by Robert Raiola, Chief Marketing Officer, MEGA International
The importance of aligning IT with the business is no longer questioned by organizations, that need is well understood. The next step between IT and the business is the need to understand how the business should best evolve in a digital-first economy. In our rapidly changing economic and technology driven world, the role of the enterprise architect is to address organizations’ digital challenges through a capacity-based approach, instead of the traditional project management mode, and be a leader in successful transformation and modernization initiatives.
Capability approach: Focus on business needs
Traditionally, IT focuses on projects: a technical approach that focuses on the “how” i.e., the tools, methods, and resources to be implemented to achieve an objective. The capability approach, on the contrary, focuses on the “why” meaning the business objective of the organization. Adopting a capability approach changes the mindset of IT practices and better aligns it with business needs.
Retail is a perfect example for this necessary paradigm shift. Facing the wave of e-commerce, traditional retailers have often reacted in the most prosaic way possible: by creating an e-commerce site themselves. Retailers have responded by setting up new tools and launching new IT projects to stay competitive. Many retailers soon realized however, that having a well-furnished, easy to navigate online store was far from enough to be successful.
Behind the window of e-commerce lies a series of new business processes and capabilities that must be combined and aligned for digital commerce to run smoothly. Just some of these new processes include online ordering, secure payment, data management, automated invoicing, storage, packaging, deliveries, etc.
This example applies to all organizations no matter the industry. IT projects are nothing more than the means that allow an organization to acquire new business capacities to meet its needs in a digital ecosystem. Before launching a new IT project, it is advisable to adopt a capability approach aimed at identifying the necessary capabilities that will enable the organization to achieve its objectives. This approach focuses above all on business needs and allows architecture teams to stick as closely as possible to the organization’s strategy.
Enterprise architects: The new digital business champions
Traditionally, the role of enterprise architects was to ensure the consistency of the information system, by defining a technical reference framework, using sound best practices, limiting risks, and facilitating the evolution of the information system.
In the context of today’s fast paced digital economy, where business needs are changing rapidly, the practice of enterprise architecture has evolved to best meet business expectations. The capability approach was developed in that context.
To ensure the coherence of the information system, the role of the enterprise architect has never been so critical to providing efficiency and agility to organizations. Enterprise architects’ understanding of technologies and their potential, as well as what the business needs, and how to align the two, are valuable assets for any company.
With the capability approach, enterprise architects focus on identifying the business capabilities required to meet business objectives, in accordance with the organization’s strategy. Enterprise architects act as an internal consultant who envisions how technology makes it possible to implement new business models, allowing the company to remain competitive. IT projects are a means to support the strategic directions defined in collaboration with the business lines, but the enterprise architect is really the master of crafting the alignment between IT and the business through a capability approach.
Enterprise architects’ functions are evolving, as well and becoming a role that challenges the social and environmental responsibility of the company, by examining questions of ethics (management of personal data for example) or even the ecological footprint of IT tools.
This more strategic positioning of enterprise architecture is accompanied by greater visibility for all stakeholders, and greater responsibility for enterprise architects, as their role in business results and ethical practices increases.
About the author
Robert Raiola has over 25 years of experience managing sales and marketing teams in the high-tech industry. After more than 10 years at Microsoft France, he joined Adobe for 8 years and led their marketing teams in France and then EMEA. Since 2014, Robert has served as Chief Marketing Officer at MEGA International, a global software firm recognized as a leader in enterprise architecture. In his position as CMO, Robert helps MEGA communicate the value of combining enterprise architecture, data governance, and GRC to support digital business transformation.