As a key developer of ArchiMate, a modelling language for enterprise architecture, and author of numerous books on EA, Marc Lankhorst is highly respected in the technology community. But surprisingly, there’s not a lot written on the personal journey of the Dutch computer scientist and chief technology evangelist at BiZZdesign. We sought to change that with our latest interview feature, spotlighting his early years, as well as what he sees in the future.
At what point did you know you wanted a career in technology?
As a kid I was already interested in technology. From a young age I was always playing with Lego and building model airplanes, and our high school in the early ‘80s was quite advanced in offering a computer course. That got me hooked, so I sold my model trains to buy my first computer.
Who was your biggest mentor along the way?
There isn’t anyone in particular, but different teachers and managers have guided me along the way. Maybe my math teacher in high school deserves an honorable mention here: when I did my math homework by writing a program that could generate and print graphs of functions instead of drawing them manually, he really stimulated me to take that further. But what inspired and inspires me most is having discussions with colleagues and other peers, bouncing ideas off one another, sharpening your mind from their minds.
What is the biggest lesson we can take about technology from 2020?
The one major lesson that I see in my own discipline of enterprise architecture is its role and value in organizational resilience and adaptivity. Many organizations found out they urgently needed to change their operations in many different areas to adapt to the new pandemic reality. Scaling down (or up) certain operations, enabling your digital workforce, mending broken supply chains, fixing logistical problems, dealing with resource shortages, we have all been there. For many companies, technology came to the rescue: in particular, working from home at the current scale would have been impossible one or two decades ago.
Enterprise architects often played an important role in this, with their broad and deep knowledge of the inner workings of their enterprises and its connections to various parties in its ecosystem. People often see EA as a medium- to long-term effort but 2020 taught many organizations that it can also make very concrete short-term contributions.
What are some of the emerging trends you expect to see in 2021?
Building on our 2020 experiences, the one major trend I see is a continued and further increased attention to resilience and adaptivity. Already before the pandemic struck, I saw a growing level of attention to this topic among our customers at BiZZdesign. Two very different sectors where I have personally been involved in this are financial services and transportation & logistics. In financial services, regulators demand increasingly detailed operational resilience planning. Transportation and logistics, a very different sector, has quite similar needs when it comes to resilience analysis and business continuity planning.
Cyber security has become another major reason for this attention to resilience and continuity. The most harmful example we saw recently was the SolarWinds attack that hit hundreds of companies and government agencies. Importantly, this was a supply chain attack that injected malicious code in IT management software via its supplier, thus compromising the users of that software. As a user, you could not have prevented this by adding some rules in your firewalls or running your virus scanners more often.
Like what we saw with the pandemic impact, this highlights the need for enterprises to understand not only their internal operations but also how they depend on all kinds of parties and technologies in their ecosystem. No architect has the full picture of these complex interactions, so this requires a collaborative effort across multiple organizations. In certain domains, we already see this happening. Just to name one example: NATO uses ArchiMate models of their architectures for collaboration between different countries and forces as part of its Federated Mission Networking initiative.
Analyzing and mitigating risk is rather reactive though. Forward-looking enterprises proactively invest in adaptivity, so they can quickly respond to unforeseen situations and even use their agility as a competitive advantage. Those change capabilities will be the big differentiator in many sectors. If you are too slow to change, you’ll be obliterated by competitors, pandemics, regulatory impact (think Brexit!), economic crises, or even the effects of climate change.