Digital Enterprise Architecture (Digital-EA)

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A recent article in Wired magazine amused me. It painted a picture of an enterprise architect named Bob who found himself excluded from the “digital” initiative at his company. The Wired author suggested that he drop the word “enterprise” from his title, mess up and dye his hair, get some body piercings and join the marketing team as they work in their open plan area festooned with balloons and stuffed animals (and no doubt many Post-it notes) to bring their latest “digital” ideas to life.

Bob, a haggard, hard working, middle-aged man – one shirt tail out, mumbling to himself – is clearly in for a “digital” culture shock. Is Bob a wreck of an employee, past his sell-by date, or a critical member of the “digital” party?

Our industry, and especially the Web industry, has always been obsessed with buzzwords. Over the years we’ve seen many come and go. “Digital” will be no different. It no more invalidates Bob’s skills as any other term the IT media and consultancy industry has concocted to woo clients over the last three decades. Remember the e-Waves!

This is how the IT media works. The Wired article hits the streets and five days later ZDNet is asking, are enterprise architects hosting the digital party?

“Digital” has become all the rage. As ZDNet says, “whether it’s interacting with everyone via social network platforms, or using cloud resources and web APIs, or going mobile, or all of the above, every enterprise worth its salt is pursuing — or thinks it’s pursuing — some kind of ‘digital’ strategy.” It has ever been thus. We all need new labels to drive new change.

IT has often been late to experiment with new technology. Its role is often to clean up the mess, secure systems or integrate the front and back ends. These activities are often seen as distractions by the sponsors of urgent new “digital” initiatives. Bob may not be welcome if he comes in too early and starts to talk about standards and interfaces and processes. Timing is everything.

The irony of this is that those companies who have successfully launched new digital services, built new customer experiences and generated new sources of revenue have taken architecture and design very seriously indeed. The “digital” team may not know of Bob’s existence, but his skills are highly relevant. Similarly, “digital strategy” is just that: “strategy.”

Delivering new IT systems has always been a multi-disciplinary activity. Like any market, it requires knowledge of the landscape into which new products and services are to be launched, together with the technical skills to translate the visions of marketing into viable and practice systems that can be sustainably operated in the business.

When the first wave of e-commerce hit the business world circa 1995, CSC created centres for web development that fused the skills of web designers, content managers, software developers and systems architects. In the U.K., one such centre was dubbed CSC Vybe. At its height it employed over 200 “Web” consultants. Today we would call them “Digital.” The walls were painted in non-corporate pascal colors, sofas were much in evidence, and yes, there were a lot of Post-it notes on the walls! We too became obsessed, for a while, with the marketing buzz and potential of the then very new Web technologies.

This story illustrates that there is no escape from industry buzz – then or now. Enterprise Architects with strong modelling and abstraction skills must dive in and swim for their lives.

Comments

  1. Nice article Howard. The IT media loves to declare two things; the start of something big and the demise of something established. Most big things don’t turn into big things, most demises are declared prematurely.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. hsmith50130 says:

    Graham, does the CSC EA community have any views on what is genuinely new in the field of EA, and especially if this is being driven by “digital”? Of so, pop me a line or thoughts in private.

    Like

  3. hsmith50130 says:

    As author of this blog post, I’d also like to highlight Andrew Doble’s work at CSC in Germany: http://www.21stcenturyit.de/enterprise-architectures-new-clothes/

    Like

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