​IT Architecture captures a range of very different roles within its remit. How do you identify that it’s the right time for your business to bring on an architecture team, and what is the optimal structure for one? With this in mind, La Fosse’s Architecture practice put together a list of key considerations for business leaders building out architecture teams, based on our experiences and those of our clients. If there are any we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments below.

When do I need an architecture team?

An IT Architecture team necessitates a certain level of complexity in your IT estate, so it’s an investment that organisations make once they reach a certain scale.

Often an architect is brought in when you’ve done a bit of growing, and you want to minimise the risk of a technology decision having a detrimental impact down the line when you scale further. Architecture is there to future-proof business strategy by assessing risk and checking that the IT is fit for purpose long-term.

This means hires are often triggered by a big investment or change within IT: acquisitions, changes in business strategy or expansion into new or international markets.

What value does an architecture team bring to an organisation?

A valuable IT Architecture team will:

• Facilitate the sustainable execution of short-term and long-term goals
• Ensure that IT strategy is integrated with business strategy and that IT is fulfilling the business’s aims
• Future-proof strategy
• Have “big picture” thinking: facilitating cost reduction by making sure you’re not replicating efforts in different parts of your business
What does a team look like?

This is entirely dependent on the size of your organisation and your business’s needs. Some organisations have one lead architect who wears several hats, employed on either a contract or permanent basis.

Larger organisations may have a Head of Architecture presiding over a team of Enterprise and Solutions Architects. Enterprise Architects typically work more closely with the business on long-term strategy, while solution architects execute components of the overall plan.

What is the ideal background of a Head of Architecture?

Once again, this is completely dependent on your organisation’s needs. There are a few qualities which are particularly important: the individual should be influencing and engaging, with a sound technical and business background, and a strong ability to communicate with and facilitate communication between these disciplines.

Beyond this: highly tech-centric companies, particularly start-ups, will need an individual who has earnt their technical stripes to allow them to communicate to tech-savvy stakeholders, but who can also convey the same messages clearly to business-minded CEOs and investors. This might necessitate an individual who has the skills of both an enterprise architect and solutions architect, who can articulate big picture vision while also getting passionate about APIs and microservices.

In a more corporate environment, the ability to influence senior stakeholders and articulate vision and strategy to the C-Suite becomes more important, as well as proven capabilities of personally driving change in a larger organisation with increased governance.

How do I build a value proposition for an architecture team and communicate this to the wider business?

See question 2 to help explain the value of an architecture team. Then, begin with the classic tactic for anyone building out a new function in a business: get some quick wins to demonstrate value and justify reinvestment.

However, you may have to trust that the goals might not obviously solidify for a while down the line. This is because architecture is a particularly strategic division of IT: its whole focus is about keeping as close as possible to the needs of the business, and enabling the business to fulfill longer-term goals, rather than being short-term or reactionary.

Are you currently building out your Architecture function? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss how to structure your team, and identify the best talent: Ryan.Grant@lafosse.com.