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How an Agile Focus for Enterprise Architects Builds Competitive Advantage in The Digital Transformation Age
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How an Agile Focus for
Enterprise Architects Builds
Competitive Advantage in
The Digital Transformation Age
Transcript of a panel discussion on how Enterprise Architects should embrace agile approaches
to build more competitive advantage for their companies.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and
you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Our next business trends discussion explores the
reinforcing nature of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and agile methods.
We’ll now learn how Enterprise Architects can embrace agile approaches to build
competitive advantages for their companies. To learn more about retraining and
rethinking for EA in the Digital Transformation (DT) era, we are now joined by Ryan
Schmierer, Director of Operations at Sparx Services North America. Welcome, Ryan.
Ryan Schmierer: Thanks, Dana.
Gardner: We are also joined by Chris Armstrong,
President at Sparx Services North America. Welcome,
Chris Armstrong: How are you, Dana?
Gardner: I’m great, thanks. Ryan, what's happening in
business now that’s forcing a new emphasis for
Enterprise Architects? Why should Enterprise Architects
do things any differently than they have in the past?
Schmierer: The biggest thing happening in the industry
right now is around DT. We been hearing about DT for the last couple of years and most
companies have embarked on some sort of a DT initiative, modernizing their business
But now companies are looking beyond the initial transformation and asking, “What’s
next?” We are seeing them focus on real-time, data-driven decision-making, with the
ultimate goal of enterprise business agility -- the capability for the enterprise to be aware
of its environments, respond to changes, and adapt quickly.
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For Enterprise Architects, that means learning how to be agile both in the work they do
as individuals and how they approach architecture for their organizations. It’s not about
making architectures that will last forever, but architectures that are nimble, agile, and
adapt to change.
Gardner: Ryan, we have heard the word, agile, used in a structured way when it comes
to software development -- Agile methodologies, for example. Are we talking about the
same thing? How are they related?
Agile, adaptive enterprise advances
Schmierer: It’s the same concept. The
idea is that you want to deliver results
quickly, learn from what works, adapt,
change, and evolve. It’s the same
approach used in software development
over the last few years. Look at how you develop software that delivers value quickly.
We are now applying those same concepts in other contexts.
First is at the enterprise level. We look at how the business evolves quickly, learn from
mistakes, and adapt the changes back into the environment.
Second, in the architecture domain, instead of waiting months or quarters to develop an
architecture, vision, and roadmap, how do we start small, iterate, deliver quickly,
accelerate time-to-value, and refine it as we go?
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
Gardner: Many businesses want DT, but far fewer of them seem to know how to get
there. How does the role of the Enterprise Architect fit into helping companies attain DT?
Schmierer: The core job responsibility for Enterprise Architects is to be an extension of
company leadership and its executives. They need to look at where a company is trying
to go, all the different pieces that need to be addressed to get there, establish a future-
state vision, and then develop a roadmap on how to get there.
This is what company leadership is trying to do. The EA is there to help them figure out
how to do that. As the executives look outward and forward, the Enterprise Architect
figures out how to deliver on the vision.
Gardner: Chris, tools and frameworks are only part of the solution. It’s also about the
people and the process. There's the need for training and best practices. How should
people attain this emphasis for EA in that holistic definition?
You want to deliver results quickly,
learn from what works, adapt,
change, and evolve.
Page 3 of 12
Change is good
Armstrong: We want to take a step back and look at
how Ryan was describing the elevation of value
propositions and best practices that seem to be working
for agile solution delivery. How might that work for
delivering continual, regular value? One of the major
attributes, in our experience, of the goodness of any
architecture, is based on how well it responds to change.
In some ways, agile and EA are synonyms. If you’re
doing good Enterprise Architecture, you must be agile
because responding to change is one of those quality
attributes. That’s a part of the traditional approach of
architecture – to be concerned with the interoperability
As it relates to the techniques, tools, and frameworks we want to exploit -- the
experiences that we have had in the past – we try to push those forward into more of an
operating model for Enterprise Architects and how they engage with the rest of the
So not starting from scratch, but
trying to embrace the concept of
reuse, particularly reuse of
knowledge and information. It’s a
good best practice, obviously.
That's why in 2019 you certainly
don't want to be inventing your
own architecture method or your
own architecture framework, even though there may be various reasons to adapt them
to your environment.
Starting with things like the TOGAF® Framework, particularly its Architecture
Development Method (ADM) and reference models -- those are there for individuals or
vertical industries to accelerate the adding of value.
The challenge I've seen for a lot of architecture teams is they get sucked into the
methodology and the framework, the semantics and concepts, and spend a lot of time
trying to figure out how to do things with the tools. What we want to think about is how to
enable the architecture profession in the same way we enable other people do their jobs
-- with instant-on service offerings, using modern common platforms, and the industry
frameworks that are already out there.
In 2019, you certainly don’t want to be
inventing your own architecture method or
your own architecture framework, even
though there may be various reasons to
adapt them to your environment.
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We are seeing people more focused on not just what the framework is but helping to
apply it to close that feedback loop. The TOGAF standard, a standard of The Open
Group, makes perfect sense, but people often struggle with, “Well, how do I make this
real in my organization?”
Partnering with organizations that have had that kind of experience helps close that gap
and accelerates the use in a valuable fashion. It’s pretty important.
Gardner: It’s ironic that I've heard of recent instances where Enterprise Architects are
being laid off. But it sounds increasingly like the role is a keystone to DT. What's the
mismatch there, Chris? Why do we see in some cases the EA position being
undervalued, even though it seems critical?
EA here to stay
Armstrong: You have identified something that has happened multiple times.
Pendulum swings happen in our industry, particularly when there is a lot of change going
on. People are getting a little conservative. We’ve seen this before in the context of fiscal
downturns in economic climates.
But to me, it really points to the irony of what we
perceive in the architecture profession based on
successes that we have had. Enterprise
Architecture is an essential part of running your
business. But if executives don't believe that
and have not experienced that then it’s not
surprising when there's an opportunity to make changes in investment priorities that
Enterprise Architecture might not be at the top of the list.
We need to be mindful of where we are in time with the architecture profession. A lot of
organizations struggle with the glass ceiling of Enterprise Architecture. It’s something we
have encountered pretty regularly, where executives are, “I really don’t get what this EA
thing is, and what's in it for me? Why should I give you my support and resources?”
But what’s interesting about that, of course, is if you take a step back you don’t see
executives saying the same thing about human resources or accounting. Not to suggest
that they aren’t thinking about ways to optimize those as a core competency or as
strategic. We still do have an issue with acceptance of enterprise architecture based on
the educational and developmental experiences a lot of executives have had.
We’re very hopeful that that trend is going to be moving in a different direction,
particularly as relates to new master’s programs and doctorate programs, for example, in
the Enterprise Architecture field. Those elevate and legitimize Enterprise Architecture as
a profession. When people are going through an MBA program, they will have heard of
enterprise architecture as an essential part of delivering upon strategy.
Enterprise Architecture is
an essential part of
running your business.
Page 5 of 12
Gardner: Ryan, looking at what prevents companies from attaining DT, what are the
major challenges? What’s holding up enterprises from getting used to real-time data,
gaining agility, and using intelligence about how they do things?
Schmierer: There are a couple of things going on. One of them ties back to what Chris
was just talking about -- the role of Enterprise Architects, and the role of architects in
general. DT requires a shift in the relationship between business and IT. With DT,
business functions and IT functions become entirely and holistically integrated and
When there are no separate IT processes and no businesses process -- there are just
processes because the two are intertwined. As we use more real-time data and as we
leverage Enterprise Architecture, how do we move beyond the traditional relationship
between business and IT? How do we look at such functions as data management and
data architecture? How do we bring them into an integrated conversation with the folks
who were part of the business and IT teams of the past?
A good example of how companies can do this
comes in a recent release from The Open Group,
the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge™
(DPBoK™). It says that there's a core skill set that
is general and describes what it means to be such
a practitioner in the digital era, regardless of your
job role or focus. It says we need to classify job
roles more holistically and that everyone needs to have both a business mindset and a
set of technical skills. We need to bring those together, and that's really important.
As we look at what's holding up DT -- taking the next step to real-time data, broadening
the scope of DT – we need take functions that were once considered centralized assets,
like EA and data management, and bring them into the forefront, and say, “You know
what? You’re part of the digital transmission story as well. You’re key to bringing us
along to the next stage of this journey, which is looking at how to optimize, bring in the
data, and use it more effectively. How do we leverage technology in new ways?”
The second thing we need to improve is the mindset. It’s particularly an issue with
Enterprise Architects right now. And it is that Enterprise Architects -- and everyone in
digital professions -- need to be living in the present.
You asked why some EAs are getting laid off. Why is that? Think about how they
approach their job in terms of the questions that would be asked in a performance
Those might be, “What have you done for me over the years?” If your answer focuses on
what you did in the past, you are probably going to get laid off. What you did in the past
is great, but the company is operating in the present.
We need to classify job
roles more holistically and
everyone needs to have
both a business mindset
and a set of technical skills.
Page 6 of 12
What’s your grand idea for the future? Some ideal situation? Well, that’s probably going
to get you shoved in a corner some place and probably eventually laid off because
companies don't know what the future is going to bring. They may have some idea of
where they want to get to, but they can’t articulate a 5- to 10-year vision because the
environment changes so quickly.
What have you done for me lately? That’s a favorite thing to ask in performance-review
discussions. You got your paycheck because you did your job over the last six months.
That’s what companies care about, and yet that’s not what Enterprise Architects should
Instead, the EA emphasis should be what can you do for the business over the next few
months? Focus on the present and the near-term future.
That’s what gets Enterprise Architects a seat at the table. That’s what gets the entire
organization, and all the job functions, contributing to DT. It helps them become aligned
to delivering near-term value. If you are entirely focused on delivering near-term value,
you’ve achieved business agility.
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
Gardner: Chris, because nothing stays the same for very long, we are seeing a lot
more use of cloud services. We’re seeing composability and automation. It seems like
we are shifting from building to assembly.
Doesn’t that fit in well with what EAs do, focusing on the assembly and the structure
around automation? That’s an abstraction above putting in IT systems and configuring
Reuse to remain competitive
Armstrong: It’s ironic that the profession that’s often been coming up with the concepts
and thought-leadership around reuse struggles a with how to internalize that within their
organizations. EAs have been pretty successful at the implementation of reuse on an
operating level, with code libraries, open-source, cloud, and SaaS.
There is no reason to invent a new method or framework. There are plenty of them out
there. Better to figure out how to exploit those to competitive advantage and focus on
understanding the business organization, strategy, culture, and vision -- and deliver
value in the context of those.
For example, one of the common best practices in Enterprise Architecture is to create
things called reference architectures, basically patterns that represent best practices,
many of which can be created from existing content. If you are doing cloud or
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microservices, elevate that up to different types of business models. There’s a lot of
good content out there from standards organizations that give organizations a good
place to start.
But one of the things that we've observed is a lot of architecture communities tend to
focus on building -- as you were saying -- those reference architectures, and don't focus
as much on making sure the organization knows that content exists, has been used, and
has made a difference.
We have a great opportunity to connect the dots
among different communities that are often not
working together. We can provide that
architectural leadership to pull it together and
deliver great results and positive behaviors.
Gardner: Chris, tell us about Sparx Services North America. What do you all do, and
how you are related to and work in conjunction with The Open Group?
Armstrong: Sparx Services is focused on helping end-user organizations be successful
with Enterprise Architecture and related professions such as solution architecture and
solution delivery, and systems engineering. We do that by taking advantage of the
frameworks and best practices that standards organizations like The Open Group
create, helping make those standards real, practical, and pragmatic for end-user
organizations. We provide guidance on how to adapt and tailor them and provide
support while they use those frameworks for doing real work.
And we provide a feedback loop to The Open Group to help understand what kinds of
questions end-user organizations are asking. We look for opportunities for improving
existing standards, areas where we might want to invest in new standards, and to
accelerate the use of Enterprise Architecture best practices.
Gardner: Ryan, moving onto what's working and what's helping foster better DT, tell us
what's working. In a practical sense, how is EA making those shorter-term business
One day at a time
Schmierer: That’s a great question. We have talked about some of the challenges. It’s
important to focus on the right path as well. So, what's working that an enterprise
architect can do today in order to foster DT?
Number one, embrace agile approaches and an agile mindset in both architecture
development (how you do your job) and the solutions you develop for your
organizations. A good way to test whether you are approaching architecture in an agile
way is the first iteration in the architecture. Can you go through the entire process of the
Architecture Development Method (ADM) on a cocktail napkin in the time it takes you to
We have a great opportunity to
connect the dots among
different communities that are
often not working together.
Page 8 of 12
have a drink with your boss? If so, great. It means you are focused on that first simple
iteration and then able to build from there.
Number two, solve problems today with the components you have today. Don’t just look
to the future. Look at what you have now and how you can create the most value
possible out of those. Tomorrow the environment is going to change, and you can focus
on tomorrow's problems and tomorrow’s challenges tomorrow. So today’s problems
Third, look beyond your current DT initiative and what’s going on today, and talk to your
leaders. Talk to your business clients about where they need to go in the future. That
goal is enterprise business agility, which is helping the company become more nimble.
DT is the first step, then start looking at steps two and three.
Fourth, Architects need to understand technology better, such things as fast-moving,
emerging technology like new cloud services, Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing,
machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) -- these are more than just buzz
words and initiatives. They are real technology
advancements. They are going to have
disruptive effects on your businesses and the
solutions to support those businesses. You
need to understand the technologies; you
need to start playing with them so you can
truly be a trusted advisor to your organization
about how to apply those technologies in
Gardner: Chris, we hear a lot about AI and ML these days. How do you expect
Enterprise Architects to help organizations leverage AI and ML to get to that DT? It
seems really essential to me to become more data driven and analytics driven and then
to re-purpose to reuse those analytics over and over again to attain an ongoing journey
of efficiency and automation.
Better business outcomes
Armstrong: We are now working with our partners to figure out how to best use AI and
ML to help run the business, to do better product development, to gain a 360-degree
view of the customer, and so forth.
It’s one of those weird things where we see the shoemaker’s children not having any
shoes because they are so busy making shoes for everybody else. There is a real
opportunity, when we look at some of the infrastructure that’s required to support the
agile enterprise, to exploit those same technologies to help us do our jobs in enterprise
You need to understand the
technologies; you need to start
playing with them so you can
truly be a trusted advisor to
your organization about how to
apply those technologies in
Page 9 of 12
It is an emerging part of the profession. We and others are beginning to do some
research on that, but when I think of how much time we and our clients have spent on
the nuts and bolts collection of data and normalization of data, it sure seems like there is
a real opportunity to leverage these emerging technologies for the benefit of the
architecture practice. Then, again, the architects can be more focused on building
relationships with people, understanding the strategy in less time, and figuring out where
the data is and what the data means.
Obviously humans still need to be involved, but I think there is a great opportunity to eat
your own dog food, as it were, and see if we can exploit those learning tools for the
benefit of the architecture community and its consumers.
Gardner: Chris, do we have concrete examples of this at work, where EAs have
elevated themselves and exposed their value for business outcomes? What’s possible
when you do this right?
Armstrong: A lot of organizations are working things from the bottoms up, and that
often starts in IT operations and then moves to solution delivery. That’s where there has
been a lot of good progress, in improved methods and techniques such as scaled agile
But a lot of organizations struggle to elevate it higher. The DPBoK™ from The Open
Group provides a lot of guidance to help organizations navigate that journey, particularly
getting to the fourth level of the learning
progression, which is at the enterprise level.
That’s where Enterprise Architecture becomes
essential. It’s great to develop software fast,
but that’s not the whole point of agile solution
delivery. It should be about building the right
software the right way to meet the right kind of
requirements -- and do that as rapidly as
We need an umbrella over different release trains, for example, to make sure the
organization as a whole is marching forward. We have been working with a number of
Fortune 100 companies that have made good progress at the operational
implementation levels. They nonetheless now are finding that particularly trying, to
connect to business architecture.
There have been some great advancements from the Business Architecture Guild and
that’s been influencing the TOGAF framework, to connect the dots across those agile
communities so that the learnings of a particular release train or the strategy of the
enterprise is clearly understood and delivered to all of those different communities.
Gardner: Ryan, looking to the future, what should organizations be doing with the
Enterprise Architect role and function?
It should be about building the
right software the right way to
meet the right kind of
requirements – and to do that
as rapidly as possible.
Page 10 of 12
EA evolution across environments
Schmierer: The next steps don’t just apply to Enterprise Architects but really to all
types of architects. So look at the job role and how your job role needs to evolve over
the next few years. How do you need to approach it differently than you have in the
For example, we are seeing Enterprise Architects increasingly focus on issues like
security, risk, reuse, and integration with partner ecosystems. How do you integrate with
other companies and work in the broader environments?
We are seeing Business Architects who have been deeply engaged in DT discussions
over the last couple of years start looking forward and shifting the role to focus on how
we light up real-time decision-making capabilities. Solution Architects are shifting from
building and designing components to designing assembly and designing the end
systems that are often built out of third-party components instead of things that were
Look at the job role and understand that the core need hasn’t changed. Companies need
Enterprise Architects and Business Architects and Solution Architects more than ever
right now to get them where they need to be. But the people serving those roles need to
do that in a new way -- and that’s focused on the future, what the business needs are
over the next 6 to 18 months, and that’s different than what they have done in past.
Learn About Agile Architecture
At The Open Group July Denver Event
Gardner: Where can organizations and individuals go to learn more about Agile
Architecture as well as what The Open Group and Sparx Services are offering?
Schmierer: The Open Group has some great resources available. We have a July event
in Denver focused on Agile Architecture, where they will discuss some of the latest
thoughts coming out of The Open Group Architecture Forum, Digital Practitioners Work
Group, and more. It’s a great opportunity to learn about those things, network with
others, and discuss how other companies are approaching these problems. I definitely
point them there.
I mentioned the DPBoK™. This is a recent release from The Open Group, looking at the
future of IT and the roles for architects. There’s some great, forward-looking thinking in
there. I encourage folks to take a look at that, provide feedback, and get involved in that
And then Sparx Services North America, we are here to help architects be more
effective and add value to their organizations, be it through tools, training, consulting,
Page 11 of 12
best practices, and standards. We are here to help, so feel free to reach out at our
website. We are happy to talk with you and see how we might be able to help.
Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You have been listening to a sponsored
BriefingsDirect discussion on reinforcing the relationship between Enterprise
Architecture and agile businesses. And we have learned how Enterprise Architects
should embrace new approaches and digital practitioner, leading-edge thinking to build
competitive advantages for their companies.
So a big thank you to our guests, Ryan Schmierer, Director of Operations at Sparx
Services North America. Thank you so much, Ryan.
Schmierer: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: And thank you, too, to Chris Armstrong, President at Sparx Services North
Armstrong: You are more than welcome, Dana.
Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect
agile business innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor
Solutions, your host throughout this series of BriefingsDirect discussions sponsored by
The Open Group.
Thanks again for listening, please pass this along to your IT community, and do come
back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open
Transcript of a panel discussion how Enterprise Architects should embrace agile approaches to
build more competitive advantage for their companies. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC and
The Open Group, 2005-2019. All rights reserved.
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