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Architecting the ecosystem: Five challenges for 2020 and beyond

April 8, 2020

We are a group of Digital Architects at Capgemini that is tooling agnostic and addresses the full breadth of the customer experience landscape. The group consists of Hans van Rijs, Robin van den Hoven, David Salguero Kuiters, and Remco Stolp. Together we address five architectural challenges for 2020 and beyond in a series of blogs. The challenges we see are:

For years, businesses have been experiencing increasing pressure to adapt faster and at the same time to work more efficiently and cheaper. As always, the challenges are met by integrating IT systems to provide more functionality or by splitting systems into smaller pieces to create a greater flexibility. These ongoing developments create a more complex and more extensive IT landscape.

IT developments play a dual role in this. On the one hand, new technological developments are enablers for organizations to be successful, to adapt faster (reorganize, innovate, expand) and work more efficiently. On the other hand, the same developments create a bigger playing field in which more parties have more opportunities to put pressure on the same organizations to work faster, more effectively, and more efficiently.

Global chains of influence: everything-is-connected-to-everything

Globalization has increased drastically the last few decades, thanks to IT and communication innovations. Changes in the past only had local impact, now the chains of influence are on a global scale and local changes can have global effect.

Agile as an attitude

Organizations need to be agile to stay ahead of competitors or sometimes even to survive. Modern technology makes it possible for startups to disrupt the market vigorously, such as Uber did to the taxi industry and Spotify to the music industry. Being agile, both in business and technology, is rapidly becoming the standard. Being differentiating, bold and disruptive, is the way to win and will leave your competition behind.

It is simply not good enough for an organization to have great software services. It also needs to be able to move quickly with requested changes by the business within the possibilities of the software. Organizations need to have dynamic stability. Being agile requires an organization and supporting software to be designed to be both constantly in motion and still be stable enough to be reliable.

In our upcoming series we will discuss how to deal with upcoming architectural changes, agile is recurring here which is why we believe that it should be more than a way of working.

A complex ecosystem

Very often, the challenges above are met by the same recipe of splitting systems into smaller pieces, thereby creating a greater degree of flexibility. A way to keep this manageable is to put the smaller pieces into containers or platforms.

Although this ever-increasing flexibility offers us more opportunities, it also increases the dynamic nature of architectures. Huge dynamic ecosystems emerge in which the manageability of development and application management is becoming an ever-greater challenge.

Moreover these ecosystems are no longer limited to the professional domain. In the last decade, the private domain (yes, the one in which you use your smartphone) has quickly become more important. The private and professional domains gradually mix. Private devices will increasingly provide the opportunity to work flexibly and perform professional tasks at any time and location.

The demands of end users vary by person and change constantly, forcing business to change their business strategy. IT applications need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing business strategy and provide the business with new insights so that data-driven decisions can be made. If applications can’t comply with this required agility or provide the business with the insights that they need, the chances of falling behind and losing customers increase.

The world is moving faster

These developments have always been taking place. In the last decade, however, the speed of change has dramatically increased by the following recent developments:

  • Microservices: applications are split up, making the structure and behavior of applications more flexible and scalable, partly through reuse of services
  • Cloud: where applications are placed in externally hosted platforms so that these applications can be scaled up and down and managed more effectively as a group
  • Agile/SCRUM/SAFe: where development organizations and development activities are split up in order to be able to develop products and services faster and more effectively
  • Realtime availability of data – IoT: the rise of smart devices causes an explosive expansion of the IT ecosystem. These devices constantly exchange data and demand instant processing, requiring the availability of data to quickly become real time. Faster ways of communication, such as 5G, even increase the speed at which this happens.

So how do we cope with this?

Watch out for this space for our upcoming blogs on the 5 challenges to find out.

  • Challenge 1:  Increase in touchpoints and data
  • Challenge 2: Manage a complex and dynamic ecosystem
  • Challenge 3: Outdated techniques and tools
  • Challenge 4: Work silos
  • Challenge 5: Getting insight in both private and work domains