Exploring the Role of the Enterprise Architect in the Agile Era

role of enterprise architecture

Earlier this year, Dr. Gordon Barnett, a Principal Analyst with Forrester, participated in a webinar in which he discussed how continuous architecture bridges the chasm between planning and delivery.

Before delving into the role of the enterprise architect (EAs) in this developing phenomenon, Dr. Barnett noted that customer obsession is driving firms to add agility into their planning-to-optimization value stream processes. Second, unlike their peers on portfolio management and development and operations (DevOps) teams, EAs “have been slow to adapt their role to support business agility.”

He went on to pose the following question: Do EAs need to change their mindset when the focus of their firm is meeting the needs of a dynamic customer base? The answer is yes.

Dr. Barnett said that Forrester recently surveyed EAs to determine “what are the primary drivers” in their practice, and found that the feedback was “associated with increasing business agility.” Extrapolating from that, Forrester quizzed EAs about what “agility” means, and 80 percent suggested it means “faster solution delivery.” Forrester felt that represented a “limited focus” in the interpretation of agility, according to Dr. Barnett.

Looking at it in more detail, Forrester explored the apparent disconnect between continuous strategic planning and the work that EAs are doing.

Dr. Barrett pointed to the importance of the interrelationship of “continuous planning” and “continuous architecture,” which bridges the gap with “continuous delivery.”

The analyst then turned to n “standard” philosophy associated with agility, or “Build, Measure, Learn. This is where you build something, see if it works, learn from it, and build it again,” he said.

There is a better way, he said.

“What we found in the continuous architecture approach is that architects use it the other way around. They learn, measure, build. So, when they learn, they learn from the end user what the challenge is. They are asking what good looks like. Then they build against the criteria. So, they are still agile, but there is less waste.”

Further, to embrace business agility, EAs “must have continuous strategic planning, continuous architecture and continuous delivery. If you focus on just the right-hand side of the equation, you are just going to be faster, not more agile.”

To support this approach, Dr. Barnett emphasized the six key principles highlighted in the book by Murat Erder and Pierre Pureur entitled Continuous Architecture – Sustainable Architecture in a Cloud-Centric World, which mirrors Forrester’s own findings, he said.

The Six Principles are as follows:

  1. Architect products rather than solutions. Dr. Barnett noted that these are “architectural products.”
  2. Focus on quality attributes. “Know the end state,” noted the analyst.
  3. Delay design decisions until they are needed. “You make design decision when you have more information,” said Dr. Barnett.
  4. Architect for change. “Architect an organization, not a product or solutions,” said the analyst.
  5. Enable continuous delivery. “Make releases boring, so you can deliver frequently and get feedback and adjust,” said Dr. Barnett.
  6. Promote interoperability. “This enables integrators to connect multiple components developed by different parties without changing,” he said.

To access the Webinar, visit here.