Enterprise architecture (EA) is the fastest-growing, in-demand technology skillset, according to the recently released Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO survey. This reflected a 26% surge in demand for EA skills in the past year.
This result flies in the face of a widely held belief that the 25-year-old discipline had passed its sell-by date. The report notes that three years ago, demand for enterprise architects was declining.
KMPG defines enterprise architects as those who “focus on building a holistic view of an organisation’s strategy, processes, information, and IT assets in order to support the most efficient and secure IT environment”.
Simon Carpenter, chief technology advisor at SAP Africa, agrees with the survey findings.
“We are seeing it in our own business,” he says and attributes the turnaround to the demands and complexity of the digital economy.
“As the digital economy takes hold, we have to deal with significantly more complex IT landscapes such as; hybrid cloud and on-premises applications, BYOD, IOT, business networks, AI, blockchain and so forth. A fragmented and disjointed approach to the adoption of these technologies will simply lead to greater risk for the enterprise, higher costs and more fragility.
“At the same time as these technology developments are happening companies are also globalising, innovating their business models while having to deal with different regulatory regimes around the world.
“Enterprise architects are therefore required to ensure that IT landscapes are optimised: cost-effective, open and collaborative yet secure and private, scalable and flexible,” Carpenter explains.
Roland Woldt, director of KPMG’s Enterprise Architecture Practice, says EA has evolved substantially from its early days when it was seen strictly as a technical way to wire up an organisation’s infrastructure. Today’s EA is more focused on business outcomes – what KMPG calls “capability-centric architecture”: the capabilities needed to make digital transformation happen.
According to Woldt, with its many moving parts and a myriad of direct and indirect relationships with partners, customers and vendors, EA has become incredibly complex. And it’s the enterprise architects who have to understand the entire value chain, wire everything together and provide a service to everyone in a way that summarises the complex information and provides visibility and transparency.
“EA became less valued over time because organisations didn’t appreciate the rigor, structure and standards that came with it, or the time it was taking to establish a mature EA function. Unfortunately, now companies that want a greater focus on EA lack the people who can understand the complexities of all those moving parts and relationships and how to use the organisation’s information – leading to an uptick in demand for the very things they removed,” Woldt says.
So what skills are required of an enterprise architect in 2017?
SAP’s Carpenter says that while an understanding of technologies as well as methodologies and tools such as TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) and SAP Power Designer are important, today’s enterprise architect also needs the ability to think strategically as well as have curiosity, business knowledge, communication skills, design thinking and creativity.
“They also have to overcome a range of challenges. Apart from complexity, fragmentation, the exponential pace of technology development and the need to act fast, they also often have to surmount legacy politics and industrial-era mindsets,” Carpenter adds.
“Architects don’t grow on trees. There isn’t a three-day course to create one,” Woldt says. He believes that today’s most successful enterprise architects will come from different backgrounds – business, process, organisational and technical – and will have a determination to figure out how things work and a willingness to grow out of their comfort zone.