Enterprise Architecture Success in the Digital Era

Anthony Hill, Executive Director Business & Enterprise Architecture, Kaiser Permanente
Anthony Hill, Executive Director Business & Enterprise Architecture, Kaiser Permanente

Anthony Hill, Executive Director Business & Enterprise Architecture, Kaiser Permanente

Digital Drivers for EA

The onset of the digital era in business is driving sweeping change and adaptation in organizations in all sectors. The next 10 years could be the most compressed and change-inducing in the history of business. The significance of the change needed to adapt to digitally-driven opportunities and competitive pressures will create a new set of enterprise winners and losers. No enterprise can afford to stand still. It is imperative that organizations who wish to remain competitive master the new skills and business models necessary to compete in the digital economies of their industry sectors.

  Digital Architecture is a metaphor for the bundle of practices that enterprise architecture needs to bring together to be effective in the digital age 

Enterprise architecture has critical contributions to make to organizations pivoting to competitive digital positions. However, EA has new skills to learn and must rapidly evolve its approach to continue to add value and to lead their organizations into this new era, an era that requires the seamless blending of business and IT along with agile, iterative cycles and the need for speed.

Enterprise architecture, despite never finding its rightful place in many organizations, is now a mature discipline. So mature in fact, that EA is finding itself in need of reinvention. EA is facing many new challenges for relevancy, value and for driving business outcomes.

Digital business pressures require an evolved approach to enterprise architecture. This isn’t yesterday’s EA. Digital success requires a new set of competencies and perspectives for EA and the rest of the enterprise.

New EA Perspectives

Enterprise architecture is uniquely well positioned to lead in the digital era. Enterprise architecture is a business and IT planning practice and EA methodologies have incorporated both business and technical architectures with the goal of connecting business and IT strategies. EA programs that have achieved this cohesion have laid the foundations upon which to lead in the digital era.

With digital, there is no separation between business and technology and these traditional lines of demarcation are gone. EA needs to focus on business outcomes, agility, and new offerings. EA needs to adapt to support bimodal IT, especially Mode 2 environments of Agile, DevOps and continuous integration, and tie it all to business outcomes. This means EA needs to stay a step ahead of the business and IT and lead the enterprise to successful outcomes.

Industry pundits are calling for EA to reinvent itself as an internal consultancy, bringing existing business and IT architecture strengths and combining them with management consulting disciplines in support of more agile EA practices and business outcomes. Many IT and business leaders have become cautious of large, city-planning approaches to EA. Everyone is focused on accelerating change to compete in the digital age.

Digital Architecture

Digital Architecture is a metaphor for the bundle of practices that enterprise architecture needs to bring together to be effective in the digital age. Designing the digital enterprise requires additional skills than found in traditional EA teams.

Digital businesses are characterized by a focus on the customer experience, products not projects, speed, design thinking, platforms, ecosystems, business scenarios, economic modeling, microservices and APIs.

Digital architecture is design and experience focused. Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success (credit: Tim Brown). This definition captures an essence of what EA should contribute to digital architecture, through its various practices.

Building an API Economy and microservices architecture for an enterprise requires new practices for designing the architecture. Domain Driven Design (DDD) is a sophisticated methodology that has a lot of synergy to business architecture. If EA is going to design the enterprise future state, then DDD should be in EA’s repertoire.

Business ecosystems are core to digital business models. EA needs to be able to quantify these ecosystems so the architecture and digital products can be designed to meet their needs. Architecture can no longer be abstracted from the business model.

Business scenario and economic modeling enable EA to quantify new digital business models and the corresponding architectures and designs that will ultimately result in profits or losses.

Enterprise Architects should not fall into the trap of thinking these various disciplines are the responsibility of others. If an EA team cannot possess all these skills, EA needs to be adept at bringing them all together into a cohesive enterprise architecture.

Ignoring the need for tight integration of these disciplines can relegate EA to the back-office and eventual irrelevance. Given EA’s charter to link business and IT strategy, EA can no longer produce architecture in isolation from business design. Digital business demands seamless integration of business and technology. These demands require that EA pivot and develop additional techniques and capabilities to lead in the digital era.

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