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Architectural Thinking Framework

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In these days, Enterprises are in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, their industries are being disrupted by new competitors, and the pace of innovation has increased dramatically. On the other hand, they need to run a vast legacy IT landscape which thwarts the implementation of innovative digital solutions that integrate the old with the new business & IT.

Companies put a tremendous effort into innovation initiatives. These efforts are fueled by the necessity to have more modern digital business capabilities in the organization, in order to stay competitive. They must get capable of quickly deploying technology that produces business value.

Driven by this demand, communities around Agile and Design Thinking are growing rapidly. Both ideas focus on speed and innovation but do not answer how to ensure that created solutions fit with each other and into the big picture of the enterprise. They do not anwer how to deal with the enormous ‘technical debt’ that is created by grubby integration of new digital solutions with legacy or with each other. They are speedy in the short term but do not answer how to hold this speed in the long term.

Solely focusing on new ways to create customer value, without seriously considering sustainability and architectural integrity creates point solutions and enormous costs in the long-term. This can be taken as a proven fact, if you only think of what happened to application landscapes over the last decades with much slower pace of innovation:

From my experience of 12 years doing enterprise architecture I would estimate that the IT of a typical organization of the ‘old economy’ has ten times more applications, servers, databases, than would be needed if business and IT had been properly architected. This is the reason why current application landscapes are not agile for adding new functionalities. 90% of the IT costs could have been saved if architectural thinking had been applied properly.

And this is not an IT problem. The severe situation has been caused by the absence of the notion of architecture in the business world.

Issues like:

  • overlapping responsibilities between business units

  • unclear data- and process ownerships

  • business unit silos

  • weak connections between departments that structure the business (like strategy creation, business model generation, product management, business process management)

are common to any large organization I ever worked in.

If we project this existing situation into the future of faster and faster innovation cycles, it becomes clear that without a structured approach to manage the dependencies between business & IT structures, complexity will increase exponentially. Companies simply must solve this problem as long as they can afford it. They must invest in legacy business & IT renovation to reduce complexity and must learn how to integrate new digital solutions into their legacy IT and business processes in a way that keeps technical and organizational debt in reasonable bounds. They must learn how to make informed decisions that are based on holistic viewpoints that integrate business & IT architecture. They must start to build structured connections between any level of the business- and IT organization.

They need to start Architectural Thinking.

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