The “All New” Digital Architect: Designing for Change (Part One)

Technology and Digital


May 11, 2018

In our work, we talk to architects from a range of backgrounds, countries, and organizations who have a passion for technology and the digital world. Through these conversations, we’ve uncovered a new way of thinking: one that challenges the norms associated with the architect’s position in the enterprise, but also builds upon the foundation of tried and tested approaches from decades of designing and building digital things of all types and sizes.

These architects are establishing platforms that enable continuous innovation in how their customers and staff can access and use the services they need. They are increasingly designing data and integration backbones for their enterprise that simplify delivery of new services, de-risk replacement of legacy systems, and enable new applications for data analytics and intelligent learning solutions. The one common challenge faced by architects is an unpredictable future – so they must design for change and keep learning.

Digital, Agile, DevOps, everything as a service are all transforming the world of IT. Ultimately, these advancements are freeing IT’s capacity to innovate, align with the strategic goals of the business, and deliver digital transformation in an age when 85 percent of organizational leaders believe they must advance their digital transformation efforts in the next two years before business performance is compromised.

Not only is the consensus for digital transformation growing, but the pace of change is accelerating. In fact, North Highland’s research from March 2018 shows that 74 percent of organizations report that the pace of digital tool and app development has increased in the last three years. The architect sits at the center of this shift. And, according to Forrester’s 2017 Global State of Enterprise Architecture and Program Management Online Survey, “demand for digital, customer centricity, and an emphasis on products and services” are all evolving the enterprise architect’s role to better align with business priorities and imperatives.

We’ve captured three actionable principles, grounded in insights from our work with our clients, that can elevate the architect’s work to new levels of strategic value.

  1. Embrace continuous design.New today is old tomorrow. A digital architect embraces the state of the art, lays foundations for the future, and is prepared for change. They shorten design cycles, release early, and evolve an architecture in response to opportunities and a changing world.

What they avoid: They avoid onerous, time consuming, and complex up-front designs, but they recognize that knowledge management remains crucial and managing technology estates without defined architectures is impossible.

The way we work: With a bias towards action, we’re equipped to provide advice from the position of hands-on experience and prioritize action to achieve rapid results.

  1. Preserve engagement throughout. A design lives or dies by its use. Developing a digital architecture should be an engaging and inclusive process—and supported by a recognition that people are the most critical stakeholder in the development of any solution. Digital architects contribute throughout the lifecycle of a project or product and the success of an architecture is ultimately measured by its live, in the wild, use.

What they avoid: They avoid designs being passed “over the fence”.

The way we work: People are at the heart of everything we do. We are highly collaborative and champion continuous design, engagement throughout, and knowledge building in your teams.

  1. Build collective knowledge. The digital era is fueled discovery and invention. An architect’s breadth of experience is valuable but even more valuable is their ability to learn, communicate, and build sustainable knowledge with those around them.

What they avoid: They avoid ivory tower architecture and instead work to embed architecture thinking into engineering.

The way we work: As dedicated capability builders, we are devoted to making our clients more capable and more successful through our work together.

In the next part of the series, we’ll discuss the must-have tools that architects can use to activate these principles in their everyday work.

For more on transformational IT leaders, click here to read our article in partnership with MIT Technology Review Insights.

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