Over the past couple of years, enterprise architects (EAs) and their stakeholders and customers have witnessed the next phase of digital transformation: everything as a service. Chronic overspending on unused software and infrastructure has been replaced by cloud applications and capabilities that are purchased as needed. And this movement has led to major pivots in how companies scale technology initiatives and view the overall transformation journey.
As a result, demand for more advanced and friendlier employee-centric and customer-centric models is soaring. Investment in automation is increasing as companies look to do more with fewer resources. Orchestration is emerging as a core pillar of digital strategies to drive fast-paced innovation and business resilience. Even non-IT employees are participating in development-driven transformation by using low-code and no-code tools to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of missed opportunities.
These changes in how businesses develop technology and transform have dramatically shifted the EA role. EAs are now considered the authority on optimizing services and managing technical debt – whether IT or another non-IT organization is doing the innovating. But how can they address organizational challenges without getting in the way of innovation that's genuinely good for business?
Balancing EA tradition and the human drive to innovate
Even though the pace and path to digital transformation have changed, the traditional priorities of EAs remain the same and are still critical. Data management, security, governance, and the overall integration of the conventional stack must be maintained, even as the pace at which innovations are introduced into the landscape picks up. At the same time, EAs have to make sure the experience of each person and department relying on the digital innovation and accessing relevant technical information stays simple, productive, and engaging.
Fast time to insight is critical for understanding an organization's performance and underlying structure from the perspective of business processes and IT. This insight allows EAs to identify the issues and challenges that non-IT employees face and formulate an appropriate response to new innovations and an effective resolution to any gaps.
Unfortunately, for most EAs, this information does not always exist in a single spot. Instead, it lives everywhere – from a developer's or business analyst's brain to a siloed knowledgebase of a different department. And no company can grow and continuously transform without astute and forward-thinking IT leadership. So, EAs need to get all the right people together and collaborating to get an accurate picture of the enterprise architecture and business needs.
Here's the good news: it is possible to get all your information in one place and all stakeholders on board – all in a way that provides EAs with a rigorous, methodical approach to organically evolving the enterprise architecture. As a result, EAs can onboard, integrate, and manage an ever-expanding portfolio of systems, data, and solutions whether they’re vetting new application innovations or taking over the ownership of digital assets during a business merger or acquisition.
Looking under the hood of digital innovation
While attending the LeanIX Connect Summits in Boston and Berlin, I discovered the level of success EAs achieve when digitalizing their decision-making processes around their IT landscapes with a transformation platform.
In one presentation after another, I quickly learned how EAs leverage a combination of out-of-the-box visualizations, machine learning, and asynchronous, API-based interactions available in LeanIX Continuous Transformation Platform. These capabilities allow them to inventory the business applications, IT components, and data objects that their IT landscape houses and runs. In addition, EAs can govern the interfaces that facilitate the exchange of those data objects across these various applications.
The fact that EA organizations are turning a challenging – and sometimes contentious – discussion around adding innovations or removing capabilities in a typically complex IT landscape into an easily digestible and productive plan was mesmerizing. I immediately reflected on how this level of visibility could have made my time as an EA more focused on transformation enablement and innovation coaching.
Consider the rationalization of payroll applications. Depending on the region or subsidiary, as many as four applications could be doing the same function. So the first step is recognizing the waste attributed to using multiple technologies to fulfill the same basic process. But then, EAs need to determine which application to keep and turn off and how to approach that task without disrupting employee pay.
Thanks to the diagramming, surveying, and analytical tools embedded in the transformation platform, EAs can assess a particular application's relative strengths and weaknesses. For example, they can map capabilities to regional and international requirements and user sentiment on their experience.
While my example may be simple, EAs are accomplishing much more with a transformation platform because they understand that transforming their IT landscape is a continuous process of meaningful milestones. They are improving their lifecycle management processes by weighing whether an application should be maintained, upgraded, or replaced. Furthermore, IT risk management is becoming more proactive with a better understanding of the relationships between systems and intuitive risks that might otherwise be difficult to quantify and qualify.
Closing the gap between innovation and transformation
Fostering collaboration when making decisions about the IT landscape can be a powerful asset in innovation and business transformation – especially when a meaningful view into that landscape is available company-wide.
And with a transformation platform, EAs can not only close the transformation enablement gap, but also consistently reinforce good practices around productive and integrated innovation.
Explore how enterprise architects are creating a new era of innovation for their business. Read the LeanIX Connect recap, “(Re)Starting Your EA Practice.”