Transforming Business through EA
While the ecosystem has changed, and the approaches are refined, EA is still staying true to its core mission of helping create business value with technology.
IT has been a shifting landscape since its birth decades ago. Its history is punctuated by cycles of refinement of a single core principle. Data is a valuable resource. The growth of IT and its ever-increasing prevalence, ironically, has been marked by a path littered with obsolete technologies as old ideas are addressed in ever new and better ways. EA has followed suit in lockstep. The core principle remains the same, drive value from IT, but the approach and the ecosystem have changed. EA has shifted from supporting foundational IT projects and service architecture to leveraging emerging technology to support business strategy and transformation.
Of course, it’s never that clean in reality, and EA is best practiced as a custom tailored program that takes into consideration industry specifics and organizational maturity and culture. One size EA does not fit all and platonic EA based on stodgy frameworks and views of the universe detached from the realities of the current organizational context are always reviled as irrelevant ivory tower programs that create little or no value. As a matter of my practical reality, my current EA program is divided into four key focal areas.
EA has shifted from supporting foundational IT projects and service architecture to leveraging emerging technology to support business strategy and transformation
First, EA establishes core principles to support foundational IT service delivery. Beyond ITIL based best practices, EA helps drive reduced complexity, reduced cost, and increased service quality. Emerging technology plays a role here too as we move to virtualized cloud-based infrastructure capabilities and away from legacy data centers and on-premise infrastructure. These difficult transitions, while inevitable, need to be navigated carefully and EA can help plot a course that is right for the IT organization and its level of maturity and culture.
Secondly, EA leverages foundational capabilities and emerging technologies to improve business processes and support business strategy. This is really where the business begins to see the value of IT. Foundational capabilities are taken for granted like plumbing or electricity….it’s only noticed when it’s absent. When IT leverages something like robotic process automation (RPA) to create a set of automation services for the business, the impact and value are obvious. We move from the background to the foreground when we leverage technology to improve or achieve business outcomes.
Thirdly, EA focuses on supporting business strategy and transformation. Emerging technology plays heavily in this area where IT leverages new capabilities like AI and advanced analytics (ML, DL, etc.) to transform the business. In healthcare, where I’ve spent much of my career as an EA, the transformation is evident and significant beyond our ability to even predict future potential value. AI is transforming virtually every aspect of healthcare, and the change is profound. EA partners with the business to develop the right set of data services, architectures and governance to support this transformation. On the flip side, EA needs to watch emerging technology as a potentially disruptive force. The evolution of the internet and digital marketplaces has radically transformed the world and continues to do so in ways that are still unclear. As one case in point just ask any taxi company in New York City just how disruptive technology can be. The once coveted taxi medallion was valued at $1,000,000 only six years ago. Now with Uber and Lyft acting as significant players in the transportation industry, the medallion has lost 80% of its value. It is these kinds of emerging technology disruptions that can be disastrous for businesses.
Fourthly, EA is navigating the transformation of IT from a monolithic foundational services group to a highly federated and business led IT model. For a variety of reasons, IT has been adopted by the business beyond a basic consumer model. The business is better suited in many cases to lead focused IT services and projects. The business understands the problem and the value in ways that IT cannot. Long lamented as “shadow IT”, EA is working to reframe the relationship with business led IT. IT needs to empower the business, secure the data, and lower the cost of IT capabilities that can be adopted and refined by the business. IT’s value is not a function of its departmental size, budget or span of control. In fact, the leaner and more agile we can be as an enabling work force and the more directly embedded in the business technology is, the more value we can help ensure is created for the business. By partnering with business led IT we become essential to and share credit for the value they create.
While the future remains uncertain, if the past is any indication, more change is coming and IT and EA are both transforming together to continue to support, improve and ultimately transform the businesses we serve.