Applied Information Management

The AIM Alumni Project: Working with Information

The AIM Program continues its series of profiles about the professional work of graduates. The goal is to explore the diversity of work of the information manager and to examine how the field is evolving.

AIM alumni who wish to submit a profile should send an e-mail to the AIM Program at, or call us at 800-824-2714, and we'll send you a suggested framework. To date, profiles have been provided by Joel Tachau ('07), Linda Ballas ('05), Peter Battan ('98), Travis Luckey ('09), Connie Atchley ('10), Michael Wright ('06), Hope Angel ('11), Brandon Gatke (’08), and Scott Fenton (’95).

Communicating as an Enterprise Architect—An Interview with Linda Ballas ('05), enterprise architect, Standard Insurance Company

Linda Ballas (í05), Enterprise Architect, Standard Insurance Company

What is your current job?

I am an enterprise architect responsible for the domain of applications within Standard Insurance Company. Enterprise architecture is a department within Information Technology (IT), focusing on alignment of IT with company strategic goals and objectives.
I also teach IT classes at the University of Phoenix, mostly for information systems majors, including various programming languages and other topics such as Internet security. I enjoy teaching business majors about IT—many of those folks only experience IT when their laptops fail or they get an error message in an application.

How do you spend your work time?

The purpose of an enterprise architect is to facilitate knowledge-based decision making and raise awareness of direction and the state of technical assets in the organization. What this really boils down to is communication, communication, and more communication. Creating different views of information as aids in discussion is very important—I have at least three diagrams of future state application architecture, each of which is presented from a slightly different angle.
Communication also implies participation on multiple projects and team efforts. There is rarely anything that is accomplished in the company by one person aloneóitís all about teamwork and shared vision. This is a foundational concept of the AIM Program, and I find it foundational in the business world in which I work as well.
I am also intrinsically involved in governance and assurance processes in IT. As a member of the Architectural Review Team (ART), I look at IT work in flight. The ART provides a broader perspective of IT across the enterprise.

Do you work alone, or in a group?

I am part of a small team of enterprise architects, each of us responsible for a different domain such as applications, information, infrastructure and security. Our team reports directly to the senior VP of information technology.
Because each person on my team has a different focus area, we often work alone or with different customers. Ultimately we work as a team though, because there are many touch-points between our different domains and areas of expertise.

How do you measure your success in your role?

When I took the job in enterprise architecture, I realized I would need to change the way I recognized my own effectiveness. The results of good architectural guidance are often felt years after they are initially applied. In the interim, there is endless message repetition and friendly coaxing to be done. Coming from a software development background where you can see the results of your efforts in a matter of months, it was difficult at first to make the transition. Now, though, I am seeing more momentum building along the pathways I have designed, diagrammed, and illuminated. Itís very exhilarating, in a tortoise-and-hare sort of way!

Are there more folks doing this kind of work now, than there were five or ten years ago?

Yes, the field of enterprise architecture has grown over the past five to ten years. I see more attendance at conferences, more conversational traffic on blogs and discussion forums.
Enterprise architecture has been a discipline since the early '80s, and is particularly active in the public sector. The Department of Defense has been instrumental in defining and executing enterprise architecture and is recognized as a standards bearer in the discipline.
At the last conference I attended, many of my peers were from other financial institutions as well as manufacturing. A good number work for consulting firms because this brand of expertise is often brought into organizations for temporary assignments.

How do you stay current in the field? (i.e., resources, organizations, journals, etc.)

I follow information streams from several sources including Gartner Research, the Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects, and the Enterprise Architecture Executive Council. I also receive digests of postings from several discussion groups.
I try to read at least one text every couple of months to stay current as well. I rarely have the opportunity to read periodicals in print, and instead read them online.

How do you use your AIM education in support of your work?

I can't think of a single AIM class that I don't use continuously. For example, systems thinking is a critical skill in my discipline. Although this topic was covered in a short course, its influence on my business career has been immense. I apply skills learned in Project Management, Research Methods, Data Management, and Information Design almost every day. And the new classes that have evolved since I obtained my degree—like The Semantic Web and Data Mining—are also topics I employ.

POSTED: September 22, 2009