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Industry Knowledge is overrated

What does the topic of industry knowledge have to do with Enterprise Architecture organizational design? Nothing and that is the point. Even if you are a large company with a variety of business units you still do not want to structure your EA organization by business unit. You want to structure by process or capability domain.

There are several reasons you don’t want to throw another industry expertise angle into your organizational design

  • You want the architect to think and act at an enterprise level not a specific business unit level

  • Most processes are similar across industries. For some reason people just love to claim that they are different. This difference is often some unique way the company does things not necessarily the industry

  • The EA team would get too big if you now have to start adding industry specific folks by domain. If you are a very large company and you think it is worth having one chief architect per division then OK, but not more

  • It is also not an option to have architects that you’d expect to understand all of these domains at a level detailed enough to be effective

Depending on the size of your company you might combine some of these domains into one individual. E.g. for application architecture I could see a mid-sized company having one architect for backend supply chain functions, one for customer facing functions and one for finance and other back office stuff.

I do encourage you to think how small you can make the team and still meet your goals. Lean towards small. Architecture’s super power is to bring a small group of people to complex problems and solve them quickly at high quality. Small groups of strong people are extremely efficient.

Finally, I don’t want to ignore industry knowledge. It definitely has an advantage. Hiring a business or application architect from a financial institution into a manufacturing company’s EA team for certain domains is a stretch. But in most circumstances it is the architect’s domain expertise combined with understanding process and tech uniqueness as well as relationships within the company that make him/her effective. And by the way, that takes time.

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