and deal with different frameworks and ambiguity.
* Technology-agnostic: Many strong technical people are also quite biased in their views toward products and tend to "go with what they know". Architects must be neutral and maintain an objective perspective.
* Well respected and influential: Architects need the support of senior IT and business managers and the ability to influence them as well as the IT organisation at large. Those who are already well respected and have influence have an advantage.
* Persuasive: Enterprise architects must spend time communicating and educating. It is therefore important that they have the skills to clearly communicate ideas in a persuasive, compelling manner.
* A zoom lens approach:  Enterprise architects must have the ability to zoom out and focus on business strategy with executives, and to zoom in and discuss technical details with the techies.
* Strategic outlook: Strategic ideas are, by definition, those that contribute to defining or fulfilling the transformations described in the business strategy of the enterprise, while tactical issues pertain to executing well with operations. Architects must be strategically driven, while recognising the need to have balance in the organisation with effective, tactical operations.
* Knowledge of the business: It is important to avoid the trap of technology for the sake of technology. Enterprise architects are leaders and therefore they must have a strong interest in and understanding of the business, its strategic direction, dysfunctions, strengths, and more. It is not good enough to be a superior technologist.
* Ability to facilitate: Enterprise architects are frequently counted on to facilitate content development meetings or lead subcommittees. In this capacity, effective group facilitation skills are important.
* Ability to negotiate: It is important to seek solutions on issues as architecture content is developed. There are difficult decisions to be made. Effective negotiation skills are invaluable for peacefully resolving these situations with powerful decisions to benefit the organisation.
* Ability to lead: Taking the initiative to persuade, inspire, motivate, and influence others, plus the ability to make quality decisions with a high level of stakeholder buy-in.
In today's global and highly competitive environment, businesses need to be flexible and able to quickly respond to changing market conditions irrespective of geographical boundaries, time zones, and organisational structures. The key enabler, a well defined EA that supports the needs of the business, is highly dependent on the key employees, enterprise architects, having the required ability, experience and skills. As a result, the demand for highly experienced practitioners is exploding. They must, however, have proven competencies across a variety of disciplines, and the ability to and apply their enterprise architecture expertise to reduce business risk, add value and drive sustainable business change.