I am currently the European Head of Enterprise Architecture at DHL Express having served in a number of regional and global architecture roles with DHL over the last 22 years. Before moving into architecture I worked in IT development and support. Progressively over the years I have moved further away from the physical circuits and electrons I studied at university (I studied electrical and electronic engineering). As a sponsored student with Marconi Radar I was debugging multi-layer circuit boards. However, as an MIET and Chartered Engineer I have retained some of these roots and try to bring general engineering principles to enterprise architecture.
Originally from the UK I am now somewhat of a world citizen having lived and worked in Singapore (I married a Singaporean), Brussels, Prague, and now Germany. When I get the opportunity I enjoy sailing; there must be a connection in navigating the waters, the globe, and the enterprise.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE?
This was really through a number of chance circumstances starting with my first DHL interview. The interview was with Nigel Green (co-author of Lost in Translation and VPEC-T) who even though he didn’t have a role for me thought I was worth having around and persuaded one of his colleagues to hire me. Then my first significant project after joining DHL was to integrate and manage the initial deployments of our internal message broker (before third-party products were available) in Singapore and Japan. This is deployed globally and still today is the IT backbone of the Express business. Apart from the exposure to working with different cultures this also gave me insights into the significance of aligning business process and semantics to ensure information systems integration in highly distributed systems.
An internal white paper that I wrote based on what I’d learnt (describing how to use formal methods to configure the routing of messages) got noticed and I was co-opted for a global IT strategy initiative. This series of events really set me on the road through a variety of architecture roles to eventually become the first global Enterprise Architect for DHL.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE TODAY?
I think the challenge is really the same one that has been facing enterprise architecture for a long time. Enterprise architecture has somewhat of an identity crisis. Much of this comes from the label and others’ perception of enterprise architecture and the space in which many enterprise architectures find themselves. Architecture seems to equate to technical in many people’s minds and although ―enterprise‖ should imply a whole enterprise perspective many enterprise architectures operate only in the world of IT.
Also as a relatively young discipline I have come to wonder if enterprise architecture is really a separate discipline or a set of tools for the management toolkit. I certainly hold to the view that if enterprise architecture is about the architecture of the enterprise then it needs to be embedded in it and applied by more than a specialist team of architects.
In conclusion I wouldn’t be surprised if enterprise architecture morphs and splits off in different directions in the future. We’re already seeing this with the focus on Business Architecture in the last couple of years.
WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG THING IN ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE?
The fusion of enterprise architecture with other management practices is an exciting prospect. I see steps in this direction with, for example, the extensions of TOGAF to embrace program and project management. Indeed, traditionally enterprise architecture is discussed and gets applied for change management. However, for enterprise architecture to become truly embedded in the enterprise it has to become relevant in the other aspects of enterprise management; direction setting and operation of the enterprise. For example, how do our enterprise architecture models link to operational constructs, such as the chart of accounts, or to training materials? Therefore, steps to develop synergies between the practices of these areas of management and enterprise architecture hold the key to really establishing the role of enterprise architecture.
One other area that I think holds some potential, and relates to this, is the development of enterprise architecture patterns and anti-patterns. For example, what patterns are employed to enable agility in an enterprise?
WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A HEAD OF ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE?
It’s a balancing act.
First, as senior professionals we have a management responsibility to discharge and indeed need to operate within the governance structure of an organization in order to establish the enterprise architecture. On the other hand, as architects we have both a need and tendency to get embroiled in the content. It’s very easy to get stuck into the content and forget the management devices required to establish and maintain the architecture.
Secondly, there is a need from both an experience and credibility point of view to engage in solution architecture. However, of course this needs to be balanced by ensuring the enterprise architecture is in place and being kept up-to-date.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE EXPERIENCE?
1. Standing up in front of your CEO describing how an enterprise architecture approach (with linkages from product definition to business capabilities, processes, and how they are realized with business design and IT infrastructure, etc.) is being used to shape and plan a major change program, and being told that is absolutely the right way to go about it.
2. Seeing key enterprise architecture tools being adopted by others in the organization to communicate and plan. In particular, I’m thinking of our Business Domain Model (capability map).
WHAT WAS A LEAST FAVORITE ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE EXPERIENCE?
Have you ever seen that cartoon of battle being fought with knights and swords? Behind a tent is an inventor with a machine gun. The king is saying: ―tell him to come back later, I have battle to win‖. How many of us have felt like that inventor from time to time?
Because of the unique vantage point of an enterprise architect we often think that we have the answers, if only we could get them across. Often times though you have to accept that the only way to do that is for the organization to learn and your role is best played in providing signposts, not the answer.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING MAKING ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE THEIR CAREER AREA? (AND TO SOMEONE HAVING AN ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE CAREER?)
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Enterprise architecture has its own unique vernacular, but we need to communicate with our stakeholders in the language they understand, not the language of “artifacts”.
Indeed, one of the roles of an enterprise architect is as a translator: Between the language of business, information, and technology Between high-level management decisions and concrete design decisions Between a vision and the concrete actions to realize it
Journal of Enterprise Architecture