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Creation of an agile enterprise architecture

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Digital transformation, business agility and enterprise architecture are frequently heard terms in an age of digital technologies and rapid change. The ownership of digitized applications, solutions and processes has enabled organizations to increase their efficiency. In turn, this allows them to respond to changing customer needs and trends in a more flexible and agile manner.

Digital transformation, increased mobility and a remote workforce have created a shift in the business model paradigm. The adoption of a more agile approach has gained momentum and companies that integrate agility into their processes are seeing the fruits. The results are increased productivity, faster time to market (TTM) and increased consumer satisfaction.

The culture of agility

Digital transformation succeeds in a business environment that adopts a more collaborative and flexible philosophy. Moving from simply implementing agile business processes to agility at all levels requires a change in the mindset of the company. When a business develops a truly agile architecture, everyone in the business is involved in delivering solutions; from business operations and technology to marketing, finance, compliance and security. The agile culture shifts from a culture focused on the enterprise to one that is focused on people or the customer, embracing the principles of collaboration, co-creation, ownership, flexibility and communication.

Short-term cycles and fluid planning

Agility redefines the enterprise architecture from the traditional pattern of centralized governance, long development cycles, scheduled quarterly reviews, and the use of a waterfall delivery method. Instead of long-term operational and strategic plans, agile enterprise architecture involves short-term cycles and fluid customer- and market-centric planning. The language moves from top-down mandates and project management to ongoing product development, experimentation, testing and monitoring in collaborative product teams.

Essential elements to build your agile enterprise architecture

The model of a truly agile architecture requires fundamental changes in the dynamics of the business. There are three essential elements that stand out as requirements for achieving agility across the business.

  • CollaborationThe foundation for successful enterprise-wide agility is collaboration. Innovation will flourish when it is decentralized, and isolated silos give way to cross-functional, agile and self-organized teams. An isolated IT team leads to delayed projects, budget overruns, productivity that is difficult to measure, and disconnections between business and operations. Every department should be involved in supporting and achieving key business goals.

Teams of a mix of industry and IT professionals accelerate development and delivery, dramatically reducing time to market. Based on a shared customer-centric purpose and vision, there is shared ownership of results and a deeper level of engagement across the business. Daily communication and collaborative feedback nurture creativity, problem solving, and promote continued integration and development. Collaboration with colleagues, inside and outside the organization, is essential for enterprise, technology and solution architects.

  • Current state mappingAdopting agile principles and practices across an organization results in potentially massive change. Without a clear roadmap to navigate the process, a business can flounder. Instead of achieving lighter simplicity, there is increased complexity and blurred vision. Before a business can successfully adopt an agile architecture, the current state of operations must be fully understood. Essentially, a blueprint for functionality, capabilities, applications, and the technology stack needs to be developed. Everything from the data catalog to business process workflows must be mapped. Business leaders can ask the following questions to analyze the current state and assess impact points:
  • Which projects should we prioritize and what capacities will they need?
  • Which processes are based on which software applications?
  • If we remove one or two apps, what impact will that have on the processes?

With the current state plan mapped out, a business can work in a structured way to create the future state of their architecture with ease and at their own pace.

  • Balancing Agile Transformation with Daily OperationsContinuing to work with some of the current architecture for a while can allow the highest level of the organization to easily embrace the agile mindset and culture. In the iterative process of developing an agile architecture, architects, executives and technology leaders will need to strike a balance between transforming initiatives and effectively sustaining day-to-day operations. They will need to discern how much focus is needed from the support and how much they will set the pace.

If the focus is first on delivering value to customers, then the architecture will be prioritized based on the most critical projects, capabilities and applications. An agile architecture will take a “just enough” approach to project design and delivery.

Agile architecture optimizes collaboration

Enterprise agility facilitates more direct communication and engagement of enterprise architects within cross-functional teams. Through daily discussions and various touchpoints, architects can provide guidance, advice and feedback on IT decisions and help teams jointly own solutions.

By working together, enterprise and solution architects can develop a complete view of the IT landscape and how it will need to be changed to accommodate future needs; minimize waste and optimize resources. Solution architects can view the architectural map of all applications, solutions, and systems and collaborate on improvements. They can also help enterprise architects advance standardization across the enterprise. This cornerstone of collaboration at the heart of agile transformation enables architects and non-tech leaders to gain clarity and alignment.

The value of agility

Business value is greatly enhanced when enterprise architecture combines agile practices. According to a report by McKinsey & Co., companies moving to more agile models can improve their financial performance by 20-30%, with a 30-50% improvement in operational performance, TTM and customer satisfaction scores. Embedding an agile model across processes, people and technology will drive continued support for CI / CD, breakthrough innovation, synergistic collaboration, and ultimately maximize customer results.