Invite Enterprise Architecture to the Digital Party
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Invite Enterprise Architecture to the Digital Party

Invite Enterprise Architecture to the Digital Party


YOU’RE THE CEO of a large company in the throes of a challenging digital transformation. You decide to walk the halls to see how the effort is going.

You pass the digital encampment, a new, open plan area festooned with balloons, stuffed animals, and all manner of neo-corporate bric-a-brac. You breathe a sigh of relief, as you see your marketing folks in deep conversation with a handful of techies – even though it’s hard to tell the difference from all the piercings, strangely colored hair, and lumbersexual getups.

But then, on the way back to your office, you pass a haggard, middle-aged man – one shirt tail out, mumbling to himself. Who is this wreck of an employee? Your enterprise architect.

This hapless fellow – let’s call him Bob – has struggled to find his way in the organization. When he was hired, his new boss, the VP of IT, told him he’d have an impact on the business, but then he was relegated to the bowels of the IT department, to spend every waking hour on portfolio management and IT standards tasks.

Not that portfolio management and IT standards aren’t important, mind you. It’s just that as an EA, he was hoping to have a greater impact on the business outside of IT.

During the last year, however, Bob has gone downhill. He holds onto his sanity by the finest of threads. The problem? The digital effort.

When poor Bob first heard of the digital initiative, his heart rose. Finally, a reason for business and IT to work collaboratively! Customer preferences and behavior will drive a realignment across the organization! Finally, enterprise architecture will be at the center of everything, and Bob will finally get the respect he deserves!

Only it didn’t work out that way. The new Chief Digital Officer came out of the interactive marketing world, and didn’t really have any idea what an EA did – or worse, what one should do.

When it came time to build a digital team, the CDO knocked on the cube walls of the developers and ops people who shrewdly put “DevOps” by their nameplates. But she walked right by Bob’s office without even peeking in.



On the surface, EA and digital sound like a match made in heaven. After all, EA is supposed to help organizations clarify the organizational, process, information, and technology elements or primitives that make up the enterprise in order to establish efficient approaches to coordinating them in order to better achieve the goals of the organization.

Since enterprise digital transformation efforts involve organizational, process, and technology changes that better connect the customer to the technology systems of record, formulating the best way of accomplishing the goals of digital sounds like a perfect application of enterprise architecture.

Only most organizations don’t see this connection – for a number of possible reasons.

First, the existing EA effort may not be focused on broad-based business improvement at all. All too often EAs like Bob get buried in the IT department. Their focus ends up on technology concerns, which are important to be sure, but the connection to the business is tenuous at best.

Not all EAs are in Bob’s predicament, however. There are some well-run EA departments outside of IT that help drive enterprisewide improvement. Yet even these cream-of-the-crop EAs may not have much say in the digital initiative, because today’s EA efforts rarely focus on business agility.

But even if you’ve read my book and taken my course and followed me on Twitter, and even if you’re the best-qualified Agile EA in the world, you may still not be invited to the digital party. There’s still something missing.



Perhaps one of the most massive roadblocks to the success of the enterprise architecture profession – and certainly to the EA’s proper place in the digital initiative – is simply the name “enterprise architect.” Architect as a title sounds geeky and technical, and slapping enterprise in front of it doesn’t help much.

Face it, the practice of EA has taken a number of lumps over the years. It’s time to cut loose the baggage.

Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. Let’s simply cross off all references to EA from the org chart and corresponding business cards. Instead, let’s call the EA team the Center of Digital Excellence. Catchy, eh? It even comes with a handy if somewhat ironic acronym: CODE.

The no-longer-EAs populating CODE might go by titles like VP of Digital Excellence, Director of Digital Excellence, and the like, depending upon how anal HR is with their designations. Just don’t call them architects, as that would defeat the purpose of the renaming.

While we’re at it, let’s chuck other people into CODE as well. We’re already struggling with what to call the folks involved in the DevOps reorg over in IT – are they the DevOps team? Group? Party, maybe?

And now, the digital leadership wants to connect the DevOps folks to the marketing and product folks, leading to perplexing portmanteaus like BizDevOps. Well, what is BizDevOps but a Center of Digital Excellence?



The Chief Digital Officer title is still quite slippery – is it really a C-level exec? Is it more marketing or more tech? – but if you have a CDO, then it stands to reason that CODE reports to her. How, then, should the CDO organize CODE?

The answer: she shouldn’t. CODE should be self-organizing. Make sure this group understands the business priorities of the digital effort, and ensure they have enough resources – human, technical, and financial – to be successful. And then get out of their way.

It’s important to remember that self-organizing shouldn’t mean disorganized. Instead, it means you trust people to figure out who needs to do what from project to project in order to achieve both the short term and strategic goals of the initiative.

The used-to-be-EAs in this group will find that their way of thinking will be essential to this internal self-organization. After all, understanding what the pieces are and how to assemble them to achieve business goals is the stock in trade of the EA. The only way they can adequately contribute to such an effort, however is to be members of CODE.

It’s time for Bob to come in out of the cold. Mess up his hair and put him in a Center of Digital Excellence T-shirt, and watch your digital effort take off.


Source :

Author : Jason Bloomberg is President of Intellyx.

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