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Your First 90 Days as Director of Enterprise Architecture

Your First 90 Days as Director of Enterprise Architecture Roadmap

by Daniel Lambert (book a 30-minute meeting)

Taking on the role of Director of Enterprise Architecture (EA) in a 5,000-employee private organization is both a significant opportunity and a formidable challenge. The first 90 days are critical for establishing your credibility, understanding the organization’s landscape, and setting the stage for strategic, impactful, profitable, and transformative initiatives. This period should be focused on 10 main activities to learn, build relationships, and develop a clear vision and roadmap for your EA practice. Here’s a complete execution guide to perform during these crucial first three months, as shown in Figure 1 below.

A- Days 1-30: Assimilation and Understanding

1. Onboarding and Initial Learning

Onboarding and initial learning include understanding your organization, examining your current EA documentation, and identifying key stakeholders.

In the beginning, it is important to participate in your organization’s onboarding program to understand its culture, values, strategies, and goals. You need to familiarize yourself with the company’s mission, vision, and business strategies.

Gather and review early existing documentation related to your enterprise architecture practice. This should include the current state architecture of your firm, EA frameworks, methodologies, and previous involvements, assessments, and audits.

You need to identify the key stakeholders that you will be interacting with, including business and IT executive leadership, business unit leaders, IT management, and key technical staff. It is imperative that you understand their expectations, pain points, and problems to adjust your enterprise architecture practice accordingly.

Figure 1 - Your First 90 Days as Director of Enterprise Architecture Roadmap

2. Building Relationships

Building relationships with key stakeholders and with your team members early on is essential.

While having the backing of your boss, you need to have introductory meetings with key stakeholders to introduce yourself and learn about their roles, challenges, and expectations. Building trust and rapport during these initial meetings is crucial. Remember that if you omit to build these relationships early on, the odds that you make a significant positive impact on your organization are very low.

You also have to engage rapidly with your EA team to understand their capabilities, challenges, and current projects. Establish an open communication channel and start fostering a collaborative team culture.


3. Current State Assessment

Within the first 30 days within your organization, it’s important to complete a high-level assessment of the current architectural landscape and make a gap analysis.

Once you know enough about your company, conduct a high-level assessment of the current architectural landscape. Identify the current level-1 business capabilities, major systems, platforms, and technologies. More precisely, you need to understand the current state of business architecture, data architecture, application architecture, and technology architecture within your firm, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2 - Enterprise Architecture Domains

Usually, EA teams have a good understanding of their applications. As for business architecture and data architecture, it’s often another story. Business architecture is essential to design your firm, prioritize projects, and deliver your corporate future successfully.  As for Data architecture, most organizations lack a modern data architecture for speed, flexibility, and innovation. To make a significant impact, your EA practice will need rapidly to focus on these two areas, business and data architecture,  especially if your organization needs to architect and deliver AI projects at scale.

Once the current architectural landscape of your organization is complete, you need to identify the important gaps between the current state and the desired future state. This implies understanding the major pain points, inefficiencies, and areas that need immediate attention within your firm. These gaps usually need to be measured using KPIs and need to be sorted by priority.

B- Days 31-60: Deep Dive and Strategy Development

In the second month of your new position, you need to deep dive and get into the strategy development of your organization by performing a detailed analysis, understanding the vision of your firm, building a strategic roadmap, and getting buy-in from the key stakeholders with whom you are involved.


4. Detailed Analysis

Your detailed analysis should include business goals alignment, a review of the business capabilities, and a technical analysis of the company’s critical systems using at minimum a SWOT Analysis.

To succeed with your detailed analysis, you need to work closely with business leaders to understand their strategic goals and how EA can support these goals. Here, you will need to identify the right business capabilities of the company to reach these identified strategic goals (business architecture). You will also need to evaluate the quality of the organization’s data regarding the required information to reach the strategic goals of the organization (data architecture). 

It is also preferable for you to complement this detailed analysis with a technical analysis of the critical systems and technologies of your organization. Here you need to identify dependencies, integration points, and areas where improvements are preferable or a necessity (application and technology architecture).

The use of a simple SWOT Analysis will bring clarity. Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the current state of the enterprise architecture of your organization. This will help in identifying strategic initiatives, projects, and quick wins. Quick wins will often involve application rationalization and duplication elimination.

5. Vision and Roadmap

Once you’ve completed your detailed analysis, you define the vision of your enterprise architecture practice and build a strategic roadmap of the initiatives and projects to undertake for your organization.

Based on your initial analytic findings, start crafting a vision for the EA practice. This vision should align with the organization’s strategic goals and address the key pain points identified during your architectural assessment.

You also need to develop a high-level strategic roadmap outlining key initiatives and projects for the next 12-18 months. It is imperative that you prioritize initiatives based on business impact, feasibility, and alignment with the identified strategic goals.

6. Stakeholder Buy-In

To increase the odds of delivering successfully the identified strategic initiatives and projects, it is essential that you have stakeholder buy-in by presenting your findings and have a feedback loop mechanism in place.

Here, it is essential that you prepare a presentation summarizing your findings, vision, and proposed roadmap. It requires to be shown to key stakeholders, including executive leadership, to seek their input and buy-in.

You also need to implement a feedback loop mechanism to refine your vision and roadmap based on stakeholder input. This iterative process will ensure that your plans are well-aligned with business needs and have the necessary managerial support.

7. Communication and Reporting

The best way to ensure feedback for key stakeholders is to put in place communication and reporting at regular intervals and that will include your company’s and EA practice’s success stories.

It is important to establish a communication plan for providing regular updates on the progress of your EA initiatives and projects to the business and IT stakeholders that you are involved with. This should include both formal reports and informal check-ins.

Make sure to share your company’s and EA practice’s success stories and early wins to build momentum and demonstrate the value of your practice. This is essential to maintain stakeholder support and enthusiasm.


C- Days 61-90: Execution and Early Wins

In the third month of your new assignment, you should be able to establish governance, refine frameworks, develop your team, and begin some execution by demonstrating early wins and completing detailed roadmaps of one or several pilot projects.

8. Quick Wins and Pilot Projects

You’re now ready to identify a few quick-win projects that can deliver immediate value and demonstrate the impact of the EA function. These projects should ideally address critical pain points or inefficiencies identified during your assessments. At a minimum, these quick wins need to demonstrate a high return on investment with either cost savings or additional revenue.

You should also be able to deliver a detailed roadmap of one or two pilot project(s) for the strategic initiatives that you have elaborated in the two first months of your new job.  These pilots will help validate your approach and provide early insights that can be used to refine your strategy.

9. Governance and Frameworks

It is also necessary to develop and implement an EA governance framework. This should include guidelines for architecture decision-making, standards, and principles. This will require you to establish an EA review board with representation from key stakeholders.

Figure 3 - Gartner's AI Use Case Prism for Enterprise Architecture

You will also need to introduce or refine the EA frameworks and methodologies used by your company that will guide the organization’s architecture practice. Ensure that these frameworks are flexible and adaptable to the organization’s needs. To complete this task and make it easier to deliver capability-based roadmaps that can be delivered on time and within budget, you need to make it as detailed as possible. Using EA tools only is not enough anymore. Some enterprise architecture practices have now started using a generative AI tool for business and enterprise architects to accelerate their work and provide more details to facilitate digital transformation delivery, as shown in Figure 3 above. It’s a matter of time before this approach becomes prevalent.

10. Team Development

You will not be successful alone. You need to develop a reliable team with business and not just IT skills, and you need to set clear boundaries and delegate responsibilities.

To that effect, you need to identify skill gaps within your EA team and develop a plan for addressing these gaps. This might include training, hiring new talent, and/or reallocating resources.

The business architect(s) and enterprise architect(s) reporting to you should be as talented or even more talented than you. Once you have set clear boundaries, make sure to empower your team by delegating responsibilities and encouraging grounded innovations. Foster a culture of continuous improvement and learning.

The first 90 days as a Director of Enterprise Architecture in your company are crucial for setting the foundation for long-term success and for you to become indispensable. By focusing on understanding the organization, building relationships, indicating a clear vision, developing a reliable team, and demonstrating early wins, you can establish credibility and create a strong platform for driving strategic architectural initiatives. Remember, the key to success lies in aligning your efforts with business goals, fostering collaboration, and maintaining a relentless focus on delivering value.

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