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‘People are often under the impression that agility excludes enterprise architecture', says Senior Principal, Ivo Weterings. In this piece Ivo explains the roles both agility and enterprise architecture play in today's rapidly changing world.

There has always been a healthy tension between agile teams and the enterprise architecture. Rightfully so, says Senior Principal Ivo Weterings. People are often under the impression that agility excludes enterprise architecture,

‘In today’s rapidly changing world where reaction is as (if not more) important than action, being agile is the new norm. One of the key – if not, the key – characteristics of an agile organization is its ability to react, adapt and, if necessary, transform dramatically to adjust to a new reality within the blink of an eye. That’s why ‘agile’ and ‘short-term vision’ are often mentioned in the same sentence. This, on the other hand, can’t be said for traditional enterprise architecture, which is often depicted as a solid, structured, long-term framework.
 
Consequently, enterprise architects these days often feel underestimated and undervalued. They worry: ’Do we still have a role to play? Have we become redundant? Do we still contribute to the organization?’ The fact that agile teams – anchored by liquid workforces – are increasingly under the impression that, more than anything else, enterprise architecture hinders them and their as-soon-as-possible deadlines, it comes as no surprise that enterprise architects would be deemed as insufficiently agile for this day and age.

Is it true: ‘Is it game over for enterprise architecture?

Absolutely not. I would even take it one step further and claim that, especially now, solid enterprise architects are needed more than ever. However, their role has somewhat changed; or rather, they need to define certain roles more openly. The roles mentioned below are definitely not ‘new’, but have certainly become more prominent over the last few years:

Enterprise Architecture: 3 new roles that are not new at all

  1. The Innovator
    ​This is the advanced architect who knows all the ins and outs of state-of-the-art technology and is constantly on the lookout for new innovations. He or she will not only tell you what’s becoming obsolete soon, but also what will be on the chopping block next… and after that.
     
  2. Enabler
    ​Agile teams are often fragmented. After all, that’s what allows them to be agile. However, fragmentation needs supervision in order to enable and facilitate the bigger, non-dispersed and non-negotiable picture. It’s the team, as a whole, that ensures all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.​​
     
  3. Integrator
    ​Speaking of puzzles: there’s not only a great need for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit, but also to operate together smoothly. It’s the team that keeps the holistic view, connects all platforms and ensures all various landscapes are integrated within the bigger ecosystem by utilizing typical architectural tools. This team ultimately decides whether a project is done, or not (yet).   

What enterprise architects need to know

‘To perform in this fast-moving, agile world, architects clearly need to step it up. They need to shift their focus onto tangible results; their number one goal is to keep the IT landscape accessible and agile, while keeping costs affordable. In this day and age, results far outweigh architectural aesthetics.’
‘Another point to bear in mind is that architecture might not be necessary all the time; it should only be created when the need for guidance is essential. An architecture asset without users, or one that’s not usable, is pointless architecture – and, thus, a waste of valuable time, money and effort. The focus should be on a limited set of non-negotiables, instead of extensive nice-to-haves. ‘Provide direction, not solutions’ should be the motto when the aim is to match the level of detail to the purpose (Minimum Viable Architecture). All in all, enterprise architecture has become as much a marketing discipline as an engineering discipline.’

So the answer remains: ‘More than ever’

‘Organizations that are under the impression that it is game over for enterprise architecture in the digital revolution, couldn’t be more wrong. Any organization needs flexible agility and the solid framework of enterprise architecture to co-exist, especially when a bump in in the road turns into a pothole. Of course, architects should by no means rest on their laurels; the onus is still on them to keep up with the times. They need to adapt more in their old, new roles where innovating, integrating, enabling, facilitating, regulating and supervising have become key elements’.

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