IT's fundamental value has always been speed. From early computing innovations during World War II to the rise of full technology adoption in digital-first businesses today, the benefits sought from IT are consequences of the opportunity to make calculations, move data, and connect people more quickly. While the drive towards speed is by no means new, tools have fallen in and out of favor based on newly identified and developed routes to speed.
Enterprise architecture, as a framework that has undergone a path of reinvention, is a prime example. Once viewed as solely a concern for tech companies or IT departments and even perceived as a side discipline for some, enterprise architecture is now a priority for organizations in every industry.
According to Gartner, 60% of businesses will depend on enterprise architecture’s role to inform their approach to digital innovation by 2023. What's more, Glassdoor named enterprise architect the number one job of 2022. This revival has brought recognition that enterprise architecture delivers business value on the broadest level, not just within IT.
Enterprise architecture, across its evolution and reemergence, is a powerful tool for companies and IT departments, regardless of their scale, budget, or sector. The history of innovation has revealed time and time again that progress is born from learning from the past. It's about looking beyond what's happening right now to learn from the past and embrace emerging technologies.
In the same way, enterprise architecture has a new vision as the practice has shifted to meet the demands of the digital age, building on its former state and gaining an agile focus to empower businesses to accelerate transformation for the long term.
Synthesize the new and old
As IT has developed over the decades, trends have shifted continuously. For example, practices for where to deploy processing power have moved from centralized mainframes to desktop computers to hyperscale cloud servers and now to a focus on edge computing. Similarly, the scope of computer capabilities has shifted, with platforms and operating systems becoming ever more general-purpose, even as the Internet of Things (IoT) and embedded systems introduce more specialized approaches.
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Innovation, therefore, doesn't stem only from its most immediate predecessor. Rather, new developments are built on and defined by the wealth of history behind them. Every step of development requires that we rethink how we approach systems as technologies are outpaced and become redundant. For example, the internet's initial developmental stages were hand-drawn with little detail about endpoints, a process that rapidly progressed into the sophisticated system it is today.
Businesses have also had to adapt by establishing new platforms and processes, from employing dedicated computer operators back in the 1950s to enabling remote workers to access business systems now. Likewise, enterprise architecture's focus has shifted from the IT organization to the business and its stakeholders, uniting the need to move rapidly with doing so in a way that achieves current and future objectives.
Embrace a holistic, interoperable approach
As the pressure to deliver and innovate faster than ever before continues to increase dramatically across sectors from manufacturing to financial services and government, the need to build for agile environments that facilitate digital transformation and enable new strategic insights comes with it. After all, accelerating the journey to progress is impossible if the steps to getting there are not visible and do not enable sustainable, viable, valuable, and feasible outcomes.
Building on the long-established trend of elevating each innovation based on what has come before it—while keeping an eye on the future—is again key. But as businesses evolve to become digital-first enterprises, their mentality must also adapt to consider how systems are designed and managed.
In recent years, organizations have worked reactively to achieve agility, adopting various approaches to realize value as quickly as possible, including smaller teams working under lighter management structures. This model is successful for some by offering value to those who are digitalizing particular elements of the business. However, it can be seen as conflicting with the concept of enterprise architecture as a blueprint to define business structure and operations. The top-down practice of analyzing, planning, designing, and implementing analysis in an enterprise has often been overlooked in the pursuit of agile environments.
Yet equally, silos of work and piece-by-piece projects are now no longer pragmatic for organizations that want to lead with digitalization, despite the fact that they may have worked while in the process of digitalizing. The promise of immediate results can lure companies into a false sense of security as they move to the future of digital-first business. In the short term, agile fail-fast approaches may stimulate quick outcomes. Yet without clear planning or foresight, they risk compromising the bigger vision or goal. The question now is: Yes, we are going fast, but where are we going?
Counterintuitively, nimble systems have desynchronized development cycles and reduplicated data and processes. As such, the return of an improved holistic and methodical approach to architecting the enterprise brings new promise for supporting the progression path and strategic journey. This approach is where TOGAF Standard, 10th Edition, will support architecture practitioners to make the adoption of best practices easier and help them apply the industry-standard TOGAF framework to different kinds of organizations and styles of architecture.
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Enterprise architecture mitigates the risk of disruption by applying disciplined thinking to decision making that is distinct to the business's strategic journey, is supported by the TOGAF framework, and enables different business units with various functions to communicate with each other.
Embed specialized roles
Although enterprise architecture skills are back in demand, the need to scale up capacity must be reimagined. As with all innovations, this approach is not entirely new; it builds on past learnings and the ongoing evolving business context. Roles must therefore shift toward an internal management-consulting approach, where specialists work within teams to drive transformation projects towards a system that works holistically.
Rather than creating generalist enterprise architecture roles, specialist skills in different areas should be integrated across the business to address multiple digitalization projects in a unified, strategic manner. This will enable them to gain speed and momentum towards the bigger business vision without compromising results.
The potential for sustainable, long-term digital transformation strengthens as enterprise architecture reemerges as a powerful tool for navigating change by uniting legacy applications and processes with a strategic, forward-facing business view. Prioritizing the new vision for enterprise architecture in a way that is customized to the organization's unique needs will empower it to be more agile, resilient, and adaptable.