Enterprise Architecture Enables Digital Innovation

February 22, 2021

Contributor: Meghan Rimol

Enterprise architects and technology innovation leaders should focus on collaboration and artificial intelligence as they move through 2020 and beyond.

In 2011, Gartner predicted that within 10 years, the majority of global enterprises would support enterprise architecture (EA) as a distinct discipline that is integral to business planning. Now, in 2020, EA has grown from a support function into a highly strategic one, responsible for designing an intelligent information architecture that supports digitalization and innovation. EA continues to evolve at a rapid pace as emerging technologies lead to business disruption.

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By 2023, 60% of organizations will depend on EA’s role to lead the business approach to digital innovation

“A traditional EA approach that focuses on technical and solution architecture is no longer enough to meet the needs of today’s enterprises,” says Saul Brand, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “Today’s enterprise architects are responsible for designing intelligence into the business and operating models, identifying ways to help their organization use data, analytics and artificial intelligence to plan, track and manage digital business investments.”

Brand examines four ways that EA leaders can embrace emerging technologies and demonstrate business value in 2020 and beyond.

Design for intelligence

Traditionally, EA led strategy execution activities for the enterprise. However, EA has shifted its focus to strategy design. By 2023, 60% of EA practices will design intelligence into their business and operating models to support strategy development and execution.

Use design thinking approaches to act like an internal management consultancy. Track and evaluate emerging technologies, and map them back to the business model to identify how they can create opportunities. Add value to the enterprise through strategic technology integration.

Refocus on information architecture

The emergence of data, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly reshaping organizations’ core business models. To keep pace with digital business, EA must recognize and elevate the importance of information architecture. By 2023, 65% of EA programs will refocus on information architecture, making it central to all digitalization initiatives. 

The ability to effectively understand and model a wide range of information sources will be critical for EA to enable adaptive and information-driven business models. Help business leaders drive competition and profitability by linking all business efforts to information architecture.

Develop a clear model that showcases the business ecosystem, its dynamics, and the creation and sharing of information. Work with domain experts across IT to ensure that the underlying technology platform is ready to manage and manipulate information in its various forms.

Read more: 5 Talents Needed for a Successful Enterprise Architecture Team

Lead digital innovation

The ongoing shift toward an internal management consultancy role uniquely positions the enterprise architect to be an innovation leader for the organization. EA leaders understand business and IT capabilities and can improve communication and collaboration across silos. By 2023, 60% of organizations will depend on EA’s role to lead the business approach to digital innovation. 

EA can also bridge innovation and operations. To drive and operationalize innovation, help plan, design and orchestrate the move of an innovation into the operating model. Then feed the realities of the operating model back into the innovation process.

Finally, enterprise architects must identify ways to balance stakeholder perspectives so that everyone stays laser-focused on achieving the organization’s targeted business outcomes. This places EA at the heart of innovation, providing key services and ensuring that it is successfully executed.

Leverage intelligent tools

As the practice of EA evolves, so will its toolset. By 2023, 60% of EA tools will be intelligent. Future EA tools will support customer experience, product design, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and more.

The EA toolkit will be part of a broader ecosystem of tools that the organization uses. For example, it may link to IT service management (ITSM), portfolio and product management, and strategy and planning tools. This will be a complex ecosystem of tools, models and information that raises the importance of AI to help navigate, reveal and provide additional insights.

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