Wanted: opportunity architect

How can enterprise architects survive digital transformation?

While digital transformation is of vital importance for companies and is clearly a boardroom concern, enterprise architects are having a hard time using their skills to digitally transform their company into a nimble, quick and agile one. The white paper “From Enterprise Architect to Opportunity Architect” outlines a number of findings from 13 case studies of companies in Belgium: there are opportunities for enterprise architects who can get to grips with and understand the customer journey.

The move to digital transformation presents challenges for many enterprise architects: while they may have the analytical and IT skills, they have sometimes lacked the ability required to rethink and redesign the business processes and information assets needed to transform the business. Enterprise architects find themselves therefore at a crossroads: they can either take a leading role and support their organisations in this new journey, or find themselves relegated to fine-tuning the legacy IT systems.

More ‘pragmatic EA’

Together with our Prime Foundation Partner LoQutus, the Vlerick Centre for Excellence in Enterprise Architecture Management dived into 13 case studies of Belgian companies in order to assess the current role of enterprise architects in a digital transformation project. Bjorn Cumps, Professor of Management Practice, draws a number of conclusions: “While enterprise architects tend to be responsible at the start of digital transformation projects, any involvement in the later stages is rather limited to a gatekeeping function. The research also suggests that the trend towards a more ‘pragmatic EA’, as identified in our research project of 2013, continues, with the gradual acceptance of semi-formal methods of development, in which architects create more useful and easier-to-understand EA models. And thirdly, bimodal IT – a concept defined by Gartner as the practice of managing two separate but coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility – continues to be a major challenge for EAs: while they are generally well acquainted with the organisation’s legacy systems, they do struggle to define their role in dealing with exploratory and agile front-facing IT systems that deal with customer needs.”

Bjorn Cumps, Professor of Management Practice: “The trend towards a more ‘pragmatic EA’ continues, with the gradual acceptance of semi-formal methods of development.”

Bi-modal IT

Dr Wesley Bille, Unit manager Digital Transformation at LoQutus, is not really surprised with these conclusions: “We encounter many of these problems in the organisations we help to digitally transform. It is of course interesting to have a confirmation of the fact within a broader range of companies, but equally important that our architects are fully equipped to handle a bi-modal IT environment. This means looking outside the company and taking on board all the stakeholders, from the employees right the way through to the customer. This means mapping out the customer journey and being completely customer-centric when working on the IT architecture to digital transform a business.”

Dr Wesley Bille, Unit manager Digital Transformation at LoQutus: “It is important that our architects are fully equipped to handle a bi-modal IT environment.”

The research work concludes by suggesting there is a real opportunity for this role to thrive in the digital environment by translating the business opportunity into a new business process and technology that follows the customer journey more closely.

Download the white paper “From Enterprise Architect to Opportunity Architect

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