Digital thinking redefines enterprise architecture

Four ways enterprise architecture is adapting to the new realities of the digital enterprise.

It used to be that enterprise architecture was about designing and planning systems meant to improve internal business processes. Now, the digital economy thrusts enterprise architects into business leadership roles. That's a good thing, since business leaders need their expertise and guidance to advance into this new world.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the word from Andrew Doble and Danny Weinberger, both with CSC. In a new post, they describe the ways EAs need to change to adapt to emerging digital realities.

Rethink mapping and reporting. EAs map the relationships between existing processes, applications and infrastructure. However, in a digital realm, such mappings "make little sense," Doble and Weinberger write. "Instead these are replaced with small-grained mobile apps, microservices, APIs, business processes that extend across enterprise boundaries as well as infrastructure and software that are rented from external cloud providers 'as a service.'"

Embrace outside-in. The golden rule of EA is "business drives IT decisions." However, Doble and Weinberger suggest that enterprise architects need to be part of this business decision-making process, to become more "proactive in saying how technology can improve business." EA can no longer take a back seat to the business -- it will need to help lead it, providing direction in the identification and selection of appropriate business technologies, be they from external providers or companies' own data centers.

Look across boundaries. Not only do enterprise architects need to bring together solutions that range across all business units and departments, but they also need to look outside the enterprise. Today's digital environments no longer recognize the boundaries between enterprises.

Focus on the customer. Ultimately, it's all about the customer -- the external customer who buys the firm's goods and services. "Traditionally, EA functions have been concerned with internal processes," Doble and Weinberger state. "EA needs to start looking at how the customer interacts with the enterprise. It needs to identify how this can be improved though new technology, automation or process reengineering and also through using new techniques such as customer journey modeling and design-thinking approaches."