Architecting The Digital Business: Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Q&A with Betsy Burton

September 14, 2015

Contributor: Christy Pettey

Digital business requires business architects to think digitally to support their ecosystem and define new business capabilities

In the digital business era, enterprises should focus on architecting people, business, things and technology from any channel and used anywhere. We asked Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, to explain some of the patterns and practices that can deliver a scalable, safe and ethical digital business.

How is digital business changing the way that organizations architect their business?

As organizations continuously adapt to the disruption of digital technologies, so will CIOs and their IT organizations. Enterprise architects will change and adapt to digital disruption and adopt a new set of practices and competencies to reframe enterprise architecture (EA), so that it continues to add business value, delivers business outcomes and leads business and technology change in the digital age.

The primary scope of EA includes the people, processes, information and technology of the enterprise. However, the perspective that EA practitioners take on this scope is significantly impacted by their relationships to one another and to the external environment.

Inside-out —Taking a traditional internal perspective (inside-out) that is focused on guiding how people, processes, information and technology interact relative to delivering operational value indirectly to the business.

Outside-in — Taking an outside-in perspective starts with a focus on the business outcomes needed to deliver business value to customers, constituencies, partners and stakeholders, and then working inward to determine and guide changes to people, processes, information and technology to drive these outcomes.

Outside-out — Taking an outside-out perspective starts with an even broader focus beyond the enterprise, and its known customers, partners and competitors, into the world of possible (unknown) customers, constituencies, partners and stakeholders. The focus is on disruptions well beyond the immediate scope of the organization (be it new technologies or competitors, for example) that could drive change and innovation.

The reality is that no organization will operate only with just one perspective, but rather a combination of perspectives. The critical shift is that organizations will primarily move toward a broader ecosystem perspective for EA.

How can organizations use EA to uncover new digital business opportunities?

Enterprise architects have a significant opportunity to influence many of the critical activities associated with emerging technology and business trends, such as big data, Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, security, cloud and operational technology (OT). To do so, enterprise architects must embrace and understand the aspects that make these technology trends unique, and provide guidance, as needed, as part of their overall EA efforts. It is critical to note that all these key trends have as much impact on business and information, as they do on technology.

Enterprise architects must continue their focus on the holistic information, business, technology and solution architecture across the enterprise, with a focus on delivering business outcomes. In addition, EA practitioners must ensure that they are dedicating time and resources toward embracing, integrating and leading emerging architectural perspectives (such as security architecture, IoT architecture and cloud architecture), as part of an overall holistic EA effort.

The emergence of digital business introduces new opportunities for enterprise architects (EA) to lead business innovations. What should EA practitioners focus on to do that?

The key is for EA practitioners to shift their focus to their business ecosystem and to sense and respond to changes from people, business and things. Enterprise architects who do not dramatically rethink their traditional view of partners, customers, and competitors to include known and unknown people, business and things will prevent their organization from being able to create and respond to business moments.

To survive and thrive in the digital era, enterprise architects must expand their perspective from primarily what they do in their business to what they do in their broader business ecosystem. This is the only way to be in a position to capitalize on business moments - opportunities and threats caused by events and changing behaviors.

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