When enterprise architecture was first conceived, it was implemented as a way of managing and rationalizing technology. It would mitigate the cost and confusion of toolchain sprawl, and practitioners were, in a sense, asset managers.
With time, the scope and role of enterprise architecture evolved in order to find ways of delivering a more tangible value. Business capabilities – orchestrating people, processes, data and technology in a way that delivers on, and helps shape, overarching strategy – became a priority. Yet it was, and often is, still the case that businesses are purely tactical in their focus, operating on a solution by solution basis.
Now, as we move into the third decade of the twenty-first century businesses have become customer obsessed – expectations have changed and created new demand. This shift in focus and expectation has of course not emerged out of thin air. On a daily basis new applications and technologies continue to make our lives easier; we see firsthand what can be achieved through mobile phones and the myriad applications we have instant access to, whether it’s a taxi, a film or information about the weather, its second nature just to press a button and get what we want.
But for an enterprise which must make money, this cannot come at any cost. New technology is only beneficial if the organization can use it to improve the offering, gain efficiencies and lower costs. Not such an easy task if vital data, information and capabilities are wrapped up in slower, albeit powerful, legacy systems. Moreover, digital transformation pressure stems from the top down. And not just in the buzzword sense of, ‘let’s do transformation,’ but the very real and tangible requirement to reduce expenses, improve productivity and increase return on investment. All of which must happen in conjunction with meeting newfound consumer demand.
Most organizations have made steps to deliver on the promise of digital transformation, whether it’s through implementing methodologies such as agile and lean, technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, or migrations to microservices and the cloud. However, businesses regularly fail to correctly align and orchestrate this fluctuating architectural landscape, which inevitably results in the transformation initiative grinding to a halt.
It is against this backdrop that companies must find a holistic solution and the third wave of enterprise architecture has emerged. Organizations that have already started to master this art are interconnected and insights driven, utilizing operating models which transcend people, processes and technology, while remaining scalable, flexible and adaptable to the changing demands of all stakeholders.
Moving forward, enterprise architecture must provide insights across all aspects of the business and do so in an interconnected fashion. Consumer behavior, revenue trends, cost and optimization figures, as well operational insights all feed into a bigger strategic picture.
Establishing an enterprise architecture practice that delivers holistic accurate information, open and flexible reporting, intelligent analytics and dynamic metamodels ensures fast, reliable decision making and real-time analysis. Through a single source of truth, the business is provided with enterprise-wide transparency and the ability to locate potential bottlenecks and limitations within the organizations. Different teams are encouraged to share information and collaborate on projects with greater ease and trust.
Furthermore, once enterprise architecture is ubiquitous and inherent to all areas of the business, the organization can drive change, innovate and deliver value to its customers. When all process and procedures are up and running, the enterprise architecture practice itself will be infused with new ideas and enhancements.
Ultimately, customers’ rising expectations have and will always push technology, innovation and productivity improvements, but this change needs to be managed quickly and efficiently. For enterprise architects this brought a new responsibility. No longer is it about managing assets, rationalizing technology or even finding solutions to specific challenges. Instead it has become necessary to establish end-to-end models and frameworks which deliver the insights that enable digital transformation; for both the business and its customers.