Enterprise Architects in Hungary

This is the fourth post in my attempt to start a blogging habit.

The last couple of months, I’ve been looking for a new position, after a short sabbatical leave. In these months I’ve realized, how underdeveloped the state of enterprise architecture is in Hungary.

In this article, I’ll try to summarize my thoughts about the benefits of having a consistent enterprise architecture for a company, and the reason this position is not sought for in most Hungarian companies.

tl;dr

Enterprise Architecture is not applicable for most companies. Only independent, prosperous, complex and on top of that mature organizations develop the need to establish such a role.

There are so few of them, it makes it virtually impossible to find a job there.

I should have studied to work in a bakery.

What’s enterprise architect, and why would you want one?

There comes a time in the life of IT professionals, when they have seen quite a few things, that they realize it’s time to move to a new level. Developers become leads, leads become solution architects, solution architects move to integration, or enterprise architecture. I’m not talking about their business card titles, but their actual role.

Companies tend to struggle to hold this career advancement back, as they need their “valued employees” where they can do the grunt work that they used to. This results in fluctuations.

Enterprise architects can come from other fields as well, process analysts, project managers, consultants make great EAs as well.

What you really want in an EA is the ability to assess large problems, make informed decisions and be able to present them to the involved parties.

But what about the role of the enterprise architects? What are the actual benefits they can bring to an organization?

The way I see it an enterprise architect is responsible for the IT strategy, it’s implementation, and bridging between the business and IT architecture areas. The role  depends on the very existence of these said areas, as well as the recognition of the role by upper management. These areas ensure that the progression of the strategy is aligned with the ad-hoc solutions, and that the company heads in the desired direction.

Enterprise Architects should preferably report to the executive level, and not be stuck under IT, to avoid conflict of interest.

Sadly, I found, that these departments and sometimes even the most rudimentary strategic planning is missing in the Hungarian organizations. What could be the reason for that?

Support, not service based IT

One key factor, I have discovered, is that IT still only play a support role in many organizations. The companies don’t recognize it as a profit center, they are not involved in the strategic planning, they have little or none independent budget, program and strategy. This is usually a result of the historic development of said companies, where the computer systems were just secondary, and business could easily be continued without them. Even though the companies are completely dependent on said systems, IT doesn’t get recognized as an important factor.

An interesting reason I was pondering about, is the fact, that IT has to compete for resources with business. It’s much easier for Sales to sell an idea, then a hardcore IT manager.  Either IT has to team up with business areas, or get a more competitive leader.

In service centric approaches, IT  plays more recognized role. They have a possibility to show the importance of their services in the business processes, show the basis of their funding needs.

IT should be repositioned in the companies, to be able to take part in the strategy and decision making processes.

Lack of knowledge about business processes

I consider the most important role of business architecture, the catalog of the actual business processes.

The Hungarian scene has lots of companies, that lack the understanding of their own business processes, and run on habits. These companies are most vulnerable to fluctuation, as only the people know the steps they perform in the process.

I’ve came across several companies, where they claimed to have all their business processes mapped, by a department responsible for just that. It turned out, what that they actually had, was a few workflows detailing the human involvement in said processes, quite sketchy and outdated. Not once have I witnessed in multiple companies, that the business areas started arguing with one-another, about what they do in a given process. On occasion it even turned out, that there was a  crucial data validation step no one actually performed.

Business processes are mandatory if you want to understand how the company works. No enterprise architect could make responsible decisions based without seeing it’s impact on the business.

Lack of perspective

In Hungary some companies struggle for staying ahead of the competition or even staying in business.

Management commonly insists, that there is no time, reason to build long term strategy, as the business is so volatile and changes constantly. I’ve heard a manager state, that they cannot afford to create a more flexible system, as they have to spend so much to keep the current system running. When  presented with a return of investment in a few years time, he blurted out that he doesn’t care, he won’t be in the company by than.

Most of the major companies are subsidiaries, or owned by external entities. Many of these owners don’t like investing in their child companies, especially if they don’t make profits at the moment. That’s true for most financial, insurance, manufacturing sites, and even the energy sector got some blows.

Other largish organizations are government held. Those are generally riddled with politics, and are knee-deep in corruption. These don’t really care about effective processes, on the contrary, the more mess there is, the easier to hide the dirty laundry.

Enterprise Architecture doesn’t bring short term gains, instead it tries to ensure the long term sustainability of a company.

What companies need EA in Hungary?

As I am actively looking for a job, I had to identify some properties of companies, that could actually be interested in an Enterprise Architect.

  • Independence  – The company should be privately held,  locally owned, or have the main base of operations in Hungary. The subsidiaries I’ve seen are either dependent on their parent company’s architecture, or are financially depressed, so no strategic planning is really viable.
  • Prosperity – As above, the company must be able to sustain itself, and invest in it’s future. It must have a product/service portfolio, that is stable enough to be built upon.
  • Size – The company must be big and complex enough to require EA services.
  • Mature – The company must have identified the need of strategic planning.  It should be able to identify the need for change, and preferably should start do something about it.

That list of properties rule out most companies, save maybe two-three.

I started to gather my thoughts of this article a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly just yesterday I was approached and interviewed by a company that matches the listed criteria, and have started the transformation I detailed here. Who knows, it might turn out, there is still a need for EA? Wish me luck!

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