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How Modern Enterprise Architecture and Architects Are Driving Success

How Modern Enterprise Architecture and Architects Are Driving Success

How Modern Enterprise Architecture and Architects Are Driving Success

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series—a collection of articles written by industry thought leaders in maturing software categories—Ian Stendera, the Chief Product Officer at Ardoq, outlines how enterprise architecture and architects can help enterprises drive success.

Moving from a pandemic into a recession has magnified the need for operational awareness and business transparency. One way to meet those needs is enterprise architecture (EA), which provides companies with the enterprise knowledge they need to create profitable digital transformations. However, many companies are struggling to launch their digital transformation initiatives, with IDC reporting that nearly 90 percent of IT leaders still feel constrained in their efforts by existing infrastructure, operations, and culture.

Compounded with the economic downturn, leaders need a tool that offers actionable insights into their processes, people, and methods to weather these troubled times and drive business success. When done well—and without rigid processes and governance—enterprise architecture can simultaneously solve profitable transformation and business agility.

The Current Problem for Businesses 

Despite fears about the future of business, there is evidence that the role of the enterprise architect is emerging as one of the most important jobs in technology. Digital transformation is increasing demand for EA and dedicated EA roles, with data from LinkedIn showing that there has been an increase of five to eight percent in the number of open Enterprise Architect positions per annum in the European and US markets. 

The acceleration of digital business has been caused by a fundamental demographic shift in technology resources and ownership in enterprises worldwide. Since the start of the 21st century, companies have over-centralized decision-making processes. We see the same trend as organizations prepare and fear the recession, often as a consolidation of business design teams down to one or a few business technologists or “IT master” roles.

Leaders think this move will make their businesses more coordinated and responsive to various needs and changes since one or few people can quickly make standardized decisions across the company. Therein lies the problem: these decision-makers have too many choices to make and too much information on hand to make them. It’s a cyclical nightmare for business leaders, and sustaining centralized decision-making models in a digital organization is impossible. Businesses see centralization as the proper response to recessionary fears, but this shift in enterprise management can cause more significant problems than it solves.  

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How Enterprise Architects Fit In 

Enterprise architects, and EA in general, can help businesses avoid these operational delays and stalled decisions due to over-centralization. Regarding the recession, enterprise architects have immense value to business leaders in that they can help them move quickly through a queue of needs, all while allowing experimentation and protecting existing revenue. 

Next-gen EA tools—not to be confused with their authoritarian predecessors—are designed for today’s digital businesses, permitting decentralized decision-making at scale and more efficient responses to challenges. By enabling a decentralized model, leaders democratize business structures across the enterprise and give themselves windows into the current state of their company, maps of where each product team is headed, and interactive, easily-digestible visualizations for stakeholders. By allowing for more dynamic decision-making processes, leaders are creating more adaptable, agile businesses that can weather the sudden changes that come with an economic downturn. 

As the popularity of the enterprise architect role increases, it becomes more apparent that centralized decision-making is a thing of the past. That modern EA is the best solution for businesses to leverage without sacrificing their margins. For EA, that means addressing how decision-making has changed in today’s industry and moving from an authoritarian force governing people and processes to a unifying, collaborative role that drives innovation and profit at a product level.

Centralized Decision-Making Has Disappeared, So Where Does Enterprise Architecture Go?  

The key to effective decisions is understanding the decisions that can and can’t be distributed, which requires an investment in enterprise design. Empowering others across the organization with a clear scope, boundaries, and mandates can eliminate the noise for decision-makers, enabling them to focus on high-priority goals or longer-term issues. 

The need for cross-functional, distributed technology ownership is the perfect ecosystem for the enterprise architect to shine. Traditionally, EA has governed and exerted control over technology, but as it’s become decentralized across the business, information is influenced by EAs, making innovations more collaborative rather than authoritarian. 

Leaders can leverage the enterprise architect in their change initiatives. By pooling data across departments, executives can support their assertions on which areas of the business would benefit most from a change in design. Using modeling, projects can be compared simultaneously to uncover which strategy will yield the most significant returns. EA-driven roadmaps can help leaders consider KPIs a year or ten years into the future of the business, made more solid by knowledge distilled directly from those closest to the respective tools and processes they use.

The New Role of EA in the Digital Economy  

No matter how teams are organized, there is a fundamental need for business leaders to make informed decisions about what goes on within the areas in their control and those beyond it. EA can understand the big picture by mapping end-to-end processes (even as the operations are being disrupted) and application integrations, organizing information assets, and coordinating change activity. Those skills uniquely position EA teams because no one across the business can take the people, processes, and technology and create a single system from those components.  

The democratization of technology across the business has brought challenges and responsibilities. While the traditional need for technology governance and planning is under duress, the internal market for data and insight about the enterprise is only growing. For the Enterprise Architecture team, this is a huge opportunity.

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