Cloud. Mobile. Big Data. Data Science. Internet of Things (IoT). We know that these trends are harnessing ubiquitous technological power to connect to nearly everything  – bringing a world of opportunity for businesses to build apps that connect employees, partners, data, and even products, in entirely new ways.

But as a CIO, CTO, or Enterprise Architect, how can these “next big things” be utilized effectively within your Enterprise?  How do you balance new revenue and service opportunities against application backlogs and other technical debt?  And how do you find a “way out” of the current complex portfolio that you find yourself in?

Modern Architectures Defined

We propose that considering “Modern Architectures” is a way to take a fresh look the current set of applications as Enterprises pivot towards the future.  Modern Architectures are rooted in these realities:

  • Agility is a Way of Life: Business and IT leaders must move faster – so adopting true Agile methodologies and thinking (including rapid prototyping, effective Product Owners, and visible, defensible backlogs) must be supported by the next wave of practitioners.
  • Hybrid can be Smart: Enterprises have enormous investments in on-premises and legacy systems. Modern architectural approaches (including lightweight integration, API-first thinking, and in-memory Analytics) allow back office data to be quickly “surfaced” and used – often in hours instead of months.
  • Future-Proof by Design: Changing process automation requirements, IoT, and other data-intensive trends are forcing architectures to evolve rapidly. In many cases, Architects simply cannot know which data elements from which sensors will become business critical, and clearly cannot wait for traditional design/develop/code cycles to react quickly enough. Metadata-driven platforms provide the right flexibility in such dynamic situations.
  • Developers, Assemble!: Conventional development approaches are giving way to “composability” – ranging from drag-and-drop component assembly to wider varieties of functionality that can be “snapped into” the ecosystem (i.e., messaging, event processing, specialized monitoring, etc.). Tooling needs to continually move up the “food chain” of abstraction, providing Architects and development teams with rich palettes from which to compose and assemble (vs. craft by hand).

Business Value + Operating Model + Portfolio = A Winning Equation

So, how can the IT and Business collaborate to move towards Modern Architectures? We have observed that understanding the true goals of the enterprise and the go-forward operating model are critical ways to anchor this conversation. The “Do” steps to making this happen include:

  • Map Business Value: while there are a variety of ways to accomplish this, a great approach is to assemble a cross-functional team of your most customer-centric employees and have them re-imagine and challenge their customer experience views. This “Art of the Possible” exercise is both instructive and invaluable.
  • Define the Operating Model: understanding the current (and target) operating model is critical to identifying the true “rules of the road” regarding decision-making, funding, and desired standardization and integration of business processes (note that A terrific way to approach this is through the industry-standard model presented by J. Ross, P. Weill, and D. Robertson in “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy”, Harvard Business Press.)
  • Create Capabilities and Process Maps: after understanding the business value map and the target operating model, begin to flesh out the required business capabilities and key process maps. This produces a comprehensive understanding of the “what” (capabilities), and the “how” (processes) and act as a litmus test of the appropriateness of all go-forward applications.
  • “Reboot” the Portfolio: take a hard, value-based look at the current/planned application portfolio through the lenses of Business Value, Operating Model and Capabilities and mark applications for conversion to your future platforms, maintenance, or extinction!

Roadmaps: A Forcing Function

Many architecture-planning processes are observed to be fragmented, siloed or even nonexistent. Application portfolios are typically large, duplicative, and oftentimes managed purely from an operating cost perspective vs. a TCO/go-forward business value perspective.   Additionally, while many Enterprise IT functions create “Blueprints” or “Roadmaps” as part of their annual planning cycles, these too often become snapshots that quickly lose relevance and are not regularly updated. The method outlined above positions the Roadmap as a practical tool that improves accountability across the board.

While not always easy, the path to Modern Architectures is an exciting journey that both accelerates business value and leads to previously unheard of levels of cooperation across Lines of Business and IT.  Architects, are you ready?

Thomas J. Cozzolino is a Principal Architect Evangelist at Salesforce.

[1] A terrific way to approach this is through the industry-standard model presented by J. Ross, P. Weill, and D. Robertson in “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy”, Harvard Business Press.

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