From the Field: What Is the Future of Enterprise Architecture?

30 Jan 2024

by Will Chapman

If you ask us, the future of Enterprise Architecture is a bright one, full of untapped potential and incredible value that will power the successful digital organizations of tomorrow. However, we also wanted to get some insight into the current and potential future state of EA from highly experienced practitioners in the field like Will Chapman

Will has over 20 years of global experience in leading digital transformations, strategic ICT planning, and proficient execution across technology-driven business operations and Professional Service sectors. The founder and director of Willtures, he is a passionate believer in the value the technology brings to organizations.

I watched the original Lethal Weapon the other day and was amused when Danny Glover’s character was seen using one of the first mobile phones, which looked like a brick connected to a small briefcase with a giant antenna.

The scene really brought home how far mobile phone technology has come since then. The phones we all take for granted today may have well-been concepts from Star Trek back then. 

The same could be said with how businesses today operate. Around the same time as brick-sized mobile phones, there was still this concept of a “typing pool”, where all the company communications, from intra and inter-company memos to letters and notes, were created.  A lot of movies of that era also reference this function, such as Working Girl, 9 to 5, and The Secret of My Success. People in the early Eighties couldn’t even dream of a world where they would be doing this activity for themselves. But then technology evolved, and along came the birth of “email.”

Email revolutionized how businesses operated and what was expected of individuals working there. Suddenly, everyone could and was expected to do their own “intra and inter-company memos, letters, and notes,” and it soon became second nature. It’s become such an integral and natural part of so many roles now that it has disappeared from job specifications, simply taken for granted as an expected capability.

What's Driving the Businesses of Tomorrow?

So, what if we jumped forward 20 years from now? What current business operational function could form part of everyone’s expected job specification, so much so that it actually isn’t even mentioned? 

I believe one of these is “organizational relationship and dependency mapping,” or the understanding of how different teams, individuals, and systems interact within an organization. The digitization of nearly everything has meant interconnectivity is getting more and more complex, and determining interdependencies is only going to get more difficult without intervention. However, this information is absolutely required for operational efficiency and collaboration. Things will inevitably start to fall apart without this information. 

But things are always changing and at a rapid pace, so how can organizations maintain a relevant and up-to-date overview?

Automation alone can’t cover everything. What organizations really need is the ability to hold individuals and teams responsible for their own areas. How to achieve this is the big question we really need to consider, and in many ways, businesses are beginning to try and tackle this under the guise of different systems and processes.

two people discussing the future of enterprise architecture

How Organizations Today Are Tracking and Mapping Interdependencies

Here are some activities and tracking that are currently happening to address this need: 

  • Logging every time a system is accessed
  • Logging every time something is done on a system
  • Recording and storing an activity or action and how it was done
  • Documenting a project and its impacts, storing that documentation for future reference 
  • Documenting and storing information from meeting requests, video conferences, and minutes, whether it be for strategic or operational activities
  • Logging and documenting every procedure document, help desk request, team standup, marketing asset, and collaboration session, including those for knowledge sharing or feedback

The list could go on, but the essence is that these actions are part of you knowing what you need to do your job, what systems to use, and who to talk to for help. Most importantly, you should know why you need to do all these things as part of your job. By doing all these things, you’re already carrying out “organizational relationship and dependency mapping”. The key difference is that the data is unstructured, not being collated, and probably not being re-used efficiently (if at all). 

The people who are trying to change how unstructured and inefficient this all is are your Enterprise Architects. Twenty years ago, these highly skilled and very expensive resources started to gain more prominence as companies became more complex. But today, Enterprise Architects are struggling to keep pace with the amount of data and rapid rate of change that is occurring.

This is where progressive EA tools like Ardoq come in. They try to address this big challenge of effectively crowdsourcing data in a structured way with their Surveys functionality, enabling business users and technology owners to update or fill in the missing pieces in the map. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as it becomes more and more mainstream. How these interactions will work and look in the future is something I’m not sure of yet. The one thing I am confident in is it will only be a matter of when not if.

The Real Value of Enterprise Architects 

You may think this sounds like the role of an Enterprise Architect is doomed and becoming redundant. Absolutely not! EAs provide vital strategic views of an organization that focuses on the alignment of all the various business capabilities, functions, and technology to achieve business goals. The important change moving forward is that the data EAs consume will not need to be painstakingly and manually created by them, as it will be created by everyone across the organization. This crowdsourcing of data will allow EAs to focus on what they do best, thus actually increasing their value. 

So, what will this mysterious future look like? Well, imagine large organizations with multiple departments all working together in synergy and collaboratively. Information is shared and reused more easily, meaning past challenges turn into future opportunities. The organization will be able to adapt to change quickly, making operations better, faster and more sustainable. Enterprise Architecture isn’t a mysterious dark art, but rather a guiding principle bringing everyone together, improving alignment, innovation, and speed to deliver.

This may sound like a pipe dream, especially in highly complex, large, multi-national organizations. But like the advanced mobile phones of today, the EA technology and function of the future are more than just the limits of our imagination and current ways of working. It will challenge how we work and how organizations function, just like “email” shook the world of Michael J Fox’s character in “The Secret of My Success,” having to type his own letters. 

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Will Chapman Will Chapman Will has over 20 years of global experience in leading digital transformations, strategic ICT planning, and proficient execution across technology-driven business operations and Professional Service sectors. The founder and director of Willtures, he is a passionate believer in the value the technology brings to organizations.
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