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Friday, 07 December 2012 17:08

Sketching a blueprint for enterprise architects


To Hugh Evans enterprise architecture isn’t just about picking technologies and sketching a blueprint for their application; it’s a more holistic enterprise-focused concept which embraces technology along with change management, business analysis and education.

Evans founded Enterprise Architects in 2002, and in a decade it’s grown to a $25 million a year business with 100 people working for or with it.

The range of projects which the firm has taken on across five continents is particularly diverse, but in many cases it works with organisations to execute a “change vision”. The company counts ACE Insurance in New York, Toronto’s TD Bank and Rio Tinto among its client base.

“Where you’re delivering ... transformation – for example a merger, the organisation needs to organise itself to affect that change. Enterprise architecture provides a blueprint and a roadmap for the organisation to see that execution through,” says Evans the founder and group CEO of Melbourne-based Enterprise Architects.

While Evan’s business has a strong IT focus it is not blinkered to the need for all the other disciplines needed to deliver significant transformation.

While his company offers consulting services it also provides training, staff through a specialised recruitment operation and the smarts to allow larger enterprises to establish their own internal enterprise architecture groups.

When it comes to defining exactly what an enterprise architect is or does there’s no single definition or skills set. According to Evans there is a spectrum of different enterprise architecture roles which each need different skills.

In general however he says enterprise architects need strong communication skills, emotional and analytical intelligence, well honed decision making capabilities and the ability to synthesise large volumes of information from disparate sources.


Evans explains that it’s not a career for everyone. “People who do these roles are incredibly intelligent and often under a lot of pressure – they are often in very political environments and dealing with very complex problems. Navigating all of that and being able to market your message internally is an extraordinarily tough thing to do.”

So is setting up a business. But over the last decade Evans, who is still only 36, has built a significant enterprise having gravitated to the field of enterprise architecture after a couple of false starts.

Born in South Australia, Evans was the youngest of three children born to his barrister father, and mother who was a dental nurse. After his early childhood spent on a farm the family moved to Adelaide when Evans was about seven. Although he had always had an aptitude for technology and programming, it was art that was Evans’ forte. On completing high school he want to university to study commerce, then dropped out of that course to take up architecture, only to drop out of that course to start business law before taking up a job offer as a computer games developer.

When Evans was just 20 however his first son was born which brought into sharp relief the need to settle to something. After almost two years developing games Evans determined to transition into more of a business focused role, and worked on rich media projects for a series of companies.

He then started working in the HR and recruitment business for a company in Melbourne, but felt that there was a need for more rigour in recruitment

He’d already recognised the need for more rigour in enterprise architecture after first coming across the discipline in 1999.

“It was a bit of a eureka moment: seeing companies trying to deliver multi-million computer programmes without anywhere near the rigour that I’d seen from my architecture background. I couldn’t believe organisations were prepared to spend that money and not bring the due rigour and planning processes to the table.”

In 2000 Evans set up an enterprise architecture alliance which brought together the chief architects from companies around Australia – offering them a forum which met three times a year. Working with enterprise architects from NAB, Westpac, Telstra, IAG, Fosters delivered Evans with an unparalleled network – but also deep insights about the challenge in the enterprise architecture field.

It was still early days in the evolution of enterprise architecture as evidenced by Evans’ ability to register the domain name enterprisearchitects.com.  He landed Coles as his first major client –working on the five year transformation programme steered by CIO Peter Mahler.

Today Enterprise Architects has clients, offices and staff all over the world, and Evans spends much of his time travelling.

Besides his now 16 year old son, Evans and his wife have a five year old and a baby due in March. Despite the travelling he describes himself as very family oriented – his other passion is polo which he plays whenever he has the time and chance. By setting up a polo social network Evans has significantly expanded his opportunites for a chukka when he’s travelling overseas.

Today Enterprise Architects has a core group of ten based in the UK and a larger team in Australia. It also has an office in New York and partners with a company in South Africa part owned by one of Enterprise Architect’s principals.

He acknowledges that in spite of the benefits that the discipline can deliver – it can be hard to establish enterprise architecture teams in organisations.

“There’s a lot of evidence of investment getting disbanded in one, two or three years and it really speaks to that need to get traction. What we talk about is the business of architecture – you need to know who your customer is, what their demands are, how to deliver what your customer needs – you need to know how to reach and engage with customers and demonstrate value.”

One other string to Enterprise Architect’s bow is an education and training division which offers courses to people working in the field.

“I think one of my aims is to assist in the professionalisation of the industry – look at architecture, and accountancy – those professions have gone through a process where people made commitments to professionalise their disciplines. The time has come for enterprise architecture to evolve to a true profession,” says Evans.

“An enterprise architect understands how to pull together information from multiple subject domains in the context of the problem and bring together the analysis so they can provide recommendations to a decision maker.” To do that effectively he believes there is a professional standard that enterprise architects need to achieve before hanging out their shingle.

“If you look at certifications in Australia relative to the rest of the world – on a per capita basis we have among one of the greatest uptakes of standards – as a business community the acceptance of enterprise architecture as a mainstream discipline is a testament to the quality of people in the Australian business community and I find that really heartening.

“I’m really optimistic for the next generation of enterprise architecture as Gen Y people come through who are even more concerned about the design and user experience.”

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