Key Traits of Tomorrow’s Enterprise Architect

Enterprise architects are making major waves. In fact, a recent KPMG study spotlighted enterprise architecture (EA) as today’s most in-demand tech skill, as companies recognize EA’s critical role in cutting both costs and complexities.

But while enterprise architecture is one of the fastest-growing skillsets, it’s also undergoing a major evolution. Where the role previously involved exhaustive plans consisting of excessive amounts of analysis, slow timelines, and rigid conceptual models, the agility and DevOps movement has forced old EA mentalities into obsolescence.

In the age of digital transformation, five key traits will define the most successful enterprise architects of tomorrow, enabling critical innovation and long-term success.

Execution Over Information

Enterprise architects of the past invested a disproportionate amount of time documenting information and collecting hordes of data to generate 5-year plans, but progressive enterprise architects prioritize execution over information. The most successful enterprise architects quickly grasp, structure, and analyze information to solve imminent challenges, with a focus on continuous assessment of systems and processes.

Helvetia, one of the largest insurance companies in Switzerland, serves as an example. The 150-year-old brand spans six European countries, with 7,000 employees and more than 4.7 million customers. Following a major merger, the company needed to update its architecture framework in order to combine IT departments and provide support for the integration of all business processes.

Working closely with the CIO, the enterprise architects mapped out an IT management system. Brief, frequent workshops were hosted to capture valuable feedback, and short data sprints allowed for continuous process improvements and faster results. The execution-focused approach drove faster start times for IT projects and identified a million-euro deficit caused by IT redundancy.

Agile Minded

Agility has become a key characteristic of top-performing enterprise architects. Implementing enterprisewide agile methodologies can drastically speed up software deployment timelines. In fact, high performing organizations deploy code to production 46 times more frequently than their low-performing peers. Innovative companies such as Etsy report deploying 80 times per day, and engineers at companies such as Amazon deploy code every 11.7 seconds, on average, while Netflix reports deploying thousands of times per day.

Taking a project management mindset, enterprise architects can actively map out frameworks that foster high project deliverable rates, generate quick results, and produce reliable, business-critical data while respecting all the important requirements such as security, data privacy, and compliance.

For example, enterprise architecture—similar to software development—can greatly benefit from implementation of a scrum framework, in which teams create a product backlog and then implement the list in sprints, with a daily scrum to assess progress and regular retrospectives at the end of each sprint. Where the traditional enterprise architecture processes took months or even years, scrum sprints create “shippable” work in 2–4 weeks and provide continuous feedback loops, increasing productivity and accelerating time to market, while allowing for realignment of targets as priorities shift.

Tech-Savvy

The enterprise architect of the future must be up-to-speed on the latest industry trends and emerging database technologies and understand the impact of proposed services on the organization as a whole. While enterprise architects of the past would have nominally researched possible solutions before handing it off to the appropriate team, enterprise architects of tomorrow are in close and continuous contact with CIOs, CDOs, application leaders, and IT teams, educating themselves on the technical mechanics of projects across the business.

Enterprise architects of the future understand the importance of staying abreast of DevOps, emerging applications, and trends that could save the company time and money and create new opportunities. For example, companies often run into trouble when they are unable to scale monolithic architecture, if their architecture is difficult to upgrade, or when maintenance becomes too complex. Enterprise architects must offer clear-cut advice on—and implement beneficial frameworks for—solutions such as microservices, which can break down complex tasks into smaller processes that work independently of each other.

Data-Driven

All decisions that enterprise architects of tomorrow make must be based on data in order to ensure a focus on the most impactful tasks and improve competitive advantage. High-performing enterprise architects are on top of up-to-date analytics, prove hypotheses with data, regularly A/B test the practicality of current systems, and make decisions only from admissible data. We live in the age of an overabundance of data. With direct access to a variety of expert tools that constantly generate a flood of information, the real task for enterprise architects becomes the determination of which data is useful and using it in a meaningful way.

For example, in many companies, customer support is often plagued by backlogged tickets, lost communications, neglected issues, slow response times, and disorganized files. Zendesk revolutionized customer service by streamlining communication formats, bundling all customer communications in one place, and providing in-depth analytics to better understand and predict customer satisfaction, measure performance, and uncover actionable insights. Data from tools such as Zendesk directly enable enterprise architects to make data-driven decisions, resulting in measurable improvements in the business strategy.

Evangelistic

Whereas enterprise architects of the past were seen as data collectors, creating far-flung models for various project teams, enterprise architects of the future must be comfortable with constant application changes—and be able to convince teams to test out new processes. Unproductive enterprise architects are notorious for amassing silos of scarcely useful data that lack real applicable business reference and consequently proposing abstract directives from the secluded comfort of their ivory towers. Evangelistic enterprise architects pick one important topic that would greatly benefit the company and zealously advocate the particular cause.

Take IoT—Gartner predicts that by 2022, IoT-enabled service models could save a trillion dollars a year in maintenance and service costs. Forward-thinking enterprise architects are researching IoT technologies and developing a deep understanding of the business impacts, providing internal teams and IT leaders with more than just a list of “cool” technology ideas.

When it comes to enterprise architecture, it’s time to end the tunnel vision on long-term plans and conceptual processes. Enterprise architects of the future architect the enterprise framework as a problem-solving tool to drive digital transformation. By adopting a data-driven, agile-minded, and forward-thinking approach, enterprise architects will drive increasing value and continue to be one of the most sought-
after skillsets in business today.



Newsletters

Subscribe to Big Data Quarterly E-Edition