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EA reboot – An executive point of view

Randy Potter

Enterprise architecture (EA) resurgence began in 2016–2017 and was driven primarily by the “digital agenda.” It wasn’t necessarily as much about the EA program as it was about the EA role. Today, there is another resurgence of EA, driven by digital transformation programs combined with rapidly evolving technologies such as: blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), the internet of things (IoT), big data analytics, and virtual and augmented reality (VR, AR) – most of which are now accessible through the cloud. Let’s take a look at how an enterprise architecture program can help companies achieve their business priorities while reducing risk and increasing business velocity.

Recent EA history

In 2017, we saw an increase in demand for enterprise architects. I believe that this was mostly due to the “digital agenda,” which brought in numerous process and system changes to support digital transformations. This increase also led to several business model changes. The transformation pushed companies to think beyond a typical solution architecture – even larger than your ERP or CRM solutions. Digital transformation not only affects an organization’s systems and processes. It also requires a cultural change. The result was an increased demand for EAs since they were well-positioned to efficiently navigate these changes end to end.

EA in 2018:

For a number of RFPs that were released as well as multiple client enquires we received in the early half of 2018, we saw an increase in the demand for EA roles that systematically implement enterprise architecture programs. I believe this is an extension of the digital agenda. However, now it is no longer just an agenda. It is a multi-year transformation program. This is causing CIOs to consider the multi-layer implications of implementing new digital platforms within the context of their legacy systems. That would be enough for many CIOs to consider additional help – more demand on the EA role. However, there are also technology advancements which require a more strategic approach to managing the enterprise IT estate more effectively.

During a digital transformation program, CIOs are being bombarded with many new and, if designed properly, synergistic technologies:

  • Internet of things (IoT) – This is huge because it involves at least five layers of technology: the connected device, the network, the cloud (both edge and public or private), management and analysis of the data, and the digital experience for the user
  • Blockchain – Also known as digital ledger technology, blockchain offers the ability to securely and transparently provide an open ledger of transactions for almost any transaction imaginable from monetary to supply chain
  • Robotic process automation (RPA) – Multiple software and hardware approaches to automate manual processes to reduce cost and increase quality, especially repetitive manual tasks typically found in shared services and IT
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – while ML and deep learning are subsets of the AI continuum, they dominate the technology landscape and CXOs are trying to understand how to best take advantage of them. These technologies are present in everything – predictive maintenance applications, to chatbots, to Conversational Commerce, and everything in between
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) – we see this in training programs (Walmart is rolling out an AR program to their associates), highly visible in maintenance and operations, as well as “digital twins” and product development. This doesn’t seem too difficult to grasp, but the impact on the infrastructure and accessibility of those AR/VR systems into front-office and back-office systems requires some serious thinking and design
  • The public cloud (Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google Cloud Platform) – these platforms offer hundreds of compute services as a foundation for most of the new technologies mentioned previously. However, since they do not run in on-premises IT data centers, many technical and cultural implications must be considered.

There’s more, of course, but you get the idea. It’s certainly all too much for one person, whether they be an enterprise architect or a CTO. So, what’s the answer? I have a two-part answer – for the executive, it’s an EA program, as we discuss in this blog. For the practitioner, basically today’s EA needs some evolutionary modifications to be successful. But we’ll get to that in the second blog of this series.

Organizing an EA program:

An enterprise architecture program consists of a chief architect (an EA), and several other architects representing unique specializations who develop artifacts that provide guidance and value to the whole company and frequently beyond the company (suppliers, partners, and even customers). Key roles include:

  • Chief architect – an enterprise architect with deep, broad experience across other architecture areas with significant communication, personal influence and leadership skills
  • Business architect – depth in the business strategy, objectives, operating model, processes, and services
  • Domain or BU architects – enterprise architects focused on revenue generating lines of business and functional lines of business such as finance/accounting, marketing, etc.
  • Integration architect – specializing in application and data integration within the enterprise and beyond the enterprise (partners, suppliers, customers, etc.)
  • Solution architects – major solutions such as ERP and CRM
  • Application architects – specialization in the core applications technologies such as .NET, Java and the many subsets of these technologies and their enabling development platforms
  • Data or Information architects – specialist in data transformation and movement, data cleansing and management, data analytics, and machine learning
  • Technology or Infrastructure architects – specialists in the network, devices, and hardware (on premises or in the cloud) to support the enterprise.

In some organizations, the EA program will be limited to the chief architect, the business architect, the domain architect(s), and the integration architect, with the others in a dotted-line reporting relationship to the chief architect. Other organizations may have all their architects in a single organization. For more details on the role of the architect see Capgemini’s publication entitled The New Role of the Architect.

Key artifacts of the EA program and their benefits include:

  • Current state architecture – this can be used to review the addition or integration of new processes and technologies to ensure proper fit and purpose with legacy systems
  • Business architecture – the business capabilities, value streams, processes, and services (both existing and planned) which are key to achieving the business strategy as well as new business model transformations and implications
  • Future state architecture – developed to achieve the business and IT strategies and become the vision and target for the whole enterprise
  • Transformation roadmap – to get from the current state to the future state, step by step in a prioritized and coordinated manner, considering risks and value to the enterprise
  • Architecture principles and standards – guidelines to help align software development and integration projects across the enterprise.

The enterprise architecture team and artifacts enable the company to accelerate time to market with rapid decision-making because they are informed and understand the implications involved in the decision. Not only do they understand “what” is being transformed and “how,” but, more importantly, they understand “why.” Understanding why gets to the purpose of the transformation and drives behavior and adoption. Risk is also reduced because the “unknown” factors are reduced. EA also improves business to IT alignment by staying in sync and, in some cases, driving business architecture and new business models.

Executives are asking the right questions:

  • What is the impact of the digital transformation on people, partners, and customers?
  • What should I do about all these new technologies?
  • How do we prioritize all this?

Here at Capgemini, we have a methodical approach for achieving digital transformation through a well-planned enterprise architecture program. Get in touch with me to understand how an EA program can help answer the above mentioned questions and provide many other benefits.

In the second part of this blog, I will talk about an evolutionary way to address some of the legacy challenges of prior EA programs – notably, speed and synchronicity with the business. I will also discuss the concept of “antifragile architecture” – it’s not only robust to change but gets better with change.