The Enterprise Architect role is evolving to focus on business value

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

In October 2021, we reported that CIOs want architects to ‘take the journey’ they’ve been on and focus on creating business value over technological excellence. That expectation has evolved into reality over the past 14 months, according to Enterprise Architect Jonathan Gregory:

Now it has less to do with running the bits and bytes in the basement and more to do with running the business services that run the company. Therefore, the role is the delivery of value and advancement in the field of business architecture.

Fellow Enterprise Architect Anjali Subburaj agrees. She says complaints from some CIOs that architecture is not connected to business results need to be addressed:

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

As Gregory points out, Enterprise Architects tend to have a very technical career progression:

A few years ago, the Enterprise Architect was considered a technical guru who worked his way up through the technology ranks.

As CIOs said last year, architecture has often become too bogged down in its own processes. André Christ, CEO and founder of LeanIX, a provider of enterprise architecture management technology, says:

Too many methods and frameworks have been used to transform an organization.

Architecture for change

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

IT is becoming more and more decentralized. The CIO is no longer the gatekeeper; they are the orchestrator and help the company make decisions. In addition, there is no longer one big system, but a series of best technologies that must be interconnected.

Enterprise Architect Subburaj agrees:

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

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

Technology is now a business, and without transparency you cannot transform. A lot of what companies do is what Enterprise Architecture was meant to be.

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

There must be convergence because you cannot build good applications and services if they are not effectively integrated. So, we see that organizations place great importance on helping product teams manage value streams.

And there it is, back to the need to understand and provide business value. The focus on DevOps and the product means that organizations must constantly change and update the product or process. Therefore, the role of Enterprise Architects and EAM technologies is to monitor the continuous creation of value. To some, this will sound suspiciously like Service Design rather than Enterprise Architecture, and we put that to Christ, who notes:

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

This leads to EAM tools being used and understood outside of IT. Dave Armes, ServiceNow’s senior director of Enterprise Architecture in EMEA, says:

Since the key role of enterprise architecture management is to help enterprises meet the future needs of their business and maintain a competitive advantage, a lack of insight into what currently exists can strongly impact planning and execution.

It also acts as a barrier to the implementation of standards. Enterprise architecture management sets technology standards and knows how well they are implemented and enforced.

New responsibilities, new tools

Whether it is service design or Enterprise Architecture, the role must move away from rigid frameworks and use SaaS for fluid architecture, redrawing the blueprint as the business landscape or macroeconomic impacts ebb and flow. As Trevor Hunt, CTO Advisor at Behind Every Cloud and former Financial Services CIO, says:

For large complex multinational companies, these tools help provide transparency and action plans to address technology debt, which is useful when coupled with what the CFO is amortizing.

Some CIOs and Enterprise Architects wonder if they should invest in another technology when they already have IT Service Management (ITSM). Armes at ServiceNow says:

While the two play off and overlap, ITSM and Enterprise Architecture Management have two slightly different focuses, meaning that both have value independent of the other. This value is multiplied when you add 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 determines how technology supports the business, looking ahead to domain-specific strategy and plans. ITSM provides most of the basic information about how things are configured today, but not necessarily in the future.

Enterprise Architect Gregory adds:

Looking at the application mix as a whole and trying to understand how it creates value or risk allows you to make a case for change or even for maintaining the status quo. The management of the company’s architecture starts from business results and manifests itself in a series of investment opportunities that have a clear vision for their realization. That’s where the opportunity is for Enterprise Architects, among others.

Delivering business value is not just about new applications and business processes. Organizations are burdened with too many technologies, duplication and legacy. Business architects will increasingly be asked to plan for a more cost-effective technology landscape. Christ at LeanIX says:

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

He adds that CIOs and IT will become orchestrators, not gatekeepers, able to reduce waste and extract more value from applications chosen by lines of business. For example, using enterprise architecture management to identify connections and ensure data security and efficiencies such as single sign-on.

My opinion

We recognize that most business technology will be cloud-based and that IT is a partnership that helps an organization extract value from its technology investments. It follows that the tools that manage IT assets will need to be cloud-based and designed to manage the new landscape.

It is also clear that the Enterprise Architect role is changing to become a key part of how technology delivers value to the business – which is what CIOs and the wider senior management team are demanding.

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