Experts have warned that, while many IT managers think of enterprise architecture as system design on steroids, the failure rate of their strategies is a whopping 85 to 90 per cent.
Skills from across the enterprise need to be used, said experts and users after discussing their own experiences at Meta Group's Enterprise Architecture conference last week.
Will Appel, vice president at the analyst, explained that strategies often failed on technological grounds because architects lock themselves away for six months to come up with a plan. "But by then, they would be six months behind," he warned.
Appel insisted that 70 per cent of architecture teams will report to the chief financial officer or similar by 2007, and that a cross-section of skills is needed.
"The skill set for an architecture team is inconsistent," he said. "Obviously you need technical competency, but you also need to focus on soft skills such as communication.
"One client even involved the librarian because of her data archiving skills. This is not a purely technical role.
"Also, you want to know how to sell architecture to business people, then make them part of the team."
Ironically, experience suggests that financial directors may be more easily sold on IT enterprise architecture plans than the IT department.
Mark Perry, enterprise architect at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, said: "The biggest hurdle is getting the IT department to accept the architecture policy. The business community is more accepting of ideas."
He added that, explained in business terms, architecture can be used to describe risk avoidance, which in turn equates to money. This gives IT directors a strong case to take to the board.
But forming such disparate teams can create other problems.
John Good, principal technologist at the BBC, said that he could not answer the question of where the architecture team was supposed to report to.
"Because it is a virtual team, it has no line manager or one person responsible," he explained.
Allied Irish Bank found that every department wanted 'ownership' of the architecture team because of its potential as a future power base, according to the company's IT architect John Dolan.
Appel advised that, while the team should remain virtual, one person should be designated as the authoritative source.
Dolan agreed, adding that other team members should have the power of veto in case, for instance, "the business people want to make a deal with an IT firm that may be about to go bust".
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