Do you want your strategies to succeed? You’ll need the gentleman on the left.

He designs your business. As Dave Baker of PwC notes, “A business without a design is one that is likely to be overly complex, expensive, inefficient and unaligned.” Or as Raja Musunuru, from Gaylord Entertainment Company, says, “It’s the difference between the roads in Boston and the roads in Toronto.”

Who is this designer? He’s an obscure executive called an Enterprise Architect (EA) and he works for your CIO. The role has gained traction over the last 10 years — if he’s not in your employ, challenge your CIO to hire him. Because you don’t want your strategies following spaghetti roads — you want them moving through your company on logical, straight highways…

Why does he work for the CIO? Because the roads in your company are paved with technology — so the best way to ensure that they are straight is to build and control the tech. There are two other reasons:

  1. EAs bring agility. You know this cliche: Markets change fast, your business has to keep up. If you’ve got frozen technology, your company won’t pace with your customers. A good EA will design the business and the tech for quick adaptation.
  2. EAs know when and when not to use new technology. Story: The insurance company USAA had a big problem. It was a hassle for customers to deposit checks — it involved paper, stamps, forms, etc. Then came the iPhone. Because USAA’s enterprise architects had designed adaptable systems, it could offer Deposit@Mobile — take a picture of a check with an iPhone, and it’s deposited. The company expected 22 million uses of the app in 2011 — the actual number ended up at 120 million.
  3. Techies invariably screw up the business; business guys screw up the tech. For years (actually, decades) we’ve looked for someone to span both — and that’s what Enterprise Architects do. David Torre, EA at Sony, sums it up: “An EA is an internal, trusted advisor who marries the best interests of the business with long-term technology strategy.”