Ask Me Anything

How to succeed as an enterprise architect, with Geeta Pyne

Digital Transformation

January 28, 2022
min read
An image of Geeta Pyne, Chief Enterprise Architect of Intuit

Geeta Pyne, Chief Enterprise Architect of Intuit, on critical success factors for enterprise architects.

This AMA was edited for brevity.

Geeta Pyne is the Chief Enterprise Architect at Intuit.

As an enterprise architect (EA), how do you approach implementing digital transformation initiatives in a way that doesn't add complexity to managing your current tech stack?

Start by demystifying what digital transformation really means, beginning with the terminology: What does being “digital” mean? What does “digital transformation” mean? Architecture provides visibility into what the business is using on the technology side for their operations. As an EA, I map all the technologies to show how those are connected end to end. One should always start with the business outcomes by explaining the business capabilities and how you can ‘digitize’ them with technology.

“Applications move, so focus on the business’s key goals”

Applications move, so focus on the business’s key goals and the data that drives it. Provide a model for business capability maturity and connect it to the value streams to show which ones provide value. Then ask, “What does this ‘transformation’ really mean? What do you want it to be?”

Starting out with this simple visibility into the capability you are talking about, having a lens on the area you want to transform, and breaking things down into the capability maturity to drive those values is fundamental to successful digital transformation. Data is the secret sauce. Everything has to be backed by data and metrics. Then the question becomes: “Do you want to bring in a new business model? Do you want to go into the subscription business?” Identify what transformation means for the business, and then articulate and map that back onto the technology architecture that supports it.

What’s your approach to implementing digital transformation initiatives? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

What are the most common mistakes that enterprise architects (EAs) make? 

Executives are often engaged too late or not at all. Enterprise architects still talk a lot about technology, when technology is a means to an end. It’s important to be able to talk to the business in business terms to show that you understand their goals. If a product manager says, “I need a new expense management thing,” understand what expense management means for them. Break that down and don't even bring out any technology unless it is required.

“Executives are often engaged too late or not at all.” 

That's what a lot of EAs miss, because they think about systems rather than thinking from a business perspective. And another perspective to consider is the outcome: How do we want to measure this? Get those KPIs and metrics to tie that back in. But you need credibility to be able to have that engagement.

What advice would you give to enterprise architects? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

As an enterprise architect (EA), how do you establish the credibility needed to engage with leadership early on? 

Even if you’re established in your career, you still have to win credibility when you walk into a new company. Architecture is more of an art than a science; there is no one-size-fits-all. 

First, learn the context, try to grow where you are planted and identify one or two quick wins — find the biggest pain points you can quickly solve for, because this part has to be done in weeks, not months or years. Marketing, for example, is an area that has the money, but often runs blind. They don't know where their campaign dollars are being spent, or the efficacy of those campaigns. Stick with them and do some prototyping. Don't try to do too many things. Use narrow slices, even if you just mock up something, to get their feedback and ask: “Is this what you're trying to do? What kind of insights will really help you?” If I have answers to those questions, then it starts to build trust. 

“Architecture is more of an art than a science; there is no one-size-fits-all.”

You also have to be a good listener. Understand the issue first by asking questions. Leave the ego outside. Nobody cares if you have 20 years’ experience when they’re working with you. How are you relevant? My philosophy is simple: if I'm actually helping, people will come to me. As I'm helping them, I can also try to relate to the problem and learn enough about the business very quickly. That way I know the lingo of their communication and won’t get lost in translation.

How have you established your credibility after joining a new company? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

How much time on average do you spend nurturing your business relationships? 

It's a lot. You can never underestimate the importance of a relationship, especially in this abstract architecture world, and that applies to both the business and your developers. Developers and engineers are the ones who make the architecture real, so you have to be close to both groups and it takes work. I spend quite a bit of time on that; it's why I end up working in the evenings and on the weekends. Once you build those relationships, you have so much work. They come to you.

“You can never underestimate the importance of a relationship, especially in this abstract architecture world”

I would recommend that any EA — especially somebody new who's trying to learn the craft of architecture — spend almost 60% of their time deployed to the business to learn as much as they can. I go to the meetings for other business units (BUs), because you can hear about what they are trying to do directly from them. Sit with developers in the operations meetings as well. Look at root cause analysis — like with incident management — to cover the gamut in order to understand and build a relationship with them.

How much time do you dedicate to nurturing your business relationships? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.

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