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I have been coaching a client for a while now.  Al is a portfolio manager and there is no appointed Enterprise Architect.  So Al is it!  The more we work together, the more I am inclined to think that when there is a small team of IT people in the organisation, the roles of portfolio manager (PM) and enterprise architect (EA) can be rolled into one.

Why do I think so, I hear you ask?  Well, here is what the two roles have in common:

  1. Making sure the portfolio is aligned to strategy. Selecting the right projects for the organisation to invest in is important to both the PM and EA roles.  Typically, I have sat at the same table with PMs to assess each idea/initiative to value its inclusion in the program of work for the year.  I have found that the PM can equally do the strategic assessments as I can and what’s often missing is the tool to conduct the assessment objectively.  What I did with Al was to coach him to build the objective tool and showed him how to use it.
  2. Governance reviews of the portfolio.  One of the biggest complaints from projects is the alleged governance overload with the PMO and EAO expecting every project to submit to onerous checks.  Al and I have spoken about putting in guardrails for what projects can do to self-assess and make it easier to deliver their projects. The guardrails are set at different stages of the project, where he can bring in the right technical experts to conduct a review through a design authority. As an EA I have never assumed that I have all the answers, and so I bring in the relevant experts to assist with design reviews. This model suits Al very well.
  3. Participate in agile outcomes.  I find that Al knows the complete change program as well as I expect an EA to know the portfolio of work.  Al also knows the desirability, viability, and feasibility of each initiative as he now participates in objectively selecting initiatives and prioritising them for the portfolio he manages.  We’ve discovered we don’t need a dedicated EA role to participate in agile workshops, as Al has all the knowledge required.
  4. Presenting complex information to key stakeholders.  Al has learnt how to create a business capability model and how powerful overlays are to communicate complex insights to business stakeholders.  One of the first models presented addresses a key concern of the CFO; Where are we investing in technology in the business!  Al has classified all the major and minor works in the portfolio.  The major projects have been mapped to the capabilities and the BCM is now heat mapped to show which capabilities will benefit from the company’s investment in technology.

I’m sure as we work more closely together, Al is gaining more enterprise architecture skills and learning how to leverage his portfolio management skills for greater effect.  I leave you to think about what enterprise architecture really is and how you practice it in your organisation. 

Do you need a role called ‘Enterprise Architect’ to practice enterprise architecture, or can we coach people to learn how to include enterprise architecture practices in their everyday work?  I would love to hear what you think and how we can expose more people to enterprise architecture ways of working.  I believe that practicing enterprise architecture will deliver much better outcomes for everyone.

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