As architects, we all know the importance of context. The right architecture for one context – say, an organically growing company – doesn’t work for a company growing by acquisition. The right technology strategy for a medium-size American company doesn’t work for a China-based one.
Well, the context for enterprise architecture itself is changing. We’ve got The Age Of The Customer forcing companies to transform outside-in. We have what is called technology consumerization – our business users have access to ever more powerful technology solutions independent of IT. We have digital-fueled business disruption, as described in James McQuivey’s book, Digital Disruption. And all this is driving the demand for greater business agility – the ability to quickly sense and adeptly respond to new opportunities and threats in their context.
What a great opportunity for enterprise architecture programs! But this is only possible if they shift from a focus on cost to a focus on opportunity, change from controlling to enabling technology, and adapt their practices to the need for quickness with “just enough insight.”
I recently had a conversation with a new EA practice leaders in the investment management business unit of a large multi-line insurance company. They wanted to hear my perspectives on what a world-class EA program should look like. They knew of all the traditional EA building blocks: standards and roadmaps, architecture domains, methodologies like TOGAF. They had a long list of things to do, but were uncertain about which to tackle first, and had a nagging feeling that these had little to do with world-class EA programs. We touched on EA maturity models, but quickly concluded that there isn’t an obvious and compelling business value proposition to simply ‘being mature’.
The conversation shifted to outcomes – what are the outcomes of a world-class EA program? IT cost reduction could be an outcome, and has been the raison d’etre of EA for years. IT solution design quality could be an outcome, and has been the justification for architects for longer than EA has been around. But these are all IT-centric outcomes.
We all know the world is changing. Digital capabilities are radically impacting our customers, the competitive landscape, the regulatory context, and the operating models of businesses. Kyle McNabb summarizes this very well in his blog post. The mantra today is business agility in the face of all these radical changes. Because of this, being IT-centric is no longer the hallmark of a world class EA program.