When I was approached to write this article, I had multiple, somewhat conflicting reactions. The first prevailing reaction was excitement and gratitude for being granted the opportunity to write about something other than my internal design documents. The second reaction was anxiety, because I am writing about technology and architecture that will be read by my peers. Let the journey begin.
As an Enterprise Architect, keeping up with technology and the related trends is one of my core responsibilities. The challenge of keeping on top of these technology trends, aside from the speed at which they evolve, is making sense of them and their impact on business and IT strategy. These trends can range from application development, development methodologies, database and information management to infrastructure design and the integration of Cloud solutions. With each of these, I need to be aware of any security and regulatory requirements that could be impacted by these new technologies.
"Something unique to hardware and COTS solutions is they can be certified by regulatory bodies to meet the necessary standards"
Throughout my career, the way I responded to technology and related trends has evolved. Earlier in my career, my view of technology was that it was the answer to all the woes and challenges in business. I felt I could use the latest technology to solve my IT problems with, at times, reckless abandon. This would have negative consequences and might not meet the long-term strategic view. As I grew and evolved into the Enterprise Architect role, my view of technology changed and broadened. As I reviewed designs or worked on technology strategies and roadmaps, I began to take into account business related factors:
• What industry I was working in
• The state of the IT Architecture function and the technology estate
I have worked for many companies across multiple industry verticals. By and large, I have found many common themes across IT specific requirements and solutions to satisfy internal and external needs. The need to use IT resources–human and non-human– efficiently is paramount. Working in regulated industries, such as healthcare and banking, has allowed me to appreciate how Enterprise Architects need to balance knowledge of technology with knowledge of business and the related constraints.
Regulatory requirements of an industry shape how I address and select technology in my designs and roadmaps. When working in these industries, I make sure the selected technology, integration partner, development framework, or methodology can support the regulation to be addressed. These business and regulatory requirements will be used to make decisions down to the API level for individual solution designs, as well as influence solution development standards, policies and procedures. These policies and standards will provide guidelines for:
• User access management rules (e.g. authentication and authorization)
• Secure inter-application rules (e.g. web service integration)
• Application logging and audit rules
• Secure coding standards guidelines (e.g. code reviews, code profiling)
Decisions about hardware and Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) software solutions are also influenced by regulatory requirements and constraints. Something unique to hardware and COTS solutions is they can be certified by regulatory bodies to meet the necessary standards. In some respects, this could be considered a limiting factor, but overall this makes product selection and implementation easier and repeatable.
Understanding how the Enterprise Architecture role fits into the organizations that I work in has also shaped my career to this point. Understanding how to interact with the other roles within an IT organization can make the work experience pleasant; not understanding can make it painful. Yes, I know that this sounds very obvious to most, but I have found that this isn’t as obvious as it seems. As I stated earlier, Enterprise Architects build solutions and strategies based upon business requirements. Enterprise Architects have the good fortune of being able to leverage established frameworks and methodologies to help them do their jobs. I have leveraged TOGAF, Agile, UML, Zachman and other methodologies and frameworks while building my career. This has given me the ability to build processes and lists of deliverables that can be shared with my colleagues on both the IT and business sides; thus allowing us to collaborate to create common terms and complimentary policies and procedures making our work efforts more effective and efficient. The additional benefits of this partnership have allowed me to learn more about the businesses of the organizations that I have worked in. With this knowledge, I am better able to frame solution proposals to aid management with purchase decisions and gain approvals from corporate architecture advisory boards. When working with my staff of architects, I encourage them to learn as much about the business processes as possible and how their architectures relate to the requirements. This allows them to create and document architectures more effectively and efficiently. They are then viewed as value adding resources to the organization and constantly in demand.
There is one important technology trend that I haven’t touched on, the impact of Cyber Security on Enterprise Architecture. With the increased attention being placed on Cyber Security, I have been able to place more attention on security. The challenge I have found with incorporating security within any design that I have created is finding the balance between allowing the end user to get their job done seamlessly while protecting them and the organization from cyber threats. But like the other components that make up the designs, strategies and roadmaps that my team and I work on, security considerations and solutions are incorporated into each of these deliverables. This is a challenge I enjoy and keeps my job engaging.
Overall, I am happy with my career choice of focusing on Enterprise Architecture. It has given me the opportunity to participate in all aspects of IT and learn about the businesses that I have worked in. I am constantly learning and gaining more experience with every design.