Enterprise architecture: a tool for business recovery?

Forrester has just launched its latest report which evaluates “The 12 Providers That Matter Most” in the EAMS market for Q1 2021, giving organisations an enterprise architecture (EA) playbook. Designed to help enterprise architecture professionals select the right vendor for their needs, the report comes at a time when organisations are increasingly adopting the use of enterprise architecture to make strategic and informed decisions.

In fact, according to Gartner, 76% of organisations are either starting, restarting, or renewing their enterprise architecture practices. No doubt, there has been an acceleration of the adoption of enterprise architecture in recent times, but why exactly is this?

Responding to Covid-19

In its simplest terms, enterprise architecture is the process of aligning a business’s strategic vision with its information technology. It connects different business units for synergistic communication and collaboration, creating a more seamless customer (or end-user) experience. The reality is that while the discipline is relatively new, the activities involved have always been an important part of business planning. Yet the ongoing need to digitally transform and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic is bringing new meaning to why and how businesses perform it.

In regard to the pandemic, businesses had to suddenly grapple with the question of how they would continue to deliver with 60-90% of staff now decentralised. This created a domino effect of challenges as firms re-imagined their normal processes entirely in a cloud-based, remote environment. With new concerns appearing over data security, legislation and regulatory obligations, the disruption marked a defining moment for businesses and their ability to be agile in times of change.

Yet it also marked a defining moment for the potential of enterprise architecture practices. By being uniquely positioned to understand the landscape across people, processes, information and technology, they can provide visualisations that illustrate how strategic choices translate to impacts across these dimensions. This helps decision makers identify and weigh the risks that might arise from their choices. When faced head on with the drastic and irreversible effects of the pandemic, enterprise architects were able to guide business leaders to help them understand the impacts and deliver changes that realise strategic objectives within the current and future landscape. And it’ll be this focus on building adaptability and resilience that will continue to drive business recovery.

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Digital transformation

From entirely new ways of working, permanent shifts in customer behaviour and operational networks, the world beyond the crisis is set to look drastically different. To emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position, organisations will need to directly address the vulnerabilities the pandemic has exposed. For instance, people may continue to be adverse to gathering in large groups, ecommerce is unlikely to lose the gains it has obtained during multiple lockdowns, and of course, businesses globally have realised the benefits that the work from home model brings. These emerging trends will significantly alter the roadmap ahead, but more importantly, it’ll accelerate the exploration of new digital tools.

A recent McKinsey report shows that nearly all organisations, whether traditional companies or startups are re-orienting their business models to be more digital as a direct result of the impact Covid-19 has had on changing consumer behaviours, and many of these changes will outlive the current landscape. As we delve into this virtual world, we must prepare and ask ourselves, could parts of hospitality and tourism be replaced by VR? Will business meetings make use of holographic technology for a blended experience? Will self-driving or delivery drones spearhead the future of retail?

No matter what the future holds, enterprise architecture can facilitate a successful digital transformation strategy by managing and reducing technological complexity and setting a course for the development of their companies’ IT landscape. Within an organisation, they can help to establish rules for and processes around technology usage to ensure consistency across business units and functions. As such, this group can help the senior leadership team redesign their companies’ business and IT architectures so that they can avoid any pitfalls and compete more effectively in a digital era.

In a world in which digital channels are becoming the foremost (and, in some instances, sole) customer-engagement model, it’s also important companies can ensure the customer experience is one that is agile, flexible and transparent. By working with product teams and business stakeholders to model and map customer journeys, enterprise architects can consolidate data from other sources to build a picture of where customer experiences can be improved using technology or through process changes, thus making this digital transition seamless and streamlined.

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Looking beyond the pandemic

The pandemic has provided a sneak peek into the future, one in which digital capabilities have become integral to every interaction, forcing both individuals and organisations further up the adoption curve. If a silver lining can be found, it’s perhaps the falling barriers to experimentation that have emerged amongst organisations, as companies learn to quickly pivot like never before.

It’s clear that the use and adoption of enterprise architecture has accelerated rapidly because of this – propelled even further by the need to digitally transform in order to cope with the fall out. How organisations learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, by taking advantage of enterprise architecture for increased resilience and agility, will deeply influence their performance within tomorrow’s world.

Written by Hayden Eastwood, CEO of Orbus Software

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