Enterprise Architecture: The Bedrock for the Superstructure of Digital
As organizations embrace the digital era, IT professionals are at odds with themselves in a bid to understand whether the disruption that digital brings to the table can exist alongside with pre-existing engineering transformation exercises or whether we are talking chalk and cheese here.
This is however, far from the truth. Although the dramatically greater need to cater to customer experience is undoubtedly impacting businesses to adopt digital fast, enterprise architecture is still the only holistic methodology that gives organizations across industries an integrated view of business. So, from a purely enterprise architecture perspective, the current surge of digital does not overpower the inherent role that enterprise architecture has played so far. However, as current trends indicate, digital is here to stay. And this means that its ascendance and influence over the next decade will impact and transform enterprise architecture. While enterprise architecture will continue to provide an integrated view of business, it will be compelled to deliver it sooner, in a more flexible and iterative fashion.
Any transition brings with it challenges that need to be overcome, hurdles that need to be jumped.
Prime among them being the fact that not all organizations have been founded to embrace digital technology from the word go. While some are constrained by their sheer size and the considerable investments they have made in building large apps, others are limited by the kind of industry they are in. Take for example the banking sector. It typically invests a substantial amount of money and time in building its core architecture which doesn’t change and which can’t be replaced or reworked overnight. Similarly, regulatory and compliance-related considerations in the investment sector makes migrating towards a more digitally driven system slower and harder.
However, change including digital adoption is largely led and determined by leadership. So, any effort to have an organization’s enterprise architecture gradually transition to a more digitally compatible system requires leadership buy-in.
Is a smooth transition towards digital possible?
Once leadership buy-in falls into place, one of the first outcomes it enables is acknowledgement that applying enterprise architecture in the modern digitally driven context doesn’t need to be a long-drawn process. Take for example, one of the leading pharma companies in the USA and one of Europe’s leading financial groups. We engaged the leadership in both organizations to look at the benefits of bringing in an enterprise architecture perspective, in order to look at their largest portfolios as part of their digital transformation journeys.
The result? A combination of the right approach and leadership support helped us successfully bridge the gap between Enterprise Architecture and Digital for both companies. Another factor that can play a crucial role in helping companies embrace digital transition is being shown the results of heavy investment in automation and tools. If digital architects can conduct a portfolio assessment of an 8000-server strong data center using automation processes and generate a report that is 60-70 percent accurate, as well as tell a company how ready it is to being ‘fully digital’, then chances are the company will warm up to change sooner, with less resistance.
Further, pilots also provide companies with a real sense of what their transitions will entail and help organizations adopt well.
What can enterprise architecture architects and digital architects learn from each other?
Beneath the successes lies a crucial convergence that must take place between enterprise architects’ and digital architects’ expertise in their respective domains. While the former must learn to not take large enterprise frameworks to heart, the latter must understand that in their effort to be agile and flexible, losing sight of the big picture will not prove to be beneficial.
If enterprise architects must learn to adapt to more iterative ways of developing products and processes, digital architects must acknowledge that iterative creation doesn’t justify half-baked ideas or hurriedly thought through developments.
This is because at the end of the day, design is art. And the combination of the two fields’ expertise must be judicious and impeccable. If enterprise architects must learn to adapt to more iterative ways of developing products and processes, digital architects must acknowledge that iterative creation doesn’t justify half-baked ideas or hurriedly thought through developments.
To me this proves that although digital will undoubtedly play a leading role in transforming how businesses evolve and structure themselves, enterprise architecture will continue to be important. It is just that enterprise architecture will transform itself to be more in tune with digital by becoming more agile, nimble and more creative.