While the pandemic ravages across the globe, it is important to stay positive and keep in mind how to take control and recover from this crisis. Vaccines are now available, and it appears that from a human health perspective we will be able to return to the liberties of our pre-pandemic lives by the end of 2021. With that said, COVID19’s economic and societal impact on GDP, technology, and lifestyle will continue to leave lasting scars.
This is why it has become crucial that enterprises start preparing for coming out of the crisis – I would even say, it is a social responsibility. We know that the corporate world has already changed considerably since the beginning of the crisis. Working from home and Zoom meetings are now the “new normal” and corporate offices are closing one after the other.
So, what will come next? As Bill Gates suggested in a recent podcast on what the world will look like after COVID19, “the areas of online learning, telemedicine, and remote work will become a regular part of our lives.” We can also think that online retail will accelerate, and not only for big organizations, but also for small businesses that have not yet optimized their online presences yet. This means that we can expect that companies will accelerate their digitization efforts as online transactions will become more and more predominant. At the same time, if online transactions increase, cybersecurity risks will rise dramatically.
In a world where every business project is an IT project, enterprise architects take on a pivotal role in aligning IT with the business. Below are three steps to using architecture to help your company assimilate, adapt, and adjust to the post pandemic world.
Step 1: Understand business needs to speed up digitization
What does it mean for you as an enterprise architect to digitize the business?
It means that you need to align your IT assets to the new customer experience as defined by the business. To do so, you can use customer journey maps. Customer journey maps are persona–based. They are broken down into buying phases (awareness, research, choice reduction, purchase) and channels (e.g. company website, google, physical store, etc.). You can then define touchpoints that are at the intersection of a phase and a channel. The assembly of touchpoints constitutes the customer journey.
The interesting part is that you can link each touchpoint to business capabilities, so that you know exactly how this touchpoint is supported by your organization’s business capabilities. As each business capability is linked to applications and underlying software technology components, you are able to plan your IT assets based on the new customer journey, and provide the best customer experience.
Value streams are another tool that helps you understand the value brought to your customers. Value streams define the stages necessary to satisfy your customers. When linking business capabilities to each stage of the value stream, you ensure that your organization can deliver the value expected to customers. If capabilities are missing, you can identify the actions required to develop or acquire new business capabilities (build vs partner). Intrinsically, IT assets support the value stream as they are linked to business capabilities.
Step 2: Work with Agile teams to develop new product features
Based on the previous analysis, share these value streams, customer journeys and business capabilities with Epic owners, so that they can start creating new business epics. Of course, the definition of these elements is not a siloed effort, it is collaborative work between business owners and epic owners. Customer journeys, value streams, and business capability maps are also shared to the dev teams so that they get the full picture of the developments.
As an enterprise architect, you’ll also create enabler epics to advance the architectural runway of Agile developments. Enablers include infrastructure, compliance, and architecture developments.
In the SAFe framework, enablers are built for the next agile program increment – which lasts around ten weeks. Enablers ensure that business features developed in the next program increment will land safely. Hence the term of “runway” similar a plane landing on a runway.
Concretely, enabler epics include application and infrastructure architecture diagrams, regulatory requirements, and technology recommendations. They are put and moved in a Kanban board exactly like business epics, ensuring that architecture requirements will be implemented by the development teams.
Step 3: Create a secure architecture
As online traffic will grow, we can infer that cybersecurity risks will increase at the same time.
As an enterprise architect, you are the one that defines technology standards. This prevents development teams from using rogue or outdated technologies that may have vulnerabilities.
By linking underlying technology components to applications to business capabilities, you can track the impact of an obsolete technology to your business. By monitoring the lifecycle of those technologies, you are able to plan future updates ensuring your IT landscape is always up to date, and thus reducing vulnerabilities.
You can also create reference architecture models that integrate regulatory and company policy requirements. Infrastructure diagrams including security items such as firewalls can also be designed providing guidelines for their implementations.
Another important aspect is the ability to track vulnerabilities of each IT asset using online libraries that list all possible vulnerabilities. This will help you identify and assess the risks that threaten your IT assets.
To go a step further, regulations can be automatically imported in your EA repository using UCF (Unified Compliance Framework). UCF covers standards such as NIST, SOX and ISO 27001. You can then implement controls, and review compliance status by regulation and critical asset (Fail/Pass).
To tackle the Covid-19 crisis, organizations have entered in a resilient mode, but they also need to prepare for the after-crisis. We can suppose that digitization will continue at a greater pace due to an increase of online activities. In this situation, enterprise architects have a key role to play to, first translate business needs into concrete IT projects, work closely with Agile teams to bring the strategic vision and architecture guardrails, and reduce cybersecurity threats by designing a secure architecture.
Gabriel Gomane has served as Senior Product Marketing Manager at MEGA International since September 2014, focusing primarily on enterprise architecture and digital transformation.