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The Evolution of the Architecture of Enterprises - AKA Enterprise Architecture

By Leo Barella, VP-Enterprise Architecture, AstraZeneca

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Leo Barella, VP-Enterprise Architecture, AstraZeneca

You have probably heard your organization refer to Enterprise Architecture (EA) as a team rather than a corporate discipline like strategy, R&D, sales or supply chain.

“EA organizations will have to ‘sell’ the new role of IT in the overall corporate strategy”                                              

Enterprise Architecture defines and documents the physical representation and implementation of the corporate strategy via its business capabilities, processes, functions and the information, integration, applications, and technologies blueprints.

The Problem with Thinking this Way

Most organizations nestle their EA function within their Information Technology (IT) department, which is likely why typical EA organizations struggle to provide their corporations or enterprises with measurable value. Few organizations leverage their Enterprise Architecture blueprints from capabilities to technology. Organizations need to diagnose the overall performance of the enterprise and be able to make corporate-wide changes that can impact the overall performance of the enterprise.

Once you start to analyze how the processes—that bring the enterprise the most amount of value (value streams)—are supported by the technologies, you realize the enterprise evolution has continually added technologies with the hope of simplifying an individual component of the value stream. This eventually leads to increasing the overall complexity and cost of the overall value stream process. It is a complicated science—especially in organizations that do not focus on optimization at the enterprise level, and instead, focus on micro-optimizations at the department or at the single business process level.

While EA should have strong ties to IT, since IT enables the process automation and analytics necessary to produce cost savings and competitive advantage, it should not be perceived as a discipline that only has to do with IT and is provided by an IT organization.

Suggested subhead: An Era of Digital Enterprise

This era is drastically changing how organizations should view and leverage IT. A decade ago, IT was a support function and in some cases a strong enabler for services that enterprises would provide their customers. Today, the best performing organizations start as technology companies that sell a specialized set of services powered by analytics to measure efficiency and throttle scalability on demand.

Data analytics as a product helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors. This changes everything, especially the relationship between the business and IT.

What this Means:

• Some large enterprises are still focusing on growth through acquisition, but the architecture of the enterprise (Enterprise Architecture) model is quickly evolving into a temporary assembly of inter-connected companies and services that can outperform the traditional enterprise.

• It is going to be difficult for non-tech businesses to understand how the level of flexibility and scale a digitally connected network of businesses can drive more value and quicker than a traditional enterprise.

• The emergence of “micro services organizations” (organizations specializing in the efficiency and automation of a specific step of an enterprise process) is generating a technology-enabled micro economy that will disrupt the established enterprise model.

• You can reduce the time to market by using micro services architecture.

• The time to become a competitive business is reduced from years to weeks.

• The monolithic enterprise model is evolving to the assembly of high performing micro services organizations.

What Needs to Happen?

Enterprise Architecture needs to be viewed as a strategic discipline by the enterprise and not only by IT.

EA organizations will have to “sell” the new role of IT in the overall corporate strategy and attempt to gain a better seat at the table to be able to influence the move to a digital enterprise.

From a technical standpoint, Enterprise Architecture organizations must shift the focus of their IT organization from an Application / Transactional focused portfolio of projects onto enterprise data and integration foundational capabilities.

Transactional processing will still drive incremental value, but not as much value as an enterprise capability around data, integration and analytics. EA organizations are in the best position to promote this transformation, yet they need to shift their focus from technology solutions to business strategy enablement.

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