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Opinion piece: The age of the enterprise architect

By Sumit Kumar Sharma, Enterprise Architect at In2IT Technologies

According to the recent Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey, 89 percent of surveyed organisations are maintaining or ramping up investment in innovation, including digital labour, and some two thirds of businesses are adapting their technology strategy because of unprecedented global political and economic uncertainty. This spurring on of enterprise technological development, coupled with an increase in the uptake of digital strategies, means that IT landscape is changing at a faster rate than ever before, giving rise to the high demand for enterprise architects.

True enterprise architecture, comprising of building a holistic view of the organisation’s strategy, processes, information, and IT assets to support the most efficient and secure IT environment, has become the fastest-growing, most in-demand skillset in technology, today.

In addition to this, the second and third-fastest growing in-demand skillsets, Business Process Management, Data and Analytics, while separate, form key components of an architecture. According to the report, this further supports the push for enterprise architecture expertise.

Customer driven architecture

Today’s is a customer-driven world, and South African businesses – large and small – are seeing the value in restructuring their business agility around customer demand. This customer centricity sits at the heart of the fast adoption of digital, as organisations explore the possibilities of technologies such as hybrid cloud environments, data analytics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) for maximizing customer experience.

However, many technologies are shiny new things that businesses want, but even with experienced IT teams; struggle to align with business objectives. This is especially true for how to integrate multiple technologies and architectures together seamlessly, to the benefit of the business. Solution architects can address parts of this – and do – however, organisations are looking to differentiate themselves through technology and with fast turnaround times. This requires that they make sense of the whole, choosing the right technology trends for their business.

Enter the enterprise architect

Businesses are willing to invest money on technology investments and diversification, however, the goal is to provide customer-centric solutions that are quick to scale and take to market. More and more organisations are engaging with enterprise architects to assist them with this.

To meet this demand, we do have quite a few enterprise architects available in job market. Yet, there is a startling lack of knowledgeable, experienced enterprise architects. Enterprise architects need to have a wide and diverse knowledge of both business and technology – something that is typically garnered through experience across multiple industries and all architecture domains, coupled with up-to-date awareness of the developing technology landscape. An enterprise architect should be able to advise a CxO, in layman terms, the relationship and alignment of business and technology.

There are four different architecture domains: technology architecture, applications architecture, data architecture and business architecture. Many enterprise architects have in depth knowledge in only two or three of these domains, meaning that, although they are able to advise on many areas, only a handful of architects with good exposure and experience can advise on all of them and effectively connect all the dots. There is a huge gap in demand and supply for such architects.

Perhaps there is too large a focus on enterprise architecture certification, and not enough on experience. Becoming an enterprise architect in the truest sense, means building up a store of applied knowledge and experience in all domains, in order to have sufficient context to offer holistic advice and solutions.

Enterprise architecture as a service

Many organisations, particularly small to medium businesses (SMEs), look to outsource enterprise architecture as and when they require it. Change happens all the time and budgets are increasingly constrained, so businesses are looking to maximise the value of enterprise architecture within their budgets while not requiring a permanent, in-house architect. Outsourcing also means that organisations can leverage the skills of an experienced enterprise architect who addresses business problems with technology across many different industries, using that knowledge in new and innovative ways.

Enterprise architecture has evolved and the need to look at a business as a whole still applies. Therefore, addressing specific problems with an understanding of the business rather than addressing the business itself can maximise the benefits that much faster. The same architecture models are applied, but with more focus and less need for own personnel.

The age of the enterprise architect is here. As a result, organisations need to ensure they are accessing the right individuals with the right skillsets in order to re-architect their business for its betterment, differentiating themselves as market leaders through technology and a customer centric mindset.

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