Tag Archives: Enterprise Architecture
What is digitization?
It can take many forms. Here are a few types of digitization of business and examples:
|Products that add digital components||Sports equipment with sensors for immediate feedback|
|Products sold through digital channels||Conde Nast magazines|
|“Solutions” that are assembled and delivered in digital channels||USAA Insurance|
|Products that are entirely digital||Apple iTunes, eSurance, PayPal, Google|
|Companies monetizing their data||Healthcare clinical data|
The really interesting thing about digitization that you can see from some of the examples above is that it enables new competition to enter your space and competitors to leap industry boundaries. The concept of “barriers to entry” itself is eroding.
The Impact of Digitization on IT
Some interesting facts from MIT CISR’s research with Boards of Directors on digitization jumped out at me:
- Board members estimate that 32% of company’s revenues are under threat from digital disruption. This is a really stunning number when you think about it.
- Half of Board members believe that their board’s ability to oversee the strategic use of IT is “less than effective.”
- 26% of Boards hired consultants to evaluate major projects or the IT unit.
- 60% of Boards want to spend more time on digital issues next year.
The Impact of Digitization for Architects?
It boils down to two things:
- Architects need to deliver a digital platform to enable business agility in a time of increasing competition and disruption. This includes standardization around business processes, data, and the platform.
- Architects need to get more proactive in the strategy process for their organizations both in terms of the platforms and architecture and in terms of a general understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise from digital disruption.
For more on enterprise data architecture, best practices and reference architectures see the eBook: Think “Data First” to Drive Business Value
Just last week, I visited a client for whom I had been consulting on-and-off for several years. On the meeting room wall, I saw their Enterprise Architecture portfolio, beautiful graphically designed and printed on a giant sheet of paper. My host proudly informed me how much she enjoyed putting that diagram together in 2009.
I jokingly reminded her of the famous notion of “art for art’s sake”; which is an appropriate phrase to describe what many architects are doing when populating frameworks. Indeed, when we refer to Enterprise Architecture, we must remember that the term ‘architecture’ is, itself, a metaphor.
In a tough economy, when competition is increasingly global and marketplaces are shifting, this ability to make tough decisions is going to be essential. Opportunities to save costs are going to be really valued, and architecture invariably helps companies save money. The ability to reuse, and thus rapidly seize the next related business opportunity, is also going to be highly valued.
The thing you have to be careful of is that if you see your markets disappearing, if your product is outdated, or your whole industry is redefining itself, as we have seen in things like media, you have to be ready to innovate. Architecture can restrict your innovative gene, by saying, “Wait, wait, wait. We want to slow down. We want to do things on our platform.” That can be very dangerous, if you are really facing disruptive technology or market changes.
Albert Camus wrote a famous essay exploring the Sisyphus myth called “The Myth of Sisyphus,” where he reinterpreted the central theme of the myth. Similarly, we need to challenge the myths of Enterprise Architecture and enterprise system/solution architecture in general – not meekly accept them.
IEEE says, “A key premise of this metaphor is that important decisions may be made early in system development in a manner similar to the early decision-making found in the development of civil architecture projects.”
Keep asking yourself, “When is what we built that’s stable actually constraining us too much? When is it preventing important innovation?” For many architects, that’s going to be tough, because you start to love the architecture, the standards, and the discipline. You love what you’ve created, but if it isn’t right for the market you’re facing, you have to be ready to let it go and go seize the next opportunity.
The central message is as follows: ‘documenting’ architecture in various layers of abstraction for the purposes of ‘completeness’ is plainly ridiculous. This is especially true when the effort to produce the artifacts takes such an amount of time as to make the whole collection obsolete on completion.
“Enterprise Architecture needs to be the forward, business facing component of IT. Architects need to create a regular structure for IT based on the service and product line functions/capabilities. They need to be connected to their business counterparts. They need to be so tied to the product and service road map that they can tie changes directly to the IT roadmap. Often times, I like to pair a Chief Business Strategist with a Chief Enterprise Architect”.
To get there, Enterprise Architects are going to have to think differently about enterprise architecture. Specifically, they need think “data first” to break through the productivity barrier and deliver business value in the time frame that business requires it.
IT is Not Meeting the Needs of the Business
A study by McKinsey and Company has found that IT is not delivering in the time frame that business requires. Even worse, the performance ratings have been dropping over the past three years. And even worse than that, 20% of the survey respondents are calling for a change in IT leadership.
Our talks with CIOs and Enterprise Architects tell us that the ability to access, manage and deliver data on a timely basis is the biggest bottleneck in the process of delivering business initiatives. Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than half the cost of implementing new large systems will be spent on integration.
The Causes: It’s Only Going to Get Worse
Data needs to be easily discoverable and sharable across multiple uses. Today’s application-centric architectures do not provide that flexibility. This means any new business initiative is going to be slowed by issues relating to finding, accessing, and managing data. Some of the causes of problems will include:
- Data Silos: Decades of applications-focused architecture have left us with unconnected “silos of data.”
- Lack of Data Management Standards: The fact is that most organizations do not manage data as a single system. This means that they are dealing with a classic “spaghetti diagram” of data integration and data management technologies that are difficult to manage and change.
- Growth of Data Complexity: There is a coming explosion of data complexity: partner data, social data, mobile data, big data, Internet of Things data.
- Growth of Data Users: There is also a coming explosion of new data users, who will be looking to self-service.
- Increasing Technology Disruption: Gartner predicts that we are entering a period of increased technology disruption.
Looking forward, organizations are increasingly running on the same few enterprise applications and those applications are rapidly commoditizing. The point is that there is little competitive differentiation to be had from applications. The only meaningful and sustainable competitive differentiation will come from your data and how you use it.
Recommendations for Enterprise Architects
- Think “data first” to accelerate business value delivery and to drive data as your competitive advantage. Designing data as a sharable resource will dramatically accelerate your organization’s ability to produce useful insights and deliver business initiatives.
- Think about enterprise data management as a single system. It should not be a series of one-off, custom, “works of art.” You will reduce complexity, save money, and most importantly speed the delivery of business initiatives.
- Design your data architecture for speed first. Do not buy into the belief that you must accept trade-offs between speed, cost, or quality. It can be done, but you have to design your enterprise data architecture to accomplish that goal from the start.
- Design to know everything about your data. Specifically, gather and carefully manage all relevant metadata. It will speed up data discovery, reduce errors, and provide critical business context. A full compliment of business and technical metadata will enable recommendation #5.
- Design for machine-learning and automation. Your data platform should be able to automate routine tasks and intelligently accelerate more complex tasks with intelligent recommendations. This is the only way you are going to be able to meet the demands of the business and deal with the growing data complexity and technology disruptions.
Technology disruption will bring challenges and opportunities. For more on this subject, see the Informatica eBook, Think ‘Data First’ to Drive Business Value.
If you build an IT Architecture, it will be a constant up-hill battle to get business users and executives engaged and take ownership of data governance and data quality. In short you will struggle to maximize the information potential in your enterprise. But if you develop and Enterprise Architecture that starts with a business and operational view, the dynamics change dramatically. To make this point, let’s take a look at a case study from Cisco. (more…)
Similar to the way that a carburetor restrictor plate prevents NASCAR race cars from going as fast as possible by restricting maximum airflow, inefficient messaging middleware prevents IT organizations from processing vital business data as fast as possible.
One of the debates that comes up every year among EA professionals is whether you can, or even should, create a financial justification for an EA program. Opponents of a quantified ROI say that the benefits of EA are intuitively obvious but nonetheless intangible and difficult or impossible to measure – so a financial ROI is not necessary or practical. Proponents say that any business function, including EA, must be able to articulate the business value of what it does in financial terms or risk being marginalized or eliminated. Here is one example of an EA program that added measurable enterprise value. (more…)
A painting typically starts with broad brush strokes after which the artist painstakingly fills in each detail, until the masterpiece finally reveals itself. In my last post, Revive Enterprise Architecture With Transformational SOA Data Integration, I introduced you to the broad brush strokes of SOA-based Data Services, the daunting data-centric integration problems it can solve and a high-level summary of its transformational capabilities. As promised, in this short series of posts, we will take a look at each of these transformational capabilities, in detail. So, let’s start with the most logical and fundamental capability – Multimodal Data Provisioning Services. (more…)
Many of us are familiar with the role of IT Enterprise Architecture (EA)…how it defines the architectural blueprints for an organization. From my perspective, I’ve opted to use the analogy of city planning rather than the plans for a building.
I believe a city plan is much more analogous to how we build IT. How so? Buildings are like applications, each with plans for construction. To construct the building, you go through city planning and the building department. Those departments ensure the structure will be built to set standards. Although buildings may look different or have different functions, they fundamentally must follow the set guidelines. (more…)