Digital platforms emerging as a critical business building block – Gartner

Gartner says that by 2018, half of EA business architecture initiatives will focus on defining and enabling digital business platform strategies

Digital business platform strategies

'EA practitioners must focus their business architecture efforts on defining their business strategy, which includes outlining their digital business platform's strategy, particularly relative to a platform business model'

By 2018, half of enterprise architecture (EA) business architecture initiatives will focus on defining and enabling digital business platform strategies, according to Gartner, Inc.

“We’ve always said that business architecture is a required and integral part of EA efforts,” said Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “The increasing focus of EA practitioners and CIOs on their business ecosystems will drive organisations further toward supporting and integrating business architecture. This is to ensure that investments support a business ecosystem strategy that involves customers, partners, organisations and technology.”

The results of Gartner’s annual global CIO survey support this development. The responses show that, of CIOs in organisations participating in a digital ecosystem (n = 841), on average, the number of ecosystem partners they had two years ago was 22.

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Today, it is 42, and two years from now, Gartner estimates that it will have risen to 86. In other words, CIOs in organisations participating in a digital ecosystem are seeing, and expecting to see, their digital ecosystem partners increase by approximately 100% every two years.

“EA practitioners must focus their business architecture efforts on defining their business strategy, which includes outlining their digital business platform’s strategy*, particularly relative to a platform business model,” added Burton.

In addition, EA practitioners will increasingly focus on the business and technology opportunities and challenges by integrating with another organisations’ digital platforms and/or by defining their own innovative digital platforms.

Design-driven architecture is essential to build and evolve platform ecosystems

Digital innovation continues to transform itself, and EA needs to continuously evolve to keep pace with digital.

Building on the base of business-outcome-driven EA, which emphasises the business and the execution of the business, enterprise architects are increasingly focusing on the design side of architecture — which is at the forefront of digital innovation.

Gartner predicts that by 2018, 40% of enterprise architects will focus on design-driven architecture. “It allows organisations to understand the ecosystem and its actors, gaining insight into them and their behaviour and developing and evolving the services they need,” said Marcus Blosch, research vice president at Gartner.

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“Many leading platform companies, such as Airbnb and Dropbox, use design-driven approaches such as ‘design thinking’ to build and evolve their platforms. Going forward, design-driven and business-outcome-driven approaches are set to define leading EA practice.”

However, the move to design-driven architecture has implications for people, tools and services. “We recommend that enterprise architects develop the design knowledge, skills and competencies of the EA team,” concluded Blosch.

“They also need to educate the business on design-driven architecture and identify an area where they can start with a design-driven architect, to not only develop innovation but also to learn, as an organisation, how to do design.”

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