Position Paper

Devolving the Enterprise Architect Role for the ‘Outside-In’ Digital Age

Most medium-to-large organizations have well-established operating behaviours, in particular a central IT department focused on servicing the ‘now to near-term’ business strategy by delivering tightly controlled solutions to the lines of business.  Within the IT department, the Enterprise Architect’s (EA) task is to create a single view of technology across the whole organization, expressed through a unified enterprise architecture methodology. But this is an outdated, 20th-century approach.  The shift to ‘digital’ requires established organizations to adapt. 

Devolving the Enterprise Architect Role for the ‘Outside-In’ Digital Age

This paper argues that organizations can no longer afford to create business strategies first and address technology considerations after.  Success in the 21st century will come through anticipating how technology will disrupt industry dynamics and operating models before each wave of change occurs, and before the business strategy is formed.  Most established organizations are unable to identify these ‘outside-in’ changes early enough.  

Organizations should devolve the current singular EA role into its three component parts: the strategist acts as a positive change agent, identifying where technologies new and old can support the business goals; the engineer creates high-quality technology designs that fit the business strategy; and the custodian is responsible for applying the organization’s technology standards to ensure consistency, safety and cost efficiency.  To play their parts fully, these different aspects of the EA role must reside in different organizational functions – the strategist in the corporate strategy department, the engineer in the programme office, and the custodian in the IT department.

In the past a singular EA role could – and did – capably perform all three roles, but years of increasing complexity and scale within medium-to-large organizations means the 3-in-1 role is no longer fit-for-purpose. The accepted norms of how an IT function operates and the roles within it must be questioned now to stop an organization’s slow drift into obsolescence by not being able to anticipate and adapt to changing business operating dynamics.


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