The global pandemic changed how we live and work, and experts say many of these changes are here to stay—at least for the foreseeable future. Supply chains remain disrupted, supply shortages are driving prices up, and demand for certain products and services is down. Now is the time to focus on optimization and more sustainable growth for our new normal.
How can you deploy applications faster and smarter? How can you improve data models? How can you incorporate more sustainable practices into your enterprise architecture? The possibilities for solutions seem as endless as the number of questions that fuel these solutions, especially if you don't narrow the options to ones that solve the problems that matter most to your organization.
This convergence of business and technology presents significant opportunities for systems architects, engineers, and strategists to demonstrate the power of enterprise architecture to make positive changes in their organizations. Here are three options to consider.
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Permeate customer centricity into your solutions
Customer centricity isn't simply about sales; it's also about hearing and understanding your customer. This comes down to how architecture can solve real-world problems. Marc Mangus, a principal specialist solution architect at Red Hat, warns of how harmful it can be to become lost in what he calls the "IT dungeon." Being locked in the IT dungeon means assuming that technology is the most important part of a business solution.
"We know the how, but we need to keep the why in mind, and that is what is often lost," says Marc Mangus. "Why is a company pursuing a particular solution to a business problem? What is their expectation of the outcome? How are they measuring it? We talk a lot about digital transformation, but any transformation is in service to an outcome or goal. To me, it's a simple formula: the business starts with a problem, and they usually know right away what they'd like the outcome to be. Then they take various paths to explore solutions, either DIY or with different vendors (or combinations). Ultimately they choose a path and execute it."
Customer centricity isn't exclusive to a sales relationship; it also applies to employee recruitment and retention. The IT infrastructure must enable collaboration to run as smoothly remotely as in person. How can you distribute employees' talent and skills to fulfill business goals while also reassuring current employees and new hires that you see and value them?
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Decentralize enterprise architecture with strong communication
An enterprise architecture role can be one thing by definition and another in practice. Even more, enterprise architecture is complex and doesn't stop at IT. A more decentralized approach to governance is a great way to influence change in an enterprise architecture ecosystem. It's not the perfect approach, of course. In the end, it comes down to strong communication and how you manage projects and collaborate with the teams around you.
When was the last time you thought about your communications architecture? Being thoughtful about what seem like insignificant things will help "mitigate the lack of a shared, mutual agreement on how and where each type of information sharing takes place," John Apple II says.
Avoiding channel sprawl helps ensure you have a clear definition and structure for chat communications. This approach makes it easy for someone to figure out which platform to use to send a specific message, even though you'll need to change definitions and add and remove channels as the team evolves.
Understanding what makes a healthy communications platform, even for something as simple as chat, encourages more informed exchanges. More informed exchanges help with buy-in within your team and project stakeholders.
[ Learn four focus areas to maintain momentum on digital transformation. ]
Reinvent how you think about risk
How close are you to your neighboring risk management and security teams? Working with these two areas of the organization is one way to achieve proactive resiliency. Any disruption is scary, but you want to be on the right side of it so that you don't forfeit your competitive advantage.
Risk is inevitable. However, identifying which parts of your architecture may be particularly vulnerable is a productive use of your time. Consider ways to use automation as you explore new applications and services and streamline and scale processes.
Also remember that failing is okay; you won't know what works if you don't try things. Learn through trial and error; just be sure to fail fast and get back on the ball as quickly as possible.
Serve today's needs and anticipate future disruptions
Every organization has a target customer they work hard to serve. Remember 2020, when most large businesses transitioned to a work-from-home model? You probably noticed an influx of promotions from work-from-home solutions, like work monitors and 2-in-1 solutions. That was yesterday. What do your customers want today? There's a saturation of solutions, but only a few sustainable, scalable ones.
"The architecture is always the underpinning of a chosen solution, so how does it serve the outcome?" asks Marc Mangus. The key is making your next architecture work for today's needs and the disruptions ahead.