Staying Ahead of the Curve - Enterprise Architecture for the Digital Enterprise
As digital transformation continues to pick up pace, enterprise architecture plays a central role in ensuring an organisation's IT landscape can embrace new strategies around digitalisation, data management, analytics or any other disrupting technology that may arise in the years to come.
If you have been looking for the secret weapon able to tune down the complexities of digital transformation, look no further - agile and effective enterprise architecture can be a key to success.
EMPOWERING ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTS
The role of enterprise architects is to identify trends that might turn out to be disruptive, analyse their potential impact and provide innovative solutions to enable or avoid them. EA’s must create a unified view of "what must change" across the organisation, lay out the appropriate IT landscape for adopting cutting-edge technologies at scale and set a course for future development.
The general opinion of EA’s suggests that business leaders are lacking awareness of who they are and what they are supposed to do. This inability to understand the role and embrace its potential will only impede the future development & success of the organisation.
Business executives should enhance the spotlight placed on EA groups in two simple & empowering ways:
Increase their responsibility. Being part of a back-office group does not necessarily mean that their impact on corporate strategies is diminished - on the contrary. Adjusting a company's IT landscape to its current needs requires perspective, more precisely the ability to have a say in big-picture decisions and strategy adoption.
Measure their performance. Getting a clear view and understanding of the EA group’s impact on the overall enterprise initiatives will also improve the perception of the overall changes that need to be done. Constant reports and enhanced communication will increase performance on both operational and executive sides.
THE ADOPTION OF ACCIDENTAL ARCHITECTURE
Particularly common in large-sized enterprises, the possibility of developing an accidental architecture is a course of action that both executives and enterprise architects must be aware of. Without developing a clear enterprise architecture that stands at the very core of its digital strategy, accidental architectures will arise.
Such structures imply that a system of applications and solutions is being developed and constantly growing, leading to a level of complexity and instability it is difficult to get back from. But why do enterprises let themselves get into this situation? Because, at first, the tricky accidental architectures "seem to work" quite nicely.
Here are a few questions that might help you realise if you are in danger of developing (or already have) an accidental architecture:
Are there multiple business intelligence tools scattered around your enterprise?
Have your business groups built several data shadow systems to deal with their reporting and analysis?
Does your organisation keep bringing in different business intelligence solutions, hoping to make up for current shortcomings?
If any of these options relate to your company's environment, an accidental architecture has probably evolved; it is a cycle that must be broken immediately. Undoing what has already reached this state will require heavy restructuring, implicitly hard work and resources. However, it should not be regarded as a lost cause, but rather as a priority.
Cleaning up your data, shifting your perspective from short-term to long-term and embracing automation are among the first steps that should be taken towards obtaining a "healthier" enterprise.
5 PRACTICES TO SHIFT THE COURSE TOWARDS DIGITAL EA
Over the past paragraphs there was mention of how important digital enterprise architecture is, the essential role of enterprise architects and the need to avoid accidental architectures. But now it is time to get more practical and tackle the "how to" side of this subject.
Driving strategic business innovation and understanding emerging technologies does not occur from one day to the other, but evolves and becomes deeply enrooted in your company's culture over time. Enterprise architectures must be steered in the right direction, and a specific set of practices and technologies, customised according to business needs, are the best way to do so.
1. Revise enterprise architecture principles
In order to enable the adoption of the best digital practices, enterprise architects should start questioning how much attention they provide to operational excellence and place more focus on customer satisfaction.
Keeping existing customers happy is just as important as acquiring new ones, a proven theory that most enterprises still fail to understand. A data-driven, digital landscape with a proper analytics strategy can work wonders.
2. Grow and retain talent
Digital transformations cannot occur without an EA department and an efficient EA department cannot function without motivated, skilled professionals. IT leaders must keep an eye on providing satisfactory conditions for their EA groups, such as growth opportunities, exciting challenges and due recognition.
3. Try, try, try
Innovating in the right direction can turn out to be the key to your company's success. However, until you get there, enterprise architects must try out different strategies and ideas; discover what fits and what doesn't before massively investing in a project that will deliver an irrelevant outcome. As accurately pointed out by Jeff Bezos, "ideas should only become expensive when they work".
4. Focus on strategic planning
The EA team brings more value to the enterprise's initiatives when it devotes more time to strategic planning. More precisely, some of the effects of emphasizing the importance of strategic planning are delivering more efficient business solutions and contributions to projects, but also gaining wider recognition amongst peers and executives.
5. Digitalise from scratch
It goes without saying that a digital future can only emerge if digital roots have been planted. Therefore, if your enterprise architecture is not digitally-oriented, you simply cannot create a digital enterprise architecture. So where do you start?
Firstly, explore the opportunities technology has to offer to provide better experiences, both internally and for the customers.
Secondly, prioritise your needs and pick the solutions that fit best. For instance, machine learning can be employed to have an ample, correct picture of your enterprise's departments and how they interact.
And thirdly, get to work and get digital.
The current context of digitalisation has added a whole new dimension to enterprise architecture, putting digitalisation at its very core. Now, the digital enterprise architect must lead the digital transformation initiative through enterprise architecture efforts.
Learn more about the latest development in enterprise architecture, how to create an agile IT landscape favourable to digital transformation & more at the online edition of SwitchOn 2021.