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Architecture Practice in the New Style of IT (4 of 5): Changes to the Architecture Discipline

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

 

IT business - compressed.jpgAuthors Note:  This is the fourth in a series of five blogs that explores how the New Style of IT affects IT architecture practices.

 

The Architecture Function is back in business – thanks to the New Style of IT. Standardization, automation, and the return to core capabilities due to enhancing ecosystems put companies in the position to close the informational competency gap for entering new markets, new brands, enhance customer experience, etc. However, is the Architecture Discipline ready for this? Today’s topic on the architecture discipline explores what is needed for architecting in this new climate of change.

 

The Architecture Discipline

I’ve previously argued that there is a too big of a divide in the Business-IT relation, and that architecture has been degraded toward technical activities in the IT department. This is problematic, because the emergence of the New Style of IT made information technology in general evolve from mere supportive tools to strategic enablers for a new style of business.

 

Business leaders want to explore new business models and identify threats associated with business opportunities. To do this requires higher levels of abstractions and business acumen. Topics such as enhanced ecosystems, everything-as-a-service, and social engagement of customers become dominant in C-suite discussions. Agile developments are implemented to keep up with the pace of change. Can we address these topics without a structured approach?

 

Generally, the concept of architecture is attractive for aligning different levels of abstractions while eliciting invisible dependencies. However, are current architecture practices prepared for the new topics of the C-suite? When IT has become ‘just’ a socket, architecture methods and models should have an approach that has an increased integral focus on:

 

  • Strategy – understanding the business strategy and defining its model
  • Structure – how value can be delivered to solve business problems
  • Operations – implementing, and operating IT business solutions 

 

Unifying Disciplines

Strategy, structure, and operations have always been the domain of three different professions: consultant, architect, and engineer. Will their disciplines unify when IT and business have become part of the same equation?

 

When IT becomes a mere socket, enterprises will focus on connecting services to IT legacy and their impact on the daily practices of businesses and their customers. Both are tightly interrelated and raise new questions: Can new concepts such as payment services, analytics-as-a-service, and mobility services be introduced without introducing the next IT legacy – blocking future business developments? The shift toward digital business infrastructures requires an increased focus on a business-oriented modeling that integrally includes (modeling of) the IT domain. Will this introduce a clash of professions?  

The differentiating factor for enterprises to build and sustain a competitive edge in a hyper competitive digital-driven market will be the competency to manage the intersection, or better synergy, of new business models and the New Style of IT. This requires strict articulation of the impact of strategic intent on structures and operations, and how they can coevolve toward sustainable business models enabled by technology. This is the aim of Business Architecture, an emerging sub-discipline focusing on structured languages.

 

Business Architecture

Currently, there is a notion of two practices in Business Architecture. The first one is solution focused, expressing a view of processes as business context complemented with an architectural view of business information, concepts, value, and risk. The second is a practice that aims at formalizing the holistic description of how organizations use business competencies that are essential in realizing strategic intent and objectives. The latter focuses on the external view: strategic intent, strategic priorities, business structure and execution, and efficiencies in the appropriate context of the business ambition [1]. The holistic approach resonates well with the emerging challenges of integration and alignment with the New Style of IT.

 

To summarize, current trends have a larger impact at operational, structural and strategic level than we are used to. That raises new challenges for the Architecture Discipline. New approaches and enhanced methods are necessary to fully exploit the integral Business-IT potential – business architecture is a promising concept for this.

 

Is it different this time?

With the New Style of IT, it is likely that consultancy, architecture, and engineering increasingly will show overlaps because Business and IT have become so tightly interconnected. IT as a strategic enabler requires the architecture discipline to develop methods and models that are capable of higher levels of abstraction – levels that understand the bigger ecosystem of the enterprise. This is different because business architecture will become a necessary strategic competency for enterprises to leverage on the synergy of Business and IT in order to compete in the digital-driven hyper competitive market.

 

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

 

References

[1] Hendrickx, H. (2014), Business architecture 360 degree methods, The Open Group summit, Amsterdam

 

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

Related links:

About the Author

 

Peter Beijer.pngPeter 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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