Enterprise Architecture as the Gateway to Digital Transformation – Takeaways from the Gartner EA Summit 2016

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Last week, CAST attended the Gartner EA Summit, held at National Harbor. It was two days of jam-packed sessions and workshops about Enterprise Architecture, but what stuck out the most was the value of this very unique discipline as a catalyst for Digital Transformation.

EA and Digital Transformation were the core focus of many presentations, including Mike J. Walker’s session “Leverage EA to Understand the Value and Impacts of Digital Disruption.” Mike stressed that this ever-evolving discipline is becoming a vital component to corporate strategy, delivering high-performing and sustainable business outcomes.

CAST with Gartner analyst Mark McGreggor
CAST with Gartner analyst Mark McGreggor

A meaningful tutorial from Saul Brand titled “First 100 Days of Enterprise Architecture” set the baseline for where and how to start. Saul’s presentation was a good reminder of how important it is to understand context, maturity and objectives prior to beginning your EA journey. Just before the conference, Gartner released its Magic Quadrant for EA Tools, which was the focus of several sessions including Mark McGregor’s. Mark touched on how EA has changed over the past few years and examined new tools now on the market.

Tools and features that were previously pillars of differentiation have now become common, and they are now considered essentials. Such features that are now minimum requirements include:

  • Using a central repository
  • Offering several diagrams and presentations
  • Leveraging internal standards (notation, frameworks and content)
  • Enabling content on different architectures

Gartner also shared some interesting statistics on the success rates of EA projects:

  • 50% of first attempts fail to get the budget to an EA tool
  • 44% of EA end users don’t know or track the value brought by the EA tool
  • 84% of EA practitioners do not leverage use cases

The “Modern EA Practice” is signaling a shift toward more comprehensive EA solutions that deliver actionable recommendations to cope with business and IT challenges, such as Digital Transformation. As such, it is more important than ever to prove the business outcomes of effective Enterprise Architecture.

Several practical sessions provided concrete evidence about how EA solutions can lead to smart decision making. Despite a very noisy theater, the MEGA team ran a spot-on presentation called: “Killing Application: Don’t Become a Victim of the Zombie-App-pocalypse!” The session highlighted the importance of understanding the impacts and grasping the enterprise objectives to be a proactive “hero” and not a “victim”!

Mark Lankhorst from BizzDesign took over the following session to talk about “the adaptive enterprise” and the recurring need for fact-based analytics against portfolios. Mark shared several dashboards that leveraged EA repositories to provide insights to both business and IT executives to communicate IT Rationalization goals and secure funding for further innovation and transformation.

CAST visiting the CISQ booth
CAST visiting the CISQ booth

Chris White from Casewise shared a case study on how “Strategy drives Architecture” and not the other way around. Walking through the “real world” scenario, Chris stressed how critical it is to provide the right information at the right time to the right audience in order to bridge the gap between strategy and execution.

Overall the event confirmed the value of EA while pointing to the next wave of challenges brought to the forefront by the need for improved insights and the shift to digital business. As we move forward, two big EA challenges remain:

  • How to Manage a Broader Scope – The scope of EA is expanding and is even “architecting the business ecosystem,” according to analyst Marcus Blosch. EA practitioners are still struggling to operationalize the discipline to manage the connections within complex ecosystems of communicates, partners, platforms, services and technologies.
  • Working with New Development Methodologies – EA practitioners must develop concrete synergies with new methodologies such as: Agile, DevOps and Continuous Delivery. Analyst Matthew Hotle confirmed the importance of establishing a balance strategy and connecting the dots between mode 1 and mode 2.

Although there was much excitement about shifting to a more agile enterprise, a sense of urgency remains for EA practitioners to promote their value-add to the business. With quickly changing environments and increasingly complex ecosystems, Enterprise Architects can contribute to business success by supporting Digital Transformation initiatives.

Do you have any takeaways from the Gartner EA show? Share your opinion on where EA is headed by commenting below.

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