The business world has been moving toward digital for more than a decade, with the pandemic accelerating that shift. Companies that have embarked on digital transformation, and those that haven’t, have had to transition as their businesses have shifted from in-person to online engagement. In the post-pandemic world, digital is the only way to compete and win, and Ed Granger, enterprise architecture product strategist at Ardoq, enumerates how enterprise architecture can enable that.
The emergence of macro conditions like geopolitical instability and the potential for another recession hasn’t changed the need for organizations to continue their move toward digital. However, organizations must prioritize profitable transformation as they enact change.
Given that IT is no longer the sole gatekeeper to technology resources, the role of enterprise architecture (EA)Opens a new window in enabling organizations to truly understand and optimize their assets, such as how they’re being used and valued versus spend, is more critical than ever. This type of overview is important for the CIO. As organizations grow and departments evolve, ownership of this information can become decentralized. Optimizing IT then becomes challenging, as the CIO no longer has direct access to information regarding spending, current trends, or risks. Here is where enterprise architects (EAs) can support. They can dig deeper into the important data and help connect the IT and business sides of the organization.
Analysis of LinkedIn data shows a five to eight percent increase in the number of open Enterprise Architect positions per annum in the European and US markets. The role also emerged as the number one job in America in 2022Opens a new window , according to Glassdoor. For companies not invested in EA â€“ and even those that are â€“ now is the time to evaluate its role in driving profitable transformation. More than 80 percent of enterprise architects have said that their contributions are most seen when it comes to company planning, making EA extremely valuable for businesses looking to drive profitable business transformation.Â
In short, EA is critical for a digital organization to stay ahead, effectively manage costs, and quickly make insight-driven decisions. Here are three ways EA can steer through this new organizational structure and drive digital transformation.Â
Delivering Business and IT Operating Insights
EA provides analysis and insight into theÂ currentÂ business and IT operational efficiencies, technical health, vendor and partner relationships, and business and technology risk that represent the basis for business and IT planning. EA’s strengthÂ here is its ability to provide holistic views across departmental silos while creating transparency regarding â€œwhatâ€ is happening and â€œwhere.â€ Here the customer is the C-levelÂ business and IT planners. Such information is needed to understand who in an organization is responsible for what and where resources should be directed to re-establish control over spending in a particular department, for example.Â
By delving into these business and IT insights and sharing them with the relevant stakeholders, EAs can also support in identifying opportunities to optimize certain areas of the business and allocate responsibilities to individuals or departments to realize these opportunities.Â
Delivering these operational insights means EAs can be instrumental in showing where controls need to be tightened or established. This holistic assessment of an organization’s business and IT capabilities means that next-generation EA programs can help business leaders identify true improvement opportunities within the larger context of their unique business models. In addition, this assessment helps them avoid digital platforms that fall short of their expectations. This can be accomplished with strategic modeling, allowing executives to anticipate and study the effects of company changes to personnel, roles, and software in real-time without overhauling current operations.Â
When data-backed insights are shared with leaders, they swiftly become better positioned to identify low-performing business areas. For example, leaders might find employees whose skillset is underutilized or a cumbersome application costing multiple workers excessive and productivity-hindering amounts of time.Â
Aligning Strategy with Execution
Traditionally, EAs were not included in shaping change portfolios, as this was considered outside of their territory. However, businesses have realized that EAs have a critical role in helping to define strategic objectives formally. Objectives are the measurable parts of a business strategy. Ensuring the entire organization is aligned to these core objectives is how a business can execute its strategy and, indeed, provide a measure of knowing whether the strategy has been achieved. EAs can assist with modeling and connecting these strategic objectives with the initiatives tasked with realizing them. This can be particularly important for a product-to-project shift. This alignment might involve matching planned project portfolios and/or in-flight change with an overall business strategy, such as strategic objectives or planned capabilities.Â
The insights gathered by an EA can also identify the impacts on systems, processes, or teams caused by change projects. Such insights are invaluable for determining where resources might become overloaded or where opportunities exist to streamline and collaborate to help deliver on strategy. In addition to increasing strategic alignment, involving EAs here helps to lower the cost and risk of execution.Â
The role of the EA is crucial regardless of the economic climate. However, recent global events have shown that businesses have no option but to adjust their strategy, particularly where their digital business design is concerned. They need to understand the consequences for the rest of the business should priorities need to shift quickly.Â
New EA tools can help enterprises to become more agile and enact change from the bottom up. For example, with insights gathered from EA, teams might spot opportunities for optimization and can bring these opportunities up to the strategic C-suite level, thereby providing an end-to-end connection across the business.Â
Done right, EA-led digital business design can turn digital transformation into a profitable and successful endeavor. Such an approach can create confident, data-driven overviews of digital platforms and opportunities for saving and investment.Â
Connecting Changemakers, Technologies, and Processes
The decentralization and democratization of technology change as a result of digital transformation help to empower business stakeholders with self-service capabilities. However, businesses still need to make informed decisions about what happens within their boundaries and beyond their borders. EAs have an overarching role to play here. They can act as instrumental â€œmatchmakersâ€ for a business’ technology communities by connecting key people and processes to ensure alignment and facilitate shared decision-making.Â
EA can create collaborations, communities of practice, distributed governance, and democratizing analysis and insight, enabling distributed teams to make informed decisions, thereby retaining their autonomy and agility without sacrificing coordination. Here the customer is primarily changemakers, such as business technologists and members of cross-functional or governance and risk teams.Â
The lack of access to reliable, accurate information is a universal problem and is why EA has a growing and significant role to play even in new organizational structures. EA’s true mandate has always stemmed from its ability to understand the big picture. This ability, along with the democratization of information, means EA can map end-to-end processes and application integrations, inventory information assets, and link up and coordinate change activity.Â
Digital business design has become a proof point for executives looking to convince external stakeholders of a company’s value. Yes, EA is valuable for building a solid understanding of current business architecture, but it can also offer a glance into the future of a business too. By analyzing insights gleaned through EA tools, leaders can offer investors a picture of their business’ health down to the mapped functions of each employee or application.Â Â
The success of a company’s digital transformation can be quantified and visualized with the help of EA tools. A tool that can bring together a holistic vision of a business for any stakeholder to understand gives companies focusing on business design a competitive edge.Â
Projects can be linked directly to their business goals, and visions that once were lofty can be grounded in analytics and data. Change in an organization can move from something to react to something to anticipate.
As organizations seek to keep transformation efforts on track amidst continued uncertainty, EA is a valuable asset to make better-informed decisions, democratize decision-making, become more agile while optimizing costs and assets, limit risk, and increase certainty in outcomes and timelines.Â
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