To create an agile, efficient enterprise, it pays to think big. And by big, I mean systematically like an enterprise architect, who creates IT infrastructures that support business strategies.
The job calls for both business knowledge and IT knowledge. And the architect can succeed only if the organization recognizes integration as a strategic capability, rather than as a series of discrete chores to be performed when developers have the time.
CIOs are increasingly recognizing the pivotal role that enterprise architects can play in their organizations.
To learn more about how your organization can take a holistic approach to integration, please read our latest ebook, “The Transformative Enterprise Architect.”
CIO Pain, Digital Gain
For more than three years I’ve hosted the #CIOChat forum on Twitter and LinkedIn. This forum, which began in 2006 as a side-project at CIO Magazine, is likely now the largest active online discussion group for CIOs.
Discussions can be lively. Lately, CIOs have been venting about challenges related to enterprise architectures and integrations. Here’s what CIOs are talking about:
- Lack of agility CIOs are having difficulty modernizing architectures and integrating new services fast enough to meet the needs of business groups.
- Complexity Legacy architectures are rife with customizations. They’re too complex to explain easily to new technologists, making modernizations projects needlessly slow and difficult.
- “Accidental” architectures Architectures have grown in an ad hoc manner as result of developers adding “just one more” connection to solve a short-term need. As one #CIOChat participant put it: “In IT, nothing lasts longer than a temporary solution.”
- Design by business unit Another problem: business units are working independently and creating IT systems that are redundant or difficult to integrate. Enterprises lack a well-thought-out, organization-wide IT strategy.
- Performance and stability issues Many applications still aren’t delivering the performance and availability expected of them. CIOs wonder how they’re going to meet SLA requirements, let alone scale today’s services for future growth.
- Lack of cloud support Nearly every organization still has legacy applications that run only on-premise and can only integrate with other on-premise applications.
- Lack of a defined process for integration Integration is still being treated as a one-off exercise, rather than as a stable, predictive practice with well-defined processes. This happens despite the fact that today’s rapid pace of innovation makes integration more important than ever.
The takeaway from this discussion? Integration is the fabric for connecting business-critical legacy systems to new cloud-first applications and services. It’s the bridge to the future, but with no blueprints, progress can be challenging at best.
Transforming Architectures Requires Strategic Leadership
It’s easy to think of these problems just as technical problems. But they’re cultural, too. They reflect a mindset that:
- Views IT as primarily static, rather than fluid and elastic.
- Trusts insufficiently skilled staff to make consequential decisions.
- Treats integration projects as discrete “hassles” (one-time costs) rather than as a strategic capability necessary for creating a strategic enterprise architecture.
Strategic capabilities, in contrast, require structured processes: incident response systems, a single authoritative repository for documenting system architectures, an audit program, security and compliance guidelines, etc.
Trapped by this mindset, CIOs today are stuck on a treadmill, managing complex, “brittle” technology and time-consuming integration projects.
In our #CIOChat sessions, CIOs report that “just keeping the lights on” can no longer be a full-time job. But many lack the time and resources to take on the innovative, transformational projects they would really like to work on.
What could CIOs achieve with a more modern architecture, a more dynamic IT culture, and the right integration and IT management platforms?
In contrast to the Frankenstein architectures of the past, a modern, enterprise architecture provides:
- Loosely coupled business process components that can be re-used and adapted as needed to meet changing business requirements.
- Business transactions that are fast and frictionless from end-to-end.
- Integrated channels, so that a transaction initiated in a web browser can be completed in a brick-and-mortar location and confirmed on a smartphone.
- A single, comprehensive view of data, including customer data.
Enter the Enterprise Architect
To move to a modern, enterprise architecture, organizations need to keep the best of the old — a few key applications that still deliver best-in-class capabilities — while taking advantage of new technologies, design approaches, workflows and business models.
To pull all these applications and technologies together, organizations need a comprehensive vision, business savvy and a holistic enterprise architecture.
This wide-ranging work needs a systematic mindset rather than a segment mindset. The job calls for an enterprise architect who understands business strategies and how to create IT infrastructures to support those strategies.
The result of the enterprise architect’s work is not just architectural. It goes further, providing integrated business capabilities that support business strategies, improve customer insights, automate workflows, and, when linked to people and process, deliver competitive advantage.
At Dell Boomi, we’ve worked with enterprise architects from all over the world, helping them plan, design and implement game-changing architectural changes and integrations. We’ve distilled what we’ve learned from these engagements in a new ebook, which we’ve just published.
To learn more about the growing importance of taking a holistic approach to integration, please read our latest ebook, “The Transformative Enterprise Architect.”
About the author: Myles Suer is Dell Boomi’s enterprise marketing manager
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