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The role of Enterprise Architect evolves to focus on business value

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth January 12, 2023
As organizations digitally transform, Enterprise Architects are not losing their relevance - the role is, in fact, becoming more important

Architecture of ERP system with connections and hand showing gear to success concept © everything possible - Shutterstock
(© everything possible - Shutterstock)

The role of the Enterprise Architect is evolving. Enterprise architecture is becoming focused on business capabilities, organizational value streams and then the technology used. Two of these three responsibilities are not technological but business oriented. As a result, the tools for this ‘new’ type of Enterprise Architect are set to change. A number of Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) technologies have entered the market in recent years. For this article, diginomica spoke to CIOs, Enterprise Architects and EAM providers to assess the changing role and its technologies.

In October 2021, we reported that CIOs wanted architects ‘to go on the journey’ they themselves had been on, and to focus on creating business value over technological excellence. That expectation has developed into a reality over the last 14 months, according to Enterprise Architect Jonathan Gregory:

There is less to do with running the bits and bytes in the basement now and more to do with running the business services that drive the company. So the role is about delivering value and moving up into the business architecture space.

Fellow Enterprise Architect Anjali Subburaj agrees. She says the complaint by some CIOs that architecture is not connected to business outcomes has to be tackled:

The Ivory Tower has to change, and Enterprise Architects must work closer to the business and deliver value. So the role of Enterprise Architect is evolving, and this will be difficult for some classic architects.

As Gregory points out, Enterprise Architects have typically had a very technical career progression:

A few years ago, an Enterprise Architect was seen as a technical guru that came up through the technology ranks.

As the CIOs expressed last year, architecture often became too bogged down in its own processes. André Christ, CEO and founder of LeanIX, an Enterprise Architecture Management technology provider, says:

Too much of the change journey of an organisation has been a lot of methods and frameworks.

Architecting for change

The classical architectural models are too rigid for today’s digital business and the need for regular change. This is leading to a change in skills and focus for Enterprise Architects. Christ says:

IT is getting much more decentralized. The CIO is no longer the gatekeeper; they are the orchestrator and helping the business make decisions. In addition, there is no longer one large system, but a number of best-of-breed technologies that have to be connected together.

Enterprise Architect Subburaj agrees:

The focus of the CIO and the organization is now about defining and refining business services.

As organizations digitally transform their operating models and services, Enterprise Architecture is not losing its position; it is, in fact, more important. Christ says:

Technology now is the business, and without transparency, you cannot transform. A lot of what firms are doing is what Enterprise Architecture was meant to be.

He adds that this new approach to Enterprise Architecture is vital to the success of moving to DevOps and why technologies such as Enterprise Architecture Management are growing. He says:

There has to be a convergence, as you cannot build good apps and services if they are not integrated effectively. So we are seeing organizations place high importance on helping production teams do value stream management.

And there we have it, back to needing to understand and deliver business value. A DevOps and product focus means organizations need to continually modify and update a product or process. Therefore, the role of Enterprise Architects and EAM technologies is to monitor for constant value creation. To some, this will sound suspiciously like service design and not Enterprise Architecture, and we put that to Christ, who remarks:

In some organizations, the term architect is burned, but what they do in service design is still architectural work. In organizations such as Deutsche Telekom, the CEO is sharing a future state architecture with capital markets.

This is leading to EAM tools being used and understood beyond IT. Dave Armes, ServiceNow Senior Director for Enterprise Architecture in EMEA, says:

Given the core role of Enterprise Architecture Management is to help businesses meet the future needs of their operation and retain a competitive edge, a lack of insight into what currently exists can heavily impact planning and execution.

It also acts as an impediment to the enforcement of standards. Enterprise Architecture Management sets technology standards and knows how well these are implemented and enforced.

New responsibilities, new tools

Whether it’s termed service design or Enterprise Architecture, the role is having to move away from rigid frameworks and use SaaS to architect fluidly, redrawing the blueprint as the business landscape or macroeconomic impacts ebb and flow. As Trevor Hunt, CTO Advisor at Behind Every Cloud and a former financial services CIO, says:

For large complex multinationals, these tools help give transparency and action plans to deal with tech debt, which is useful when marrying up with what the CFO is amortizing.

Some CIOs and Enterprise Architects question whether they need to invest in another technology when they already have IT Service Management (ITSM) in place. Armes at ServiceNow says:

Whilst the two interplay and overlap, ITSM and Enterprise Architecture Management have two slightly different focuses, which means both hold value independent from the other. This value is multiplied when you connect them together. ITSM tends to focus on what is in production today or will be, in the short term (6-12 months). Enterprise Architecture Management, on the other hand, takes a longer-term view of what the production environment should begin to look like, including variables such as efficiency and effectiveness standards.

Enterprise Architecture Management identifies how technology supports the business, looking ahead when it comes to strategy and domain-specific roadmaps. ITSM provides much of the baseline information around how things are configured today, but not necessarily into the future.

Enterprise Architect Gregory adds:

Looking at the mix of applications as a whole and trying to understand how that creates value or risk enables you to make the case for change or even for maintaining the status quo. Enterprise Architecture Management starts from the business outcomes and manifests into a series of investment opportunities that have a clear line of sight for delivering them. That is where the opportunity is for Enterprise Architects, amongst others.

Delivering business value is not only about new apps and business processes. Organizations are beset with too many technologies, duplication and legacy. Enterprise Architects will increasingly be called upon to plan a technology landscape that is more cost-effective. Christ at LeanIX says:

This will become a new way of dealing with business-managed IT as well as SaaS management.

He adds that as the CIO and IT become orchestrators rather than gatekeepers, they will be able to reduce waste and extract more value from the applications chosen by business lines. For example, using Enterprise Architecture Management to identify linkages and ensure data security and efficiencies such as single sign-on.

My take

We accept that the bulk of enterprise technology will be cloud-based and that IT is a partnership that helps the organization extract value from its technology investments. It follows suit that the tools that manage the IT estate will have to be cloud-based and designed to manage the new landscape.

It is also clear that the Enterprise Architect role is changing to be a key part of how technology delivers value to the business — which is what CIOs and the wider senior leadership team demand.

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