Our latest research entitled 'Does Enterprise Architecture need a re-brand?' has highlighted that 'vision' is one of the key things that business leaders look for when hiring their next 'go to advisor' on all things technical. In fact, 58% of respondants stated it was the number one quality they look for in an Enterprise Architect. But in a backdrop where 52% feel that the role is being watered down, we caught up with Simeon Evans to find out his top 5 - slightly 'out there'- interview questions that draw out the candidates capable of bridging the balance of technology, people and politics to create tangible - short term - value.
Question #1: How big is your monthly coffee bill?
One of the key compentencies that separates a Solutions Architect from an experienced Enterprise Architect is the ability to listen and understand sometimes rather complex business challenges. We are looking for trusted advisors here that are capable of building deep relationships with a broad spectrum of stakeholders - as a result you'd expect them to have racked up a rather big bill in the coffee shop over the course of an average month. You'd also expect effective Enterprise Architects to have a large technical network - probably built up from engagments on the events circit. Whether your talking about business architecture or technology architecture it's ok for Enterprise Architects not to have all the answers (noone likes a know it all) but you'd expect them to know somebody who does.
Question #2: How good are you at telling bedtime stories?
In my experience one of the most effective skills a successful Enterprise Architect can have is the ability to paint a picture of a new reality for the business. When Enteprise Architects get this right they can change how people think and lead stakeholders to positive outcomes both in the short and long term. You're looking for an Enterprise Architect who can tell and engaging story with a begining, middle and end that holds the attention of the business and creates buy in and project momentum. It can't be a long story or a boring one as the business will simply fall asleep on you and it's tough to wake them up after that.
Question #3: When you schedule a meeting who turns up?
For me this is a really interesting question as it gives you an insight into who is either inside the candidates circle of influence (if they are being honest) or who the candidate believes they should be influencing (if they are telling the odd fib). The ability for an Enterprise Architect to be self aware on this matter tells you everything you probably need to know about their ability to deal with the disapearing project sponsor. I would really drill into this area. You could go a step further and ask whether they believe people look forward to their meetings? Or even more directly which of their key stakeholders enjoys their meetings most and why? I'd be interested to know how often they themselves get invited to meetings and perhaps more importantly whether or not they get invited to the follow on meetings thereafter. On paper the Enterprise Architect should be the first person on the invite list, afterall their ultimate purpose is to make all the noise mean something. They should be the broker of communication between diverse groups of stakeholders.
Question #4: What's your worst ever battle scar?
In our research we asked hiring managers to identify in their own words the single skill they find most difficult to source in an Enterprise Architect. There was certainly some sentiment in the responses towards 'experience' in fact one response that particularly stood out introduced the concept that an EA needs to be 'streetwise' and in a sense battled hardened from previous experience in large, complex projects with challenging stakeholders. This question is great because it's almost a double edged sword. You want to hear about challenges that have been overcome. You want to hear about a voyage of self discovery. But by the nature of an EA's role of being a trusted advisor to the business there is probably a line that you wouldn't want candidates to cross in terms of just how candid they are.
Question #5: When growing up did you prefer to be a cop or a robber?
Ultimately you are not looking for a policeman in an Enterprise Architect. There are plenty of things that we should do as an organisation but choose not to. A good EA should be able to understand when the business logic is right to diviate from the plan and when it isn't. You're not looking for someone that is going to go off and lecture the business you're looking for someone who is going to go out and engage with stakeholders constructively and create actionable deliverables to deliver growth opportunities.
***NOTE OF CAUTION WHEN USING THESE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS***
Your role as the interviewer is to get the absolute best you can out of the candidate and give them the perfect platform to share their experience. Do not derail the interview by asking too many 'out there' questions.