First, I was struck by the realization that what we consider “long-term” is not measured in decades anymore. Let that sink in for a few seconds. 2020 is not even six years away. I think what this question conveys is the acceptance of the new reality, in which the time horizon for reliable predictions has shrunk considerably. After all, iPhone was born only in 2007 and Twitter in 2006. Not too long ago we were celebrating the dawn of digital point-and-shoot cameras and now they are obsolete. Things are changing and they are changing at the ever-increasing pace. Predicting future, and thus planning, is becoming rather difficult. Now multiply that by the level of complexity associated with a typical large enterprise and the emerging picture is overwhelming if not downright scary.
What does it mean for the practice of enterprise architecture? Given my previous statements, I am very skeptical about my or anyone’s ability to predict what the future holds even if it is only six years out. However, I have some thoughts about what the practice of EA should look like in 2020 to remain relevant.
In 2020, the enterprise architecture function is driven from the business side of an enterprise rather than from the IT side. In practical terms it may mean that the EA organization reports to a CEO or CFO rather than to a CIO or CTO. This is not typical for most organizations today and it is at least partially responsible for enterprise architecture’s excessive focus on technology.
In 2020, Enterprise Architects are well versed in the language of business yet conversant in IT “dialects”. They have business as well as technology training and experience. This means that at least some architects come from the ranks of business rather than from the ranks of technologists. In either case, they are able to translate business concerns to technology concerns and vice versa.
In 2020, business architecture gains more prominence as an indispensable component of enterprise architecture. In fact, it assumes the role of the driving force for other architecture domains. Business architecture has a synergistic relationship with the Business Process Management (BPM) discipline and the two are largely indistinguishable, especially in the area of planning and modeling.
In 2020, Enterprise Architects don’t talk much about architecture frameworks. Instead, the main topic of conversation is the business value. Frameworks are still there but serve only as a reference and are used only to the extent that they contribute to more efficient operation of the enterprise architecture practice. They provide structure and guidance when setting up the practice but as the practice matures they fade away from the enterprise architecture vernacular. Consequently, enterprise architecture certifications lose their momentum as they emphasize the framework-centric knowledge.
In 2020, the primary role of Enterprise Architects is to advise and orchestrate. They analyze how market, social, and technology influencers affect the business. They look at influencers and advise on business opportunities that those influencers create. They also look at those influencers and advise on how to mitigate the risks that they may pose.
Enterprise Architects and business are partners in formulation of enterprise strategy. They develop strategic options, and advise on selecting the best one. The options are not just technology-centric. Instead, they include orchestrated application of process, people, and technology. More so than before, the orchestration involves mediation between internally sourced services and those provided by external partners.
In 2020, execution of enterprise strategy is monitored and facilitated through efficient management of project portfolio, which continually takes the architecture description of the current and target states as input. Enterprise architecture practice ensures that the architecture target state is accurate and known at any given point in time. Alignment with architecture targets is facilitated through architecture governance, which is integrated with both ideation and solution delivery processes.
In 2020, enterprise architecture is a recognized profession. There is a well-known, common set of knowledge and a common set of skills that can be expected from a person called an Enterprise Architect. There are no more calls from recruiters seeking to hire Enterprise Architects with “strong C# and Java skills” ( I actually received calls like that). Clarity around what Enterprise Architects do allows definition of career paths leading into and out of Enterprise Architect role.
Like I said, I don’t really know where the discipline of enterprise architecture will be in 2020. Predictions can be tricky and generalizations can be dangerous. I suspect that at least some of the thoughts expressed in this article may prove to be rather aspirational. Enterprise architecture must focus on enabling business value and as such must be tailored to individual business needs. This alone may mean that enterprise architecture will have many shapes and forms in the future. I hope that at least the core of what it is will be normalized and have some resemblance to what I described above.
I’m sure you have your own opinions about the state of enterprise architecture in 2020. Will it thrive or will it be diminished? Will it still be heavy on technology or will it focus more on business? Will it be a separate discipline or will it
blend with others? Please, share your thoughts.