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Architecture Practice in the New Style of IT (3 of 5): Change to the Architecture Function

By:  Dr. Peter Beijer, Chief Technologist, Hewlett Packard Company

 

Authors Note:  This is the third in a series of five blogs that explores how the New Style of IT affects IT architecture practices.

 

Green field - compressed.jpgThe topic of the previous blog in this series focused on how business and IT strategies become part of the same equation with the New Style of IT. I submitted that fixing the competency gap and mutually understanding the art of the possible requires us to leave behind the traditional Business-IT alignment paradigm. Business and IT must start together in pursuing new grounds. Welcome to the New Style of IT, where business has become IT.

 

How do these developments affect the architecture realm? Do they change the way we architect solutions, interact with businesses and consequently, are new skills required?

I look at this from three different perspectives: The architecture function, discipline, and profession. This blog will visit the Architecture Function – the governance, processes, and roles that result in architectural artifacts, guidance, and coherence.

 

The Architecture Function

Can enterprises ditch their architecture function when:

  • the New Style of IT transforms IT operations into real-time brokers of commoditized IT resources?
  • enterprises move away from being service providers because IT no longer makes the difference?
  • IT strategies are caught in quality enhancements and lowering costs, while businesses are looking for new markets, new brands, etc.?

 

Three developments

There are three developments that require enterprises to reconsider the current implementations of their Architecture Function:  

  1. Since customer-centric business models emerge to create enhanced customer experiences, enterprises increasingly exploit external services because they are not part of their core capabilities. Enterprises become part of larger ecosystems (or better, enterprises become ecosystems).
  2. Brokerage and operational agility drive increased automation of performance management. Enterprises increasingly seek to standardize on (automated) service delivery and leverage external services and IT resources. Both are capable of providing automated KPI information and new techniques (such as Operational Analytics) will drive the performance of demand-supply processes and capabilities.
  3. With enterprises becoming ecosystems, there is an increased interest in developing model-driven reference architectures for the Architecture Function. The model for an IT operation has matured over the years (e.g. ITIL). Despite the new developments, it remains the same if we look at it from an information perspective. The IT4IT initiative is exemplary in developing standard information models and reference architectures to operate IT and align it with the Architecture Function in the enterprise. 

Standardization, automation, and the run back to core capabilities are three developments that (again) reinforce each other. It seems like a perfect storm within a perfect storm!   

 

Too technical

The original notion on applying the concept of architecture to the IT domain focused specifically on the relationship with the Business domain: IT only develops successfully when there is a fit-for-purpose with the business need. It was not about doing things right, but rather about doing the right things: fundamental questions leading to satisfying business needs. We could argue whether the technical origin of architecture has been a disadvantage, often lacking the appropriate ‘languages’ for bridging the business-IT relation. But there is enough empirical evidence that business folks have always had a slightly contorted reaction to the Architecture Function in enterprises (e.g. “what can those technocrats do to help my business?”).

 

Let’s be honest: architecture in relation to the IT domain got ‘downgraded’ toward strong technology focused activities. This avoids the ‘real business questions’ behind technology projects (e.g. “Are we doing the right project for entering new markets, enhancing customer experience?”).  Architecture became primarily executed out of the IT department. With the New Style of IT driving a fundamental shift, architecture becomes pivotal in exploring new business models. Enterprises need to catch up with architecture in the Business-IT relationship.

 

Back to the roots

With the New Style of IT, new business models come within reach. This impacts the way enterprises organize. The conventional wisdom is that IT architecture should guide and secure coherence in the development of solutions used by the enterprise They must prepare to refocus the Architecture Function to strategically explore the art-of-the-possible in close collaboration with the business to deliver business value (not just IT). The Architecture Function must ultimately envision how technology can be applied to disrupt the marketplace to the enterprise’s advantage.

 

In short, we must go back to the roots of architecture: Guidance and coherence for transforming business outcomes with technology.

 

Is it different this time?

In order to explore the art-of-the-possible with the New Style of IT, business and IT must unify on architecture practices. Theoretically the Architecture Function has always been the instrument for that, though it lacked the proper ‘language’ to be successful. Let this be a wake-up call for enterprises to reinitiate the role of Architecture Function as part of the overall IT Governance process. What is certainly different this time is the reinforcement of standardization, automation, and the run back to core capabilities; it is another perfect storm coming. Food for thought on next time’s topic: the Architecture Discipline.

 

Next up:  The New Style of IT – Changes to the architecture discipline

 

References

[1] The Open Group IT4IT Consortium (2014), http://collaboration.opengroup.org/it4it/

 

Previous Architecture Practice in the New Style of IT blogs by Dr. Peter Beijer:

Related links:

About the Author

 

Peter Beijer.pngDr. Peter Beijer, Chief Technologist, Hewlett Packard Company                 

Peter works in the Office of the CTO of Enterprise Services leading the architecture profession for EMEA. He is recognized pioneer in practicing HP’s architecture methods and core contributor to the development of the architecture profession. He is a member of the Specification Authority for Open Certified Architect (Open CA) in the Open Group; eligible certification board member and chair, and holds a professional certification by the Open Group as Master Certified IT Architect. Peter received a Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam concerning economies of meaning in image building for innovation processes.

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