Enterprise Architecture in the Digital Era is not only important but also needs to be different. A truism that IT professionals can hold close to their heart is that the only thing you can count on in the enterprise is that situations never stay still for long. There are ongoing updates and improvements to the software and hardware solutions we build our computational infrastructure around. They center around security fixes as well as performance enhancements and there is no way to future-proof your way out of such changes.
EA changes are especially called for in companies where the principals created their enterprise architecture fairly quickly and on the fly in response to goals established during meetings just to discuss what is feasible to get the company up and running soon.
And ongoing changes will be needed to integrate your processes better with new digital age tools, from application programming interfaces or APIs to cloud computing and software as a service, to machine learning and automated processes.
“Transforming enterprises as a response to on-going digital change demands is rather difficult and needs to be considered in a structured manner,” wrote Zia Babar and Eric Yu in “Enterprise Architecture in the Age of Digital Transformation.” They emphasized that this is particularly the case because “enterprises are complicated entities with multifaceted social, process and technological elements; all of which can determine the success or failure of any adaptation exercise.”
Your need to adapt enterprise architecture should be seen as an ongoing problem and not just an acute issue needing a single quick fix. It’s difficult to escape the repercussions of obsolescence, and those individuals who can meet new situations with an open mind will be able to guide their company past such obstacles, always evaluating new software and hardware solutions for potential integration.
Enterprise Architecture in the Digital Era
The focus of your efforts on enterprise architecture adaptation will be to serve the company’s overall business strategy. As CIO, you would need to be at the table early on, weighing in on how your efforts will support strategic goals and how to maintain the enterprise’s processes during the change.
You’ll also be charged with seeing how you will create, store and serve up information inside the enterprise and what kind of hardware you’ll need to support the new architecture.
There are four accepted components of enterprise architecture:
Business Architecture has to do with meeting the goals of strategic business goals the company has defined, and it will shape the other components too. A cornerstone of business architecture is a business capability model.
Data Architecture outlines the nature of the information that each business function needs to be able to access.
Application Architecture comprises the requirements to capture and create data, how you connect to this data, who is allowed to access it.
Infrastructure Architecture includes security protocols as well as systems like cloud computing.
Juggling all four aspects of enterprise architecture simultaneously is very data- and time-intensive, but handling it comprehensively like this is essential for making a successful adaptation of your EA with today’s newer digital solutions.
Renewing your company’s investment in the enterprise architecture allows you to make updates to enable “agility and flexibility to functions that use data to inform their decision-making,” per Metis Strategy. “By aligning the data generated by the company and the tools used to collect that data, it becomes easier to automatically join, clean, and share data sets that enable supply chain, marketing, and operations teams to make decisions aligned to business goals.”
Enterprise Architecture in the Digital Era: Challenges to Keep in Mind
Obsolescence and improper documentation are two key challenges to be aware of during the enterprise architecture adaptation project. The fast pace of technology and software development almost guarantees you will find new methods to fixing a problem or adhering to a set of standards.
This means an enterprise architect is always struggling to catch up. There will be no rest for the weary as you fight to keep the system as up-to-date as possible. At the same time, you need to make sure developers are providing current documentation for the changes they’re making to the enterprise architecture. This serves to provide accountability in meeting milestones according to plan. New documentation also must be in place so that future IT employees will be able to sort out what changes have been made when they run into issues with the system down the road.
Adopting an Omni-channel Approach
Enterprise architecture changes you’ll make for bringing your company up to date can amount to setting up a so-called 360-degree, multi-channel approach to engaging with customers, vendors and others. But different channels will have different protocols as they function together.
For example, “Banks are increasingly relying on alternate digital channels (such as mobile and internet) which function at different levels and timescales compared to the more traditional banking channels such as bank branches,” noted Enterprise Architecture in the Age of Digital Transformation. With brick and mortar bank branches leaning heavily on human interactions, they run at slower rates than the processes that occur via smartphone Internet interactions.
A front-end app for mobile users will get to market quickly, with developers bringing out their first iteration, and then making ongoing upgrades based on user feedback in app stores. This mobile front-end activity contrasts with the developmental pace of back-end enterprise systems that need longer times to be built as they deal with mission-critical functions. All this is to say that you should be prepared to be working on multiple timelines for enterprise architecture adaptation, in such a common scenario.
Staying Agile Is the Key to Success
CIO reminds us that “Enterprise architects typically report to the CIO or other IT managers. They’re responsible for analyzing business structures and processes to see that they align with business goals effectively and efficiently.” It notes that an enterprise architect will be in charge of keeping processes agile and strong, able to adapt to and handle any changes the future may bring.
When an enterprise is undergoing a digital update, IT will need to assess what legacy applications it can integrate with the new tools being brought online.
Three Roles of an Enterprise Architecture
Accenture points out that companies need enterprise architects with solid skills to meet the requirements of changing and adapting to the new digital environment. The three roles such enterprise architects play are innovator, enabler and integrator.
An innovator is seen as an “advanced architect who knows all the ins and outs of state-of-the-art technology and is constantly on the lookout for innovations. He or she will not only tell you what’s becoming obsolete soon, but also what will be on the chopping block next.”
An enabler is what’s called for when your agile teams are fragmented across the enterprise. The very nature of their agile tactics means they flourish in a fragmented situation, after all. Here, an enabler facilitates the interactions, seeing the bigger picture and guiding all teams to the finish line as they adapt the architecture.
And an integrator brings a holistic viewpoint to the affair, across all platforms and integrating your processes into the enterprise’s entire digital ecosystem.
Ongoing Assessment of the Enterprise Architecture
Prudent company owners along with their CFOs and CIOs will want to plan for how they will adapt to and integrate new digital tools and services into the enterprise. This implies you will need to periodically review your system and compare it with new developments in infrastructure architecture, application architecture and data architecture in conjunction with proposed changes you’re considering for the business architecture itself.