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Enterprise architecture: Build it and the digital results will come

Enterprise architects put the right foundation in place

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Vasileios Kospanos

Assistant Vice President, Genpact Digital - PNMSOFT Marketing Leader

April 23, 2018 - In today's technology-driven marketplace, CEOs and CIOs no longer see digital and IT as an option, but a necessity. According to a joint study conducted by Genpact and Harvard Business Review, 64% of IT teams and 73% of senior management groups foresee strong, positive business outcomes from digital initiatives.

But as Betsy Burton, former VP distinguished analyst at Gartner, shared last week in her webinar “Leadership Vision for 2019: EA and Technology Innovation Leaders," these initiatives no longer focus only on IT systems. Leaders are noting their overall business impact – and how they help organizations compete more effectively in the digital economy. They're recognizing that success comes from integrating business and IT, not aligning them. How? This is where the enterprise architect comes into the picture.

What does an enterprise architect do?

On CIO.com, Rich Pearson, senior vice president of marketing and categories at technology skills marketplace Upwork, defines an enterprise architect as someone “who can translate a company's business strategy into concrete solutions, design and execute an IT systems architecture blueprint to support that strategy." In other words, enterprise architects look at the future state of a business – what the business is looking to build – and bring together people, processes, information, and the right technology or tools to reach that goal.

In many ways, enterprise architects act as shepherds of digital transformation. As more companies embark on their digital journeys, enterprise architects will grow in importance and numbers. Pearson noted a 75% increase in the number of enterprise architect job postings in just the span of one month in 2017. 

What makes a good enterprise architect?

Good enterprise architects must possess both business and technology expertise. When laying the groundwork for a digital project, they will start with three questions:

  1. Where is our organization trying to go in the future?
  2. What are the business outcomes that we are trying to deliver?
  3. What is the gap between this goal and our current state and system architecture?

Enterprise architects should first consider the future state and business outcomes of an organization. They need a solid understanding of what the business is about, how it will be disrupted, and how to mitigate the challenges associated with change.

Moving forward, Burton explained in her webinar, businesses will call upon enterprise architects to provide:

  1. Scenario planning analysis and recommendations for what will drive the greatest potential value for the company
  2. Analysis of emerging technologies and tools
  3. Analysis of the risks associated with certain business models or technology decisions
  4. Recommendations on how to set business and IT priorities around capability gaps and areas of concern to achieve targeted business outcomes

It's important to note that what separates an enterprise architect from the architects that design our cities' skyscrapers and monuments is flexibility. A building is defined by its blueprint and schematics, which are set in stone at the beginning of a construction project. By contrast, successful digital innovations happen when enterprise architects can test, measure, learn, and pivot. It takes experimentation and often several iterations. Flexibility also lends itself to being able to respond accordingly to sudden changes in the market, or to customers' needs.

As organizations take on more and more digital projects, the need for enterprise architects who can bridge the gap between business and IT will also grow Increasingly, CEOs and CIOs will be looking to these innovative, knowledgeable experts to help them make the most of their digital investments for positive business outcomes.

The blog was first published in PNMSoft, a Genpact company.