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Nadhan's Top 5 Ways for Enterprise Architects to Drive Innovation



By E.G.Nadhan


Enterprise Architects must innovate at domain intersections



Forrester blogger Brian Hopkins says that we should not depend on Enterprise Architects (EA) to innovate (in this blog post). I disagree. EAs define the architecture vision for the enterprise and the future state of various architectural domains. When doing so, they should reach out and remove current barriers and apply innovation to the maximum extent possible. EAs applying such thought processes in advance lay a strong foundation for innovation at lower levels of execution.

Innovation is most likely to happen at the intersections of various architectural domains across the enterprise. EAs are enviably positioned to control the depth of visibility across domains and can create an environment that stimulates the generation and capture of innovative thoughts amongst IT practitioners.

Nadhan’s top 5 picks for such intersections:

  1. Services and the Enterprise. The focus of service-oriented principles has been predominantly around the business processes and the enabling applications. More recently, it has been extended to the infrastructure.  However, the fundamental concepts of service orientation are yet to be systematically applied in other areas of the Enterprise. Doing so will realize outcomes that include disruptive ways of achieving technological independence and seamless integration of disjointed components across compute, network and storage.

  2. Applications and Security. Security architecture around applications has been reactive at best. EAs must consider applying and stimulating innovation to break applications security. Innovation can be applied to identify potential vulnerabilities. Advance identification of security loopholes can lead to the prediction of violation patterns that can be effectively counter-acted through proactive counter measures.

  3. Infrastructure and Applications. Virtualization — an innovative concept in itself — can be applied to visual devices, for example. (Will they still be around?  I remember seeing a visual technique where the hand is used as the mouse on a holographic screen projected into thin air.) This is an intersection point where EAs can reverse current trends by applying principles that define infrastructure solutions to meet application requirements, rather than architecting applications based upon infrastructural constraints.

  4. Systems Management and Automation.  The need for standardization and automation has increased exponentially within the Systems Management environment.  EAs, when defining the principles for Systems Management Architecture, should challenge the status quo and innovatively suggest approaches for introducing and increasing automation.

  5. Information and Application.  Data is multiplying exponentially by the minute. Synthesized presentation of information to key stakeholders is essential to realizing the full value of this data.  EAs must look at transparently integrating the data and application layers for just-in-time  presentation with context.

These are the key intersections that come to my mind. This proactive approach to innovation by EAs is essential for it to have a systematic focus, maximizing business gains across the enterprise. 

Who is better positioned to architect such innovation across the enterprise?

Please meet the Chief Innovation Officer – the Enterprise Architect. 

The Enterprise Architects on the staff of HP Strategic IT Advisory Services can help you drive innovation and create competitive advantage.

Are you an Enterprise Architect?  Are there such intersection points that come to your mind?  Please let me know.


E.G.Nadhan is a Distinguished Technologist with HP Enterprise Services. You can read more of his blogs at:


HP ES Applications Blog
Nadhan’s Top 5 Series
All of Nadhan’s blog posts

Anil Lakhan(anon) | ‎11-03-2011 05:56 AM

Recently I came across a nice video from Microsoft about Productivity future vision,

Innovation is the key for long term success. As the end user is becoming more and more techno-savvy from the usage point of view, dependency on the technologies and hence the innovation has increased many-fold. Innovation can happen at different levels and in different forms. But eventually information technology engagement happens in all these cases currently. The fundamental structure of IT really supports EA role, evolved over time, as the key driver in innovation. I agree with Nadhan that EAs define the architecture vision for the enterprise and the future state of various architectural domains. EAs with the broad knowledgebase across the architecture domains are unquestionably the right role in enabling and supporting the technology innovations in IT.

nayan108 | ‎11-18-2011 10:20 AM

I think that you are both right:Brian because he considers innovative ideas to be sourced from those who feel the heat on the shop floor (the actual users) since once they feel the pain, they will come up with innovative ways to overcome that pain in line with the dictum 'Necessity is the mother of invention'; Nadhan is right because someone (the EA!) has to act as the change agent who will facilitate innovation in the enterprise.


John Cho(anon) | ‎11-24-2011 06:21 AM

Sorry if this is longwinded....


I finally got a chance to read both blogs and your response to Hopkins (on his blog). If I had to summarize the different perspectives – I would contend that Hopkins is looking at innovation at the most granular level (tactical) and claiming this is the purest form of innovation. Meanwhile, EG is presenting innovation from a broader perspective (strategic, perhaps even more refined) where EA’s generally sit.


One thing I would point out is that Hopkins seems to imply that the change agent concept is not real innovation.  And if you think it’s a catalyst – I would liken it to be similar to Von Hippel’s concept of creativity. That it (and creativity) is not innovation in of itself. I think EA’s do actuate and enable innovation through their roles as architects (not just facilitate) – in particular, I would say that EA’s are positioned in intentional and strategic positions within the enterprise to do the following two ACTIVE tasks that I believe can potentially create innovation:

  1) Develop the architecture (which is in many cases ever-evolving).

  2) Make decisions based on an architecture.

Perhaps Hopkins considers the orderly, less impulsive approach by EA’s to be somewhat limiting.


Now, Hopkins does make valid and interesting points, but in the end it is as he says -- its really about focus – or maybe a better way to put it – point of reference. As I read excerpts of his recommendation, it became clear to me that Von Hippel anchors (as maybe does Hopkins) on the premise that creativity is the key foundational point for innovation. I agree that it is A foundational point -- but not "the" foundational point (anymore)! I believe today’s innovation is evolving and is much more organic/complex than this…. Innovation now involves relationship, context, and collaboration. Creativity can be synergized by this. I feel that Von Hippel feels that creativity sparks innovation. To me it works both ways (now) – but with a one-sided momentum with Hopkin’s points being the prime driver of that momentum.


As I said earlier, Hopkins seems to regard the most tactical situation as the only pure source of innovation (desperation, necessity, problem-solving, etc) versus innovation that is developed at a more complex, intentional, and strategic level (which brings out your points, EG). But I would say that if we just use a simple concept like Moore’s Law (or just the trends we see in patents) and recognize that tactical innovations for a certain level (or "board") of development lend way to greater and more complex discoveries that will ultimately create a higher level for additional tactical innovations that will again in turn lend way to greater more complex discoveries, we can argue that innovation may really be multi-dimensional. For instance, many know that the basic sciences eventually resulted in the birthing of numerous other science and engineering disciplines. So we are also seeing today’s scientific and engineering research involving more multidisciplinary efforts, resulting in the fusion between traditional fields (for instance the birth of mathematics and physics to chemistry, then to chemical engineering, then biochemical engineering along with cellular molecular biology from the biological sciences – now with the fusion of information technology emerges proteomics (with a focus on protein configuration and structure) and bioinformatics, cheminformatics (more focus on computer sciences and information technology as they relate to medicines, computational chemistry and biology, etc). 


Even more poignant – look at today’s patents. Many years ago – it was normal for there to be sole inventors.  These days however, we are seeing teams of inventors collaborating. This is the evolution of innovation – not that it abandoned the most tactical aspects that Hopkins and Von Hippel espouse, but that it now encompasses at an organic level (or contextual is a better way of saying it) the tactical and melds it into the strategic. And in a large size company like HP – this produces a very comprehensive, multi-faceted type of innovation that is not intuitive, but has great intentionality and depth.


So, while I do agree that EA’s really are in a great role that enables them to efficiently facilitate innovations at the tactical level, their position is not to be taken lightly or oversimplified. They can be innovative -- but at different level or perception. I sense some bias in Hopkin's thinking that might be influenced by the historical context of invention and emerging technologies as it relates to creativity.

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