Time for Enterprise Architects to Steer the Digital Challenge

By Nitin Kadam, Director & Enterprise Architect, Capgemini

Since the advent of digital revolution and adoption of more agile methodologies and principles for execution of IT projects, the role of an Enterprise Architecture and its effectiveness has come under a cloud of questions. Over the last couple of years though, enterprises have realized that the Enterprise Architect (EA) role has in fact become more critical and relevant than before.

Let me set the content here. PwC’s 2015 Global Digital IQ®+ Survey reveals some startling data points. In 2015 itself more than 68% of IT spending came from budgets outside of IT, a significant increase from 47% the prior year. As a result, we see that technology investments are no longer the sole domain of the CIO. The CEO, CMO, CDO are some prominent roles that claim a significant stake to the IT budget; thus resulting in a fragmented digital enterprise and hence require someone who has an ability to tie in various threads together to create a common view. This is where an Enterprise Architect/s is the one best positioned to take the reins in his own hands and use his experience to develop the to-be digital blueprint. He is the one who can ensure a synergy in the investments and efforts of various teams, to drive towards the enterprise goal and eventually the vision.

To elaborate this point further, let us look at a few keys changes that digital transformation has brought along with it.

Traditionally an Enterprise Architect has been viewed as the techie guy doing complex IT things which requires a lot of money and time to implement and because of this perception, he has to make a lot of noise to get attention of senior management. The Digital Enterprise theme finds a prominent place in agenda of boardroom discussion and hence the direct involvement of CEO, CMO and in some organizations a dedicated CDO position. The challenge for these roles has been to ensure the convergence of various tactical and short term decisions towards the enterprises’ strategic goals & objectives. This provides a golden opportunity for architects to get into more commanding position and get to work the way they always wanted to. 

• Agile way of work is talk of the town and it goes hand in hand with Digital transformation journey. A pragmatic and at the same time an effective architecture governance will play a very important role to ensure the architecture blueprint is a living artifact with well defined transition architectures for at least every 6 month milestones.
• The much talked about Design Thinking approach has a bigger influence of developing digital solutions with two of its principle “Empathy” and “Feedback” has made a striking mark on building new business services. These principles can be easily adopted when developing each of the architecture domains and the “Prototyping” principles can be effectively used to develop various architecture “Views” for identified key stakeholders. This will help in demonstrating how various aspects of the architect blueprint & the decisions behind them, bring value to its key consumer personas.
• It is widely seen that large and mid size established organizations have found it the most tough to digitalize their services. Their rigid and undocumented legacy landscape has been the main hurdle to slow the speed of digital adoption. While the various cloud and virtualization deployment models have provided some respite to bring down cost of IT ownership, it still is a problem when it comes to reducing time to market of new services. EAs will play a key role on behalf of the IT departments to build a phased approach based on pragmatic solutions and going hand in hand with the digital roadmap.

Having said this, there are areas where the EAs need to work to influence the business community that they are right folks to lead this digital journey. Below I list down some keys of those aspects that an enterprise architect should focus on developing as part of his profile.

1) EA should be able to drive innovation and collaborate with key stakeholders in the enterprise to identify and develop new business capabilities and technology capabilities.

2) EA needs to be more hands-on and one who does not fear to lead the digital transformation for the enterprise. He needs to utilize his experience with tried and tested tradition Enterprise Architecture frameworks, like TOGAF, and adapt them to the changing market expectations and pace.

3) EAs should develop and maintain tools and frameworks which work as enablers and add the required meat to make effective use of EA frameworks like TOGAF to develop the to-be enterprise blue print. 

4) Since it is not always possible for EAs to be expert on every technology out there, they should groom and guide Business & Technology communities and encourage them for involvement in various open source and digital technology forums with endeavor to participate in the ecosystem to adopt these technologies. This way enterprise architects can ensure that they are well connected to technology SMEs and have a good handle on technology innovations.

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