An 'Enterprise Architect' Discusses His Evolving Role

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Scott Wolfe was nearly stripped of his title as Enterprise Architect at BECU.

Wolfe said the $5-billion credit union went back and forth deciding whether to maintain the title of IT Enterprise Architect-the latest thing in IT taxonomy-or rename Wolfe with the familiar Systems Administrator title.

BECU's hesitation may have been understandable: The title "Enterprise Architect" conjures up images of an IT guy playing construction with computer Legos, not someone who is responsible for making every single IT decision in light of how it will impact the entire credit union.

But Wolfe, who playfully describes himself as "stubborn," cleared up the confusion.

"Being an Enterprise Architect is not about building systems, it's about integrating them," Wolfe explained. "And it's not about breaking new ground; it's about maximizing the hardware and software you already have."

Wolfe and a BECU colleague are possibly the only two North American credit union Enterprise Architects. Although EA has always been a part of the Information Technology world, the job description is new and is becoming more important as organizations seek to use fewer systems for multiple purposes.

According to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, Enterprise Architecture (EA) brings together an organization's overall strategy with its business processes, IT hardware and software, networks, people, operations, and projects.

The architect looks at how business processes will be represented digitally, including ways to reuse technologies for similar business processes throughout the credit union.

Simply put, "I look at how two events across the credit union are related," Wolfe said.

The dozen systems administrators at BECU just don't have the time or the motivation to look at how disparate platforms, data formats and applications interact across the organization, or how they can be consolidated, Wolfe continued. Wolfe should know: Just three years ago, he himself was a systems administrator.

"The real innovation and scrutiny on each system or application is done by the system administrators," he said. "They're the real experts. But they don't have an inordinate amount of time to spend researching data or looking at other administrators' systems and applications."

Wolfe offered a concrete example of how his job is paying off for BECU. The CU is now able to consolidate Microsoft SQL instances onto fewer SQL servers, as well as to use virtual server technology to reduce the number of physical servers.

"We've become more efficient over the past three years," he said. "Our purchasing has been reduced, and we're doing more with less. I'm disassociated with each individual system, so I'm always looking for ways to repurpose or reuse hardware, and to reduce the number of applications that have the same function."

Is there a place for an Enterprise Architect at every credit union?

"Somebody should already be doing this job at every credit union," Wolfe said. "But it may just be one of their many responsibilities. And if you're small enough to where IT is not very complicated, then there's no need for someone to simplify."

CUJ Resources

For additional information on this story:

* BECU at www.becu.org

* Enterprise Architecture at www.enterprise-architecture.info

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