Over the years, I've had the opportunity to both attend at speak at conferences sponsored by The Open Group, one of the professional associations dedicated to advancing IT architecture.

One thing that always comes up in any discussion is the ongoing disconnect between business and IT. I've spoken to plenty of insurance industry executives about this relationship, and there are many fine examples of IT being well embedded with the business, to the point where CIOs play a role in strategic decision-making.

But, even in the best-aligned companies, there is always the challenge of IT not quite getting what the users want, and users not understanding how IT operates.

That's where the enterprise architect (EA) comes in. EAs are the bridge where east meets west, fluent in two languages—business-speak and tech-speak. Not only should EAs help with communications, but should also lay the groundwork for new systems planning and implementations.

That's why a new Celent report caught my eye, speaking to the need to support EAs within insurance companies. It's appropriately named— “The Labours of Hercules: The Challenges Facing Insurance Enterprise Architects,” a reflection of the large tasks in today's complex insurance organizations.

“In complex organizations, enterprise architecture is a practice that can allow a holistic view to be taken, further aiding investment decisions,” the report observes. “All this analysis is for naught, however, if an organization continues to operate a method for selecting projects that doesn't reflect its priorities.”

This is the job of the EA—to make sure new technology implementations are in line with insurers' overall objectives. EAs also need to be able to address legacy modernization, outsourcing, disruptive technologies and project management.

Ultimately, “the enterprise architect is expected to be an expert not only in the issues facing the insurer but also the technology that could resolve them,” Celent says. This is a tall order, but talent that is badly needed among today's insurers.

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