CIOs today are faced with a dizzying array of enterprise technology services, and while it’s never been easier to purchase new tools, it’s also never been so important to guide these purchases with a bigger architectural strategy.
At its heart, Enterprise Architecture (EA) involves taking a structured approach to integrating diverse sets of skills, methods, systems, tools and applications, to create an efficient and productive enterprise.
By mapping a complete view of the organisation, leaders can detect inefficiencies or weak spots, or find those opportunities for business transformation, automation or digitisation. Ultimately, EA provides firms with optimised processes that enable the delivery of business strategy while also responding to change and embracing new technologies.
Bringing EA within reach
Traditionally, EA was a capability that was only deemed necessary or even possible for the large enterprises with complex IT landscape. Being a niche skill in high demand, salaries for qualified, certified senior architects have ballooned in recent years. The Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey showed a 26% surge in demand for EA skills in the past year.
For many organisations, it’s simply not viable to stock a large in-house team of seasoned architects, especially considering that these skills are rarely utilised at full capacity.
However, a new model of delivering EA is emerging, one which follows the current trend of ‘everything as a service’.
The concept of EA-as-a-Service involves outsourcing the strategic and operational architecture work to a trusted partner. This way, firms can access EA skills and resources as and when they need them – paying for only the capacity that they need.
This ensures high-quality EA models and artefacts are generated, but with none of the costs and risks of carrying a permanent team of architects. The organisation benefits from a permanent EA practice that offers enduring value, and which can be picked up and evolved by in-house teams or outsourced consultants at any time.
Of course, this model also extends EA down to smaller organisations (where previously it may have been out-of-reach), as they can now access EA specialists whenever they need. In fact, it’s often in smaller but rapidly-growing companies that we find the greatest need for EA: as their technology landscape expands and new tools, applications and systems are continually added.
Trust and commitment
Without EA to bring it all together into a cohesive whole, it’s easy to end up with a sprawling, chaotic IT estate – full of systems that don’t fluidly integrate with one another. And as data within the organisation grows in volume and complexity, having the models to underpin your use of that data becomes ever more important.
By taking an EA-focused approach, organisations can take a step back, and design frameworks and architectures that better handle the volatile change that we’re witnessing in so many industries today, as digital technology continues to reshape business ecosystems.
Nevertheless, the EA-as-a-Service model can certainly only succeed when there is a high level of trustworthiness and commitment from both the organisation and the EA partner. With every business having its own unique personality and characteristics, your EA partner needs to deeply immerse themselves into your business, and create the architecture frameworks that work best for you.
Your EA partner will ultimately guide far more than just decisions about which technology to procure: they’ll provide a crucial dimension to inform business strategy and how to become more responsive to emerging market needs.
By Sumit Kumar Sharma, Enterprise Architect at In2IT Technologies