What is Modern Enterprise Architecture?

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Organizations are affected by major trends, such as the digital transformation, agile practices, and customer-centric operations. As a core practice to enable organizations, Enterprise Architecture must adapt to those trends as well. This article provides insights on key drivers to reinvent the Enterprise Architecture Department.

 

Adapt to the Increased Speed of Change

Moore´s law stands for the observation that the number of transistors in a device doubles about every two years. The correctness of this observation helps to explain the increasing development speed of numerous technologies, such as storage, processing power, digital resolutions, and others. Hence, the amount of available technologies increases exponentially, while their average lifecycle duration shortens. The result is that Enterprise Architects need to be aware of more different technologies and update their skills and knowledge more frequently. As the capacity of one person is limited, this also implies that the department might need additional resources to deal with the increased requirements.

Another effect of shorter lifecycles and increased speed of change is that planning the future becomes even more difficult and close to impossible. The result is a focus on present architectures and decisions and less focus on planning for a far-away future.

 

Stronger Collaboration with the Business

In the academic world, the Enterprise Architecture department is located right between business and IT. In real organizations however, the practice is often IT-driven. The shortcoming of this is a week business alignment in terms of strategy and knowledge. This led to IT architectures that were not supporting the business strategy and additional efforts that could have been easily avoided if business had some architectural awareness. Architects have recently addressed this issue by emphasizing business architecture artifacts of their work, such as business capabilities, user journeys, and value streams.

In addition, the Enterprise Architecture practice is slowly moving towards business. It does so by emphasizing the use cases and benefits of business architectures, and by using Enterprise Architecture tools that business stakeholder can use as well, because they do not require programming and they provide insights that business is interested in. Also, an increasing number of architects is in business departments, sharing their architectural knowledge and establishing an architectural awareness throughout the department. The result is an Enterprise Architecture practice that is not only closer aligned to the business, but also embedded in actual day-to-day business problems.

 

Value Delivery in Operations and Projects

The last aspect of the last paragraph is of such an importance that it should be mentioned as a proper topic. While in the past, Enterprise Architects were perceived as people in an ivory tower that do not know anything about the real problems and processes in projects and operations, this slowly changes due to two trends.

The first trend is that it becomes a good practice to provide Enterprise Architects with an additional IT architecture role in operational work. With that, they experience problems and processes directly and can learn and lever solutions in their role as Enterprise Architect across different projects or departments.

The second trend is that the ratio between Enterprise Architects and operationally working architects, such as solution and technology architects, is changing. As mentioned, the vast amount of rapidly changing technologies requires more architectural resources and those are the ones that are specialized in technologies or solutions. Hence, an increasing number of architects are distributed across the organization and come together in communities instead of sitting centralized in one department with one fix hierarchy.

 

From Hierarchies to Teams

The move towards a flat hierarchy model that is organized in teams and communities brings several advantages that Enterprise Architecture requires in order to address its challenges. While in the past, skills were mainly acquired through the participation in trainings and through academic ways, the new focus lays on architects that actively share their knowledge and skills across their teams.

However, this can only be achieved if an organization can establish a community of Enterprise Architects that like their work and that are intrinsically motivated to learn more and upskill themselves. Moving from hierarchies to teams is a very good start to achieve this.

 

Adaption of an Agile Working Model

While large parts of IT are already working in agile ways, the Enterprise Architecture Department has been dragging behind. As a result, approaches, methods, and tools are often not at all lean or agile. With today´s standards, they are perceived outdated, cumbersome, and impedimental. How to modernize this state is probably one of the most discussed topics in today´s global Enterprise Architecture community and many organizations, consultancies, and authors try to find answers to that question.

While I have not seen one best solution to this challenge, I believe that the answer is a sum of many different ideas and approaches that already exist. For example, a Kanban board and daily standups can be helpful to organize the development of an architecture work, and the lean portfolio management concept should be considered when it comes to managing the demand management. Also, a retrospective paired with a Fuckup Night can be beneficial to share knowledge and best practices across the community. A community could then be organized in guilds as described by the Spotify model.

In the end, everything that helps the Enterprise Architecture practice to become leaner, deal better with uncertainties, new trends, and shorter release cycles can be worth a try.

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