From delivering Artificial Intelligence to Sustainability Initiatives, Enterprise Architecture has re-emerged as a discipline to deliver a digital transformation framework that helps organisations adapt to changing demands.
The Challenge of Uncoordinated Digital Transformation
To cope with the ever-changing competitive landscape, organisations are becoming increasingly de-centralised to allow individual business units to be more agile and exploit digital technologies faster than before. This also enables business units to address cultural and digital skills alignments that are hard to change at an enterprise level.
However, this also means organisations can quickly become a mash-up of multiple technology platforms that are either not integrated or are duplicated. This is expensive, inefficient and fails to exploit all the potential value on offer.
Therefore, some form of flexible and central framework is required for effective digital transformation that still empowers disparate parts of the organisation, but also provides a coordinated approach to drive enterprise-wide synergies. Enterprise Architecture 2.0 can fill this gap.
Enterprise Architecture 2.0 – moving from “IT first” to “business strategy first”
Enterprise Architecture is a discipline that takes an organisation’s business strategy and turns it into a digital transformation plan (i.e., an architecture) with four core elements (business strategy and organisation, data, applications, and technology). Governance and security are also factored across each element.
The architecture starts at a high level so it’s easy to see how any new digital initiative fits into the organisation’s business strategy, making it adaptable to both internal and external demands. The plan then gets more detailed across all four elements so every digital initiative can be integrated with other digital initiatives, whether they are data-related, hardware and infrastructure, software or people.
The original Enterprise Architecture concept grew during the 1980s/1990s as an IT discipline for implementing large IT projects using the frameworks, such as TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework). Its relevance in future digital-native organisations has since been questioned. However, the principles and approach of Enterprise Architecture remains valid as the IT sector has always had to wrestle with the enterprise-wide impact of rolling out large programmes. Admittedly, this has now evolved considerably where a digital-first organisation has its operations wholly dependent on data rather than technology.
Enterprise Architecture 2.0 therefore doubles down on business strategy as its starting point and then seeks to understand what data is needed to solve key business challenges for the organisation. At this stage, there has been no consideration of technology – just the business challenges and data. This is the major evolution for Enterprise Architecture practitioners. Only once an organisation understands what data is required, and why, can it identify the software applications to process that data and the technology/infrastructure to support those applications.
Another major change is the ‘re-usability’ mindset where the real benefits for digital transformation across an enterprise will be the ability to use, enhance, then re-use the same datasets across multiple platforms for different purposes. This can only work with a move away from proprietary data formats to Open Standards, such that multiple systems take feeds from common data sets containing data that is accurate, up to date, of good quality and not duplicated. The ability for any organisation to exploit Artificial Intelligence will be determined by these solid Data Foundations.
This redefinition of Enterprise Architecture is therefore rapidly becoming a great fit for any organisation looking to become digital-first with an agile DevOps operating model. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just as in building architecture, even a simple house extension needs a plan so that the planning authority, structural engineer, builder, electrician, and plumber are all aligned.
How can you get started?
Here’s four questions – if you cannot answer “yes” to all four then it’s worth exploring how Enterprise Architecture can help your organisation.
- Can you articulate how every digital initiative fits into your organisation’s business strategy ie. what will it actually achieve rather than simply being a great idea like ‘moving to cloud’?
- Can you measure the success of every digital initiative with clearly defined business metrics such as output or cost?
- Do all digital initiatives across your organisation have a central point of coordination?
- Are your software applications and technology platforms integrated and can share data between them?
Envitia is a data consultancy that delivers Enterprise Architecture services to customers in the public sector that have a significant number of legacy systems with the highest levels of security requirements. As a technology-independent partner, we can help organisations navigate their digital transformation to maximise chances of success.
If you’re a technology leader that needs to model the future for your organisation, please do book an introductory conversation with one of our data experts (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see how we can help.
By Nabil Lodey