Enterprise Architecture: Then and Now
We currently live and work in an era of perfect storms – cheaper compute resources, much better and faster connectivity, more efficient hardware with smaller footprints and more – where anything could gain rapid traction with the snap of the fingers and CIOs have to be constantly on their toes to be able to understand and leverage the Next Big Thing in Technology.
To illustrate why our innovation cycles are becoming shorter and shorter requires a brief lesson in history as far back as the 1980s. Our industry was just emerging from the automation era and for a period of 30 years, the automation era was characterised by a very, very huge focus on technology.
There would be new hardware and new software for each and every new IT project, and basically the IT department was given a free rein to drive these projects, as a Project Management Office (PMO).
With the PMO, time, resources and budgets were given fixed amounts, even before business requirements are captured.
This in turn resulted in huge challenges and more than 60-percent of IT projects failing, because the end product from the IT investment demonstrated very little value to the business, and most times incur very high cost of maintenance of up to 90-percent of budget allocated to project.
IT did not communicate much with the business, and indirectly this was earning IT a reputation as a cost centre.
What was missing at that time, and even today, is an enterprise architect, or an enterprise architecture office (EAO), that could create a digital map of the entire organisation starting from the key stakeholders’ concerns, strategies to address these concerns, organisation structure to carry out the strategies, capabilities required, business process, functions and services which I call the Business Architecture Map
This also needs to be supported by the Information Architecture modelling, Software Architecture modelling, Infrastructure Architecture Modelling as well as the Solution Architecture modelling that will realise the strategies to fulfill key stakeholders’ concerns.
All this work today is called the Digital Enterprise Map.
Come 2010, and the era of digitalisation dawned upon us. Business and technology are integrated and connected more than before, and as the millennial generation enter the workforce and rise up the chain of command in an organisation, they are starting to see IT as being irrelevant and wanting to do away with it.
They question, “Why are we still using all these IT equipment and infrastructure, when there is the cloud?”
Besides cloud, other technologies have also emerged like big data and analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, robotics, driverless vehicles, and much, much more.
The year is already 2018, but in my opinion we are still practicing automation which is about 10 years behind the curve. This is an issue we are facing in the industry today.
Right mindset, for the right era
If before, IT had a free rein on IT projects, now IT is a slave to business.
Already tarnished with a bad reputation as a cost centre, and seldom given a seat at the decision-making table, most IT departments have been relegated to firefighting roles or roles as glorified technicians – they are on the speed dial for the sole purpose of fixing technology every time it breaks down.
I believe that business should be driving the organisation this time, but the CIO has a very crucial role to play in enabling the business with technologies and know-how to give it the extra edge against competitors.
Enterprise architecture (EA) creates a cultural platform for business and IT to integrate, via the Digital Enterprise Map.
To reap optimum benefits from digital technologies, the organisation should be enterprise architecture-focused, with EA development going to work before project management kicks in.
This ensures that budget and resource allocations become more accurate, and perhaps more importantly, become more dynamic instead of static. In short, resource allocations must be able to keep up with the rapid tech, user behaviour, and policy regulation changes in the industry.
This leads to real business and IT agility, and IT will be able to demonstrate returns from the revenues it helps to generate for the business.
EA itself has a very interesting and dynamic history which can be loosely divided into four phases – framework, process, business and Digital Enterprise Architecture.
Over time, digital EA has ‘grown’ a lot from traditional EA, and to date there are some unique aspects in which it has evolved. First of all, if before EA was viewed as an IT project with a beginning and ending, today it becomes very clear that EA needs to be a key part of an organisation’s culture, and not just be limited in scope and practice to a few departments.
Second, instead of static and unchanging deliverables, deliverables are maintained in a central digital repository that is constantly updated to reflect a dynamic industry and dynamic enterprise.
Third, there is a holistic approach that EA takes with a digital repository, skillsets from the IT architect body of knowledge (ITABoK) and modelling language. It’s more than just frameworks and technologies to be used, or processes and methodological driven approaches.
Instead it is an engine for digital transformation that builds enterprise capabilities and drives innovations.
There is a lack of standardised measurements to assess return on investments (ROI) with traditional EA. Digital EA Is centred around business outcomes and drives forward with clearly measured ROI that is possible through a comprehensive assessment of EA’s maturity.
Last but not least, digital EA is characterised by not just consulting, but a holistic engagement that includes coaching and learning for 100-percent knowledge transfer. There is no place for thick, heavy documentation!
Because of these qualities that digital EA possess, it is best epitomised or represented by a dynamic digital map that models the motivations of different interested parties, business drivers and maps them to strategy, outcome realisation and resources.
Below is a sample of a metamodel that Digital ATD uses to describe the enterprise map of the Digital ATD.
It is used to blend 13 different Viewpoints that describes the connected enterprise. A View consists of an architecture model chosen to show stakeholders that their concerns are being met, while a Viewpoint is the perspective from which the view is taken, with concepts, models, analysis, techniques, and visualisations, as well as rationale behind all these.
The metamodel will also evolve over time as the organisation is going through continuous transformation.
About the Author:
Aaron Tan Dani is a thought-leader in Digital Enterprise Architecture. He is also actively driving Digital EA adoption and is currently the Chairman of EA-SIG, the Singapore Computer Society (firstname.lastname@example.org), Chairman of Iasa Asia Pacific (email@example.com) and Chief Architect of ATD Solution (firstname.lastname@example.org).