Do I want a mentor or a coach or a healthy combination of both?
Coaching and mentoring are not the same thing. Mentoring is a relationship between a more experienced person, the mentor, and a less experienced person, the student. Mentoring usually involves giving advice within a specific industry. An enterprise architecture mentor certainly has the industry experience but may not have the expertise to be a good coach. Unfortunately, an ordinary business coach will not have the specific experience in the IT industry, which is needed to coach you towards becoming a better IT architect. In fact the ideal IT architect coach will combine the role of coach and mentor so they will be more effective at what they for you. A smart enterprise architecture coach will teach you how to work with all stakeholders including leaders and in the trenches technical experts. The coach will guide you through the process of building a holistic viewpoint of the strategy, information, processes and information technology of the company.
Your coach’s role is to show you how to take this knowledge and ensure that information technology and the business are in complete alignment. Your enterprise architect coach will show you how the business mission, strategy and processes are linked to the IT strategy. Your coach will teach you how to document this and create multiple architectural models so the future or current needs of the business can be met. Your coach’s role is to help you develop the skills needed so that you can help the organization to become more efficient, effective, sustainable and adaptable. Because an enterprise architect operates across all facets of the business including computing, you must learn how to drive, approach and discover all information assets and processes throughout the business. You will learn that the goal is to create and implement architecture which supports an efficient and secure IT infrastructure. And it has to meet all the needs of the business. We can take the analogy as provided in Wikipedia to explain the differences between IT architects. An enterprise architect is like a city planner who provides roadmaps and regulations which manage growth and provide services to the citizens. First, the system architect inside this analogy plans one or more buildings.
The software architect is responsible for something similar to services such as heating their relation and air-conditioning inside the building. The infrastructure or technical architect is responsible for something similar to the plumbing, not only within the building but the water and sewerage infrastructure between the buildings or parts of the city. The enterprise architect like a city planner frames the citywide design and choreographs all the other activities into the larger plan. When seeking a mentor/coach to become an IT architect, be mindful of the types of experience which your coach has had in their professional life. After all if you wish to become an enterprise architect there will not be much value in having a coach whose main expertise has been software architecture. You need to cast your net wider.