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What is the future of Enterprise Architecture

I watched the original Lethal Weapon the other day and was amused when Danny Glover’s character (Roger Murtaugh) was seen using one of the first mobile phones. Not only did he have a brick to his ear, but it was also connected to some form of mini briefcase with a massive aerial sticking out of it.

It’s amazing how far mobile phone technology has come from then. The phones we all take for granted today may have well been in a Star Trek movie back then.

The thought then came to mind that the same can be said with how businesses operate. Around the same time there was this concept of a “typing pool”, where all the company communications were created, such as intra and inter-company memos, letters, notes…. A lot of movies of that era also made reference to this function, such as Working Girl, 9 to 5 and The Secret of My Success. People then couldn’t even dream of a world where they would be doing this activity for themselves… then technology evolved, and we were introduced this thing called email.

Email turned on its head not only how businesses operated, but also everyone’s job specification. It was expected that everyone now did their own “intra and inter-company memos, letters and notes” and it soon became 2nd nature. So much so that it disappeared from job specifications as it was simply taken for granted as expected, just as breathing while at your desk was.

Future business operational functions

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

My thoughts… “organisational relationship and dependency mapping”, or whatever it will be called in the future.  This may seem a bit random, obscure and complex but stay with me here.  

The digitisation of nearly everything has meant interconnectivity is getting more and more complex, and determining what relies on what is only going to get more difficult without intervention. Eventually though things will start to fall apart without knowing this information.

What is organisational relationship and dependency mapping?

Understanding how different teams, individuals, and what systems they use and interact within an organisation will be critical for operational efficiency and collaboration. But things are always changing, so how will these interactions remain current? Automation is one way but that won’t cover everything, which is where we all will need to be responsible for our own areas. How will we do this… I don’t know, but we have commenced down this pathway already.

What?? I haven’t done this!! I hear you say… Yes, you have, but you may just not have realised it:

  • Every time you’ve accessed a system it is logged

  • Every time you have done something on a system, it is logged (well it should be if the application is doing its job)

  • Every time you’ve done something and written down how you did it so you can remember the next time, you’ve stored that somewhere

  • Every time you’ve worked on a project and created any form of documentation, what was impacted by the project is stored.

  • Every meeting request, video conference, meeting minutes, be they for strategic or operational activities is stored somewhere

  • Every procedure document, help desk request, team standup, marketing blog, collaboration session, recognition award, knowledge sharing/management, feedback session… 

I could keep going. Basically you know what you need to do 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. The thing is you are already doing “organisational relationship and dependency mapping” it’s just the data is unstructured, not being collated nor being re-used efficiently (or if at all).

The future of Enterprise Architecture

The group of people currently trying to do this activity are Enterprise Architects. These are highly skilled and very expensive resources that 20 years ago started to gain more prominence as things started to get more complex. But they are struggling to keep pace with the amount of data and change that is occurring. Which is where we all will come into the picture.

Some of us are already knowingly doing it through more progressive EA tools like Ardoq and their Survey feature, where business users and owners update or fill in the missing pieces in the map. But that is just the tip of the iceberg as it becomes more and more mainstream. How these interactions will work and look like is something I’m not sure of yet. One thing I am confident in is it will only be a matter of when.

Doesn’t this make the role of an enterprise architect doomed? Absolutely not!! EAs provide strategic views of an organisation that focusses on the alignment of all the various business capabilities, functions and technology to achieve business goals. But the data EAs consume will not need to be created by them as it will be created by everyone across the organisation. This will allow EAs to focus on what they do best, thus increasing their value.

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

Sounds like a pipe dream, especially in the large multi-national organisations. However so did Michael J Fox’s character in “The Secret of My Success” having to type his own letters.

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