Enterprise Architects ... strucking the nerve!
Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Peter H. Riedel / Issue Manager and interim Enterprise Architect
A widespread opinion in many companies: the enterprise architect sits (alone) in his ivory tower. He imagines a colourful future and thus moves away from any operational reality.
We are often involved in projects as "Head of Global Enterprise Architecture" and cannot confirm this prejudice. On the contrary, we repeatedly find that companies that have their IT architecture under control have significantly fewer difficulties in projects relating to digital transformation. It is precisely the multitude of internal platforms and systems that turn every new project into digital handicraft work. Especially when it comes to harmonizing the numerous interfaces and reducing them to a common denominator. Only by networking all systems via appropriately adapted interfaces can central services be efficiently reused and, in addition to agility, data quality be significantly improved.
A recently published study "Themes of successful platform transformation" by McKinsey in cooperation with Henley Business School comes to the following interesting conclusion: All relevant key figures improve over the short to medium term if companies implement their digital transformation projects on the basis of a well thought-out and consistently implemented enterprise architecture. From the authors' point of view, tools can be relied on very little: There are many of them, but none of them make a significant contribution to the implementation.
Important and easier to implement for interim managers: Internal communication without a muzzle!.
What is remarkable for us is the realization from all projects that the most successful approaches have always been those in which all participants from IT and business departments talk to each other. Together, not one above the other in externally organized workshops and studies! There must be no muzzle. Instead, all problems must be brought to the table transparently and detached from hierarchical structures. The information architecture is the basis of every successful company and therefore internally significant. Every company should take the helm in managing its complex enterprise architecture. Critical to success is also the satisfaction of the specialist and IT managers within the company. An open approach to critical issues plays a decisive role in this. The interim architect ensures transparency at the highest decision-making level in the short term to enable timely decisions for an architecture that is sustainable in the long term.
More and more interim specialists with a mixture of a profound IT background and business management superstructure are successfully deployed in these complex projects. These holistic managers are happy to join us on an interim (=quickly) basis, especially when building a correspondingly sustainable architecture, in order to clarify the necessary requirements and concepts internally at short notice. Often already in the environment of already decided transformation projects. It is not uncommon for our "Issue Manager" to act for 12-18 months until the first milestones are reached. At the same time, a professional personnel search is initiated to find the right enterprise architect for the long-term filling of this responsible position.
Enterprise architecture as a driver of agile, scalable change!
As experience shows, companies with a digital transformation create numerous point-to-point connections, applications and corresponding interfaces. As a consequence, this also leads to high integration efforts and correspondingly high costs. With a functioning enterprise architecture, these challenges can be mastered or controlled. With the increase in the number of services used, the reuse of existing modules and building blocks (services) increases in the ideal case. The company can grow with its challenges. The increasing scaling in connection with a "living" architecture leads to a high agility in every dynamic market environment.
Key to success: Focus on the customer and the courage to do without!
For decades, the hallmark of successful companies has been the knowledge of their own customers and suppliers. For a digital transformation, this means that customers and suppliers must always be regarded as the starting and end points of all digital processes. The roadmap of a transformation must take care of the customer's journey through the network of digital processes in the company (so-called "customer journey"). When designing an enterprise architecture, the customer perspective is also relevant for success, i.e. the architect must know the processes and needs of both customers and suppliers and take the corresponding systems into account. What interfaces and standards are there? How can digital processes use existing data without manual intervention? The answer to these questions is critical for success, especially when migrating existing systems. Which is why Enterprise Architects also like to question processes "backwards" from the customer's first contact.
All companies have historically grown a number of more or less current "legacy systems" for day-to-day business. The integration of these systems is also part of a comprehensive enterprise architecture. The individual lifespan of these systems should also be taken into account and the responsible architect should boldly plan the consistent replacement of old systems with modern solutions. Using discontinued systems beyond their lifetime does not only cost time and money. It also creates "digital loads" for every IT architecture of the future. The necessary modernizations in the code often lead to interdependencies, which make new projects necessary with every new release for one of the systems and platforms involved. We usually advise against life-supporting and usually complex (= expensive) measures. Instead, we recommend thinking around the corner. It might make more sense to jump to the next but one generation within the framework of the project that is coming up anyway.
A highly qualified Enterprise Architect is required here as well. Extensive architectural skills are required to develop a suitable concept for a balanced, digital IT architecture.
What should the Enterprise Architect bring along?
He must be able to argue at eye level with IT specialists, business departments and managers and must not be afraid of controversy and uncomfortable truths. In addition to an education in the field of information technology, he should also have practical experience from the financial sector and the structure of large organizations. Above all, the "soft factors" are decisive: Is the person confident enough to think laterally and ask the right questions?
An enterprise architect questions many things. He always asks why in order to understand the benefits for customers and the organization. The questions range from the speed of decision-making processes to complexities in information processing to the strategic goals and values of the company. Empathy and emotional intelligence are more important than technical expertise ...