Getting to grips with shifting sands: Enterprise Architects’ challenges in 2019
Because of the ubiquity of information technology permeating every operational aspect of the enterprise, the emergence of data silos is unavoidable. Unfortunately, that situation presents multiple problems, but disparate, unconnected information is especially problematic for the enterprise architect, and therefore for the processes required for meaningful and positive change.
The first challenge of EA, therefore, is to connect all areas of the enterprise’s information. But collation is but one strand of a successful alignment of IT, data, enterprise architecture and strategy.
The strategic lead
Overall business strategy may be clear, but aligning the rest of the business, its data and its IT stack with that strategy requires a set of specific tools and a working methodology. Those tools and method must be not only capable of highly granular detail drawn from multiple parties, but also they need to be fluid — they must be capable of reflecting the daily changes to the business, in real-time.
That’s no mean feat, but the very latest in EA software, BPM modeling and data mapping solutions offer a coherent way forward for EA professionals. Those solutions need to combine with the architects’ skills and significant collaborative work from all stakeholders to successfully align the enterprise’s digital strategy with the business strategy.
Digital vs. Business strategy
A majority of organizations (according to Gartner) report they have no digital strategy, and of those, only 20 percent actually manage to execute on their plans. That’s almost always because there’s no catalyst to draw out the different strands of a strategic plan and formulate a digital plan accordingly. Furthermore, the digital environment is often unclear too: essentially building a digital road map is like building on shifting sands — dangerous and costly!
Any Enterprise Architect therefore needs to begin with a deep audit of the enterprise’s existing IT provisions, its physical, logical and conceptual models of its data, and a mapping-out of the data flows as they exist at present.
This area is one where many EA software tools fall down: they simply don’t have the capability of more than a cursory digital audit. That’s why here at TechHQ, we’re only featuring a chosen three providers to highlight; see below.
Engaging the stakeholders
Many enterprises employ full-time EA professionals, and that’s usually good practice, as of itself. Unfortunately, however, those experts tend to be seconded into strategic planning functions in order to bring their insights into the process: ideas and concepts are floated, to see how viable the concepts might be to the EA.
That process is laudable, but its effect is that the EA can often find themselves removed from significant sections of the enterprise workforce — the workers at the coalface. It’s those business area managers, departmental heads and other internal and external stakeholders that hold vitally important insights and knowledge.
Pulling in collaborators from right across the enterprise and from key strategic partners is vital for the work of the EA to be successful. And accepting that the net has to be cast wide from the outset of any strategy and digital alignment needs some specific technology requirements.
Important acronyms: GUI, UX
Engaging stakeholders from across a broad-ranging set of roles in the enterprise is less challenging than it used to be. That’s down in part to technology’s consumerization: people are so much more digitally conversant than they were ten years ago.
But that’s not to assume stakeholders have the time to engage with EA-related work in unfamiliar environments. Difficulties presented by unfamiliar user interfaces, difficult vernacular (and acronyms) do not encourage productive interactions and additions. Therefore, the tools used by stakeholders must be familiar, easy to use, and importantly, quick to use.
That puts the emphasis on the EA software’s qualities. While EA professionals will be familiar with the technicalities of their field, that’s not the case in other enterprise functions. Keeping it simple, therefore, is not a trite consideration.
Interlinking the elements
Infrastructure, data, business processes and digital services are inextricably connected in today’s large organizations. The next generation of enterprise architecture software, therefore, needs to be capable of mapping all four elements, and doing so on a collaborative, easy to use (for the end-users) platform. Aligning strategy and digital transformation depends on those boxes being ticked.
Here are three suppliers of the types of enterprise architecture software that we feel are up to the task in today’s digitizing enterprises.
Large organizations are like organisms (the roots of both words make that reasonably clear), in that they develop, grow and contract, and are subject to constant change. And because organizations comprise both people and technology, BlueDolphin from ValueBlue is on the money as an EA and strategic change management platform that has a multidisciplinary approach.
By ensuring that there’s a place where the people in the business, its IT provisions (like hard- and software) and data (usually silo-ed) can come together, the results are complete oversight, thanks to a collaborative approach.
Large organizations don’t have the advantage of small businesses, where one person might be capable of keeping track of every part of the company and have a singular strategic goal. Therefore, the BlueDolphin wide-reaching and inclusive approach reaps significant rewards.
Recognizing the inextricable interconnectivity of processes, apps, infrastructure, data and people, BlueDolphin comes with the tools organizations need: application portfolio management, process mapping, infrastructure and data flow tracking, and all in a single, highly usable interface that’s approachable by all stakeholders (not just the EA professionals who understand the specialist terminology). And as strategy, processes and IT change — with consequences on each other — the ValueBlue solutions reflect and adapt, letting you stay in control.
You can read more about BlueDolphin from ValuelBlue here on TechHQ.
Software AG is a global giant offering the full range of business-centric IT products, and like many companies of its size, it has achieved spectacular growth by means of acquisitions.
In the enterprise architecture space, its product is called Alfabet, which lets companies realign their operations according to overarching strategic imperatives: better customer experiences, more compliant practices, better profit margins, or lowered costs.
Alfabet’s focus is on ensuring the synergy between the IT function and the business, and like many EA technology stacks, that begins with an IT application audit. From there, the capabilities of IT can be used to drive change across the business, and in the process, save significant sums caused by lapsed licenses, over-provision, under-use of expensive services, and so on.
Gartner has evaluated the enterprise architecture vendor landscape, and it placed Software AG’s Alfabet in the “leaders” quadrant for 11 consecutive years, up to and including 2018. If that’s the type of recommendation that holds weight for you, click here to read more.
Right up there with Software AG, BiZZdesign is also among Gartner’s leading vendors. That’s due in part to its approach to developing digital twins of organizations.
Twinning is a concept with its roots in industry, where digital models of (usually) physical processes help companies experiment with proposed changes in controlled environments, before potential real-world (and costly) rollouts.
With the company’s Enterprise Studio and HoriZZon products, BiZZdesign’s solutions create a place where change management and collaboration come together.
The software solutions provide insights into business initiatives and let the enterprise embark on change programs quicker, and with more success. The visualization, analysis, and collaboration capabilities enable a much wider range of stakeholders across the enterprise to gain insight and make more intelligent decisions more quickly.
Like digital twins, results are captured for analysis in real-time, reflecting the shifting nature of the modern, large enterprise. To learn more about this Gartner quadrant leader, click here.
*Some of the companies featured are commercial partners of TechHQ
30 March 2023