Future-proofing your IT landscape: the art of enterprise architecture

Nov 15, 2021
  • IT
  • data

Behind every business’s efforts to keep up with the relentless pace of change, there is an IT professional on the verge of throwing in the towel. After all, even the smallest change in any business process can have a profound impact on IT, creating unintentional risks and potentially compromising years of hard work. But it needn’t be like that. Enterprise architect Frederik-Jan Roose lights the way towards a future-proof IT landscape.

“The goal of IT within organizations is and always has been to support the business and provide the capacity and capabilities to navigate change and meet expectations,” Frederik-Jan states. “However, the ways businesses operate and IT is organized have changed dramatically. That’s why a big-picture view of the IT landscape and how it supports the business today and tomorrow is essential. This is where enterprise architecture comes in.”

Enterprise architecture past, present and future

“In a very broad sense, an enterprise architect needs to bridge the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what is needed’ in an IT landscape,” Frederik-Jan goes on to explain. “These days, increasing data volumes, emerging data types, (hybrid) integration platforms,  and new IT users and devices make this gap even more pronounced. As a result, organizations without a proper enterprise architecture are as helpless as a feather in the winds of change.”

The question is: how can we create an IT landscape that is able to withstand tomorrow’s fickleness without investing enormous amounts of money? Frederik-Jan: “Until fairly recently, IT was a pretty straightforward affair. First, you had the mainframe, which didn’t really require any configuration. Then came the all-in-one megalithic business suites that covered pretty much every aspect of the business. Today, most companies work with a ‘best-in-breed’ IT landscape. Here, every aspect of the business is covered by a niche solution – often with its own data model. In this context, establishing seamless and smooth collaboration across solutions is a lot more challenging, and there are way more dots to connect. But it’s not impossible either, you just need to find the right approach.”

Where does it hurt?

At delaware, Frederik-Jan and his team have developed a tried-and-tested approach to helping organizations set up a solid enterprise architecture build for success. It’s the result of years of in-the-field experience in numerous sectors. “It all begins with a thorough scan of the ‘as is’ situation and identifying the business needs,” he explains. “In my experience, a good place to start is asking ‘where does it hurt?’” 

“For many people, the question in itself can be pretty eye-opening. Stakeholders from all levels in the organization will come up with things like dwindling productivity, network outages, data leaks, or even a very concrete issue like a barrier that doesn’t work properly. Almost every time, these major and minor issues can be traced back to some failing in IT. Still, most people tend to just ‘accept’ that software and IT solutions come with tons of bugs. But imagine if we’d think the same way about say, a car that doesn’t start. I’m strongly convinced that we need to start setting higher standards for our critical IT solutions.”  

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Always kill something 

Which brings us to the next important step: assessing what is already there, and determining what can be re-used and what should be discarded. “I’ve never seen an IT landscape where there wasn’t at least one piece of software or an application that could be eliminated completely,” says Frederik-Jan. “And that’s a good thing, believe it or not, because you’re making space and freeing up resources for more valuable solutions.”

“That’s why I prefer the ‘always-kill-something’ approach over the classic ‘rip-and-replace’ tactic where you just replace what’s there with something newer. Sure, the latter might be faster and easier, but you’ll miss a critical opportunity to approach your challenges from a new angle and come up with better, more sustainable solutions.”

you could think of enterprise architecture as urban planning, while the individual pieces of software or applications are the city’s buildings. 
Frederik-Jan Roose, Enterprise architect

Isolating processes, data, and users

As mentioned before, a lot has changed in IT landscapes on a technical level as well. “Today, the integration plaform is key, as it allows you to isolate processes, data, and users. In this way, it is possible to make changes within the unity of the platform while everything outside of it – the individual applications – remains undisturbed. You could think of enterprise architecture as urban planning, while the individual pieces of software or applications are the city’s buildings.” 

“Apart from all this, however, it’s important to keep in mind that change always comes when it’s least convenient – just recall the impact of Brexit and the pandemic on businesses all over the globe. If you come with a resilient IT landscape that is able to withstand change, you’ve already won half the battle.” 

enterprise architecture: your alignment plan for strategy, business and IT

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