nterprise Architecture is not new. It dates back to 87’s with Zachman from IBM and to 90’s with US Department of Defense (DoD) to create early frameworks for EA. Since than, practice of Enterprise Architecture went thru its winters and springs like AI. There were lots of different reasons though why EA practice had this journey: Too much planning, too little doing; solving problems on the wrong level; agility of the application; ROI of EA; tooling to mention some. But maybe the most critical one was the misunderstanding or limited understanding what the main objective of EA was. The originator of EA, Zachman pointed that out in 2015: “Enterprise Architecture is NOT an Information Technology issue... it is a Management issue.” But that misbelief that EA is just about IT was shaken and challenged big time when enterprises has started to see that Digital Transformation is not a nice to have but a must to stay relevant and resilient. Hence, we started to see the rebirth of Enterprise Architecture again, but this time with a completely new perspective.
Some example thoughts are below to confirm how Enterprise Architecture is mainly about business:
- By 2021, 40% of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies.
- Organizations delivering digital business transformation rely on enterprise architects to understand and analyze the impact of emerging and strategic technologies.
- They are leaders who provide a hands-on approach to defining how digital business platforms deliver value in the modern enterprise and measuring the results against plans.
- By 2023, 60% of organizations will depend on the enterprise architect’s role to lead the business approach to digital innovation
- New survey by McKinsey and Henley Business School highlights the need for enterprise architects to facilitate digital transformations by managing technological complexity and setting a course for the development of their companies’ IT landscape.
- 60 percent of Enterprise Architects at digital leaders named C-suite executives and strategy departments as the stakeholders they interact with most.
We view architecture as a strategic, rather than technical, exercise. A firm’s architecture describes a shared vision of how a firm will operate—thus providing a shared understanding of the role of IT. We have found enterprise architecture to be a critical tool for aligning IT and business strategy and for driving business value from IT.
So why was that misunderstanding than at first? One of the first reason is not having full coverage of enterprise architecture domains. EA is composed of 4 domains which build on top of each. It all starts with Business Architecture and then follows the other domains of applications, data and technical architecture.
- Business architecture defines the business strategy, governance, organization, and key business processes of the organization
- Applications architecture provides a blueprint for the individual systems to be deployed, the interactions between the application systems, and their relationships to the core business processes of the organization
- Data architecture describes the structure of an organization’s logical and physical data assets and the associated data management resources
- Technical architecture describes the hardware, software, and network infrastructure needed
Skipping business architecture and going directly to technology architecture; or starting with technical architecture and assuming that it will drive the value for business were all misconceptions that caused the little to none ROI expected from all Enterprise Architecture.
So what is the guidance than? Gartner positioned it very nicely: “Start or restart the EA program by adopting a business-outcome-driven EA approach. EA programs that focus on business, technical or IT tactical requests generally do not demonstrate and deliver business value in the digital era. Focus first and foremost on linking all EA and IT efforts to business direction and strategy, then address the “why” and “what” — before the “how” of “doing” EA.”
So the first step is adopting a business-outcome-driven EA approach, second step is constructing the value proposition and third step is starting with business architecture first.
This rebirth of EA is not only bringing new perspectives to enterprises but also holds significant value for technology vendors and system integrators too. With the speed, complexity and unknowns of innovation and transformation happening across the world, enterprises are looking for help to understand how to transform the business capabilities and accelerate innovation through technology enablement. System integrators and technology vendors clearly see that the difference between a siloed technology engagement to business-first engagement requires a renewed look into EA practice.
It all changes when we change our perspectives how we look into things. As Rumi had said: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself” First change needed is with our own perspectives . We need to understand that it is not a world where business is supported by technology, it is a new world where business is led and designed by technology. Business and technology work just hand in hand. So the days are over when we had said, Ok EA is IT stuff. Not at all. EA is about business. If technology and innovation is not one of the top priorities of business executives, we can safely assume that those perspectives and enterprises will be challenged if not completely disrupted very soon.
Do we want to become the winners or losers of the transformation and revolution happening? If we want to become the winners, we need to understand how we can better merge business with technology and EA practice is there to help.