Enterprise Architecture in a Product-Oriented DevOps World

Enterprise Architecture (EA) is hugely important for medium and large organisations.

Enterprise Architects take a broad look at an organisation, and are experts in aligning technology solutions with the business objectives.

In my experience as a consultant, EAs are not having the impact they should. Very often the EAs are seen as working off to the side, creating complex models that nobody uses and extensive documentation nobody reads, and often acting as a barrier for teams who want to move quickly.

My observation is that EA has not evolved to support modern operating models. High-performing technology organisations are characterised by decentralisation: autonomous teams, masters of the problem space, who own products or features. These teams work closely with their customers and they are continuously deploying improvements to their production environments every day.

In order to evolve, EA needs to decentralise some responsibilities. Enterprise Architects still need to be experts at aligning the enterprise portfolio with business goals. They also need to work with product teams to facilitate collaborative bottom-up discovery, using techniques like EventStorming, blended with traditional top-down views.

The traditional EA role of documenting business processes and capabilities serves a purposes. It helps people to understand the complex systems they are working with. However, if nobody reads the documentation and it gets out of date quickly, it’s a tick-box exercise rather than a value creating one.

I believe that Enterprise Architects should focus on creating living documentation — designing systems that document themselves. If the documentation is accessible and people can rely on it, it truly will help organisations better navigate their complex systems.

Enterprise Architects are smart people. Let’s create environments where they can put their skills to better use in modern organisations.

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