Enterprise Architects Populate Digital Business Platforms

The role of enterprise architecture and technology innovation leaders is evolving to support digital business.

Enterprise architecture (EA) and technology innovation leaders have the important job of advising CIOs and business leaders about digital business strategy, innovation and enterprise change. Today’s leaders take positions on the use of strategic technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) that make their organizations advanced and competitive.

By 2021, 40% of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies

Philip Allega, VP Analyst, Gartner, and conference chair for Gartner Enterprise Architecture & Technology Innovation Summit, discussed the evolution of EA and technology innovation leaders, the impact of emerging and strategic technologies, and digital business platforms.

How has the role of EA and technology innovation leaders changed?

Leaders have moved beyond command-and-control design guidance support alone. Although many are still stuck with a belief that this is their only role, the leading practitioners have staked new territory. Leaders help the IT and non-IT executives identify where, and when, emerging and strategic technologies fit into the next business model. This, in turn, guides investment choice for the next generation of technology that is consumed by business processes.

Once in operation, these technologies deliver the business outcomes anticipated during the ideation and planning phases. Organizations delivering digital business transformation rely on enterprise architects to understand and analyze the impact of emerging and strategic technologies. They are leaders who provide a hands-on approach to defining how digital business platforms deliver value in the modern enterprise and measuring the results against plans.  

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What technology trends should be on an enterprise architect’s radar?

EA and technology innovation leaders must be familiar with strategic technology trends to deliver new business and operating models within their business ecosystems. We see the collection of today’s top 10 strategic technology trends under an umbrella concept that Gartner calls the intelligent digital mesh. “Intelligent” refers to the advances in AI and machine learning which takes advantage of augmented analytics and may appear in autonomous things such as robots, drones and automobiles. “Digital” is the blurring of the physical and digital worlds, as seen in digital twins, sensor technologies and human augmentation.

Take a position on the strategic impact of quantum computing today, as it will impact us all soon

Finally, “mesh” is the exploding number of devices that are connecting everything that are able to monitor, track and derive information from data collected by things, people and businesses. We see these evidenced in, for example, smart spaces in homes, cities, cars and buildings. Advanced data analytics and cloud computing technologies continue to support these critical new technologies and remain crucial for digital business innovation.

Equally important for EA and technology innovation leaders are concerns around privacy and ethics and the technologies that support these concerns. Lastly, we advise everyone to take a position on the strategic impact of quantum computing today, as it will impact us all soon.

Why are digital business platforms an important part of success?

Aligning business and IT objectives establishes a collective vision as the basis for a digital business platform. By 2021, 40% of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies. As a CIO from a multinational technology company said, “All of our projects that move us toward digitalization begin with the EA team analyzing our industry and others to see what is happening now and what will drive digitalization in the future.”

Digital platforms underpin some of the most successful business models, from Amazon to Uber. We see increasing interest from organizations in building a digital platform as a key part of their digital strategy. The platform is as much an architecture strategy as it is a business strategy. Leading EA teams are fully involved in the platform’s development, from ecosystems modeling and creating the business model, to the modular, service-oriented technical architectures that enable it.

This article has been updated from the original, published on March 1, 2017, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

Gartner clients can learn more about the tools and techniques EA and technology innovation leaders use for digital business success in Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Architecture Tools.

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