How Should the Enterprise Architect Adjust to 2021?
Has the role of the enterprise architect shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
As the shock of the viral outbreak continues to reverberate throughout the world, it is compelling many organizations not only to adopt new measures such as remote work, but also to drastically adjust business models and strategies.
While the enterprise architect’s job function has remained much the same, the disruptions in today’s economy will reshape the enterprise architect’s role for years to come.
In this article, we’ll learn what enterprise architects do and how they should adapt to the uncertain times that lie ahead. To begin, let’s explore what this role entails.
The enterprise architect
The person in this role is an IT leader who usually reports to the organization’s executive IT manager.
They are responsible for tasks such as:
- IT maintenance
- IT governance
- Upgrading software
- Aligning IT capabilities with business goals
- Improving business processes
As operational specialists, they should have strong technical knowledge and capabilities in areas including data management, system architecture, enterprise software, and strategy development. They are business leaders, so they should also possess strong leadership skills, such as soft skills and managerial skills.
To perform their jobs, enterprise architects will often leverage established enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks.
However, unlike other business frameworks, such as theories of change management or some project management models, EA frameworks are not step-by-step roadmaps. Instead, they offer guiding principles that enterprise architects can follow when designing their own organization’s enterprise architecture.
Examples of these frameworks include:
- The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF)
- Gartner EAP best practices
- The Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF)
- The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture
- The Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF)
Each EA framework takes a different view of different architectural domains, such as business architecture, application architecture, or data architecture. Since every organization has its own unique needs – and therefore its own approach to enterprise architecture – enterprise architects will choose and use the frameworks that suit their specific requirements.
Frameworks such as these provide systematic approaches that become more essential the larger an organization grows.
This role has been and will continue to be crucial for organizations in the future. However, as with many IT positions, it underwent significant changes over the past year.
How should the enterprise architect adjust to the post-COVID era?
Most major research firms suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic irrevocably altered the business landscape. McKinsey,has claimed that several trends witnessed in 2020 will permanently reshape the business world, if not society itself.
For instance, even when we restrict our focus to IT, we can see major shifts such as:
- The mass transition to remote working, which is driving the adoption of unified communications platforms, cloud computing, and hybrid offices
- Consumer preferences moving towards digital products and services
- A strong emphasis on business priorities such as agility, resilience, and business continuity
- Changes to the mandate of many IT leadership roles, such as CIOs, CISOs, and enterprise architects
- Greater investment in digital transformation initiatives
As a consequence of these types of trends, enterprise architects have been compelled to adopt new IT solutions, strategies, and even operating models.
Composability: The new priority for enterprise architects
The seismic shifts we witnessed in 2020 have been challenging for many organizations, yet researchers see more uncertainty in the years ahead. In fact, The World Economic Forum and McKinsey, have even suggested that disruption itself is the new normal.
While we can’t say for certain what the future holds, the events of 2020 have hammered home the need for new prerogatives that focus on areas such as innovation, agility, and resilience.
In most cases, these new priorities require rethinking the approach to enterprise architecture.
According to Gartner, the best approach is one that focuses on composability and modularity (think LEGOs for business).
Traditional approaches to business, IT, and systems architecture tend to be relatively static or slow-moving. Approaches such as these can be suitable enough during stable economic times, but not during crises, advancing technological disruptions, or periods of volatile market conditions.
To adapt to these changing times, Gartner says it is necessary to adopt:
- Composable thinking, which views anything in a business as composable, modular, and autonomous
- Composable architecture, which views the organization as being composed of interchangeable building blocks
- Composable technologies, which are technologies that can be reassembled and integrated rapidly and effectively
Proponents of composability claim that there are several benefits to this approach, including greater:
The trend towards composability existed before 2020, in part due to the inherent fragmentation and complexity in today’s digital world. That need is what has given rise to composable technologies, such as composable IT infrastructure and digital adoption platforms (DAPs).
However, this trend has become even more crucial in the post-COVID era, and it should become a top priority for enterprise architects and other IT leaders.