LeanIX: How is the COVID-19 pandemic shining a spotlight on enterprise architects?

As little as six months ago, contingency planning for a global pandemic was low on the business continuity agenda. Optimism bias – a bittersweet trait of human nature – would fool many into thinking that viral outbreaks of this scale will “never happen to us.” This mentality meant that the best most businesses had in terms of COVID-19 preparedness was a flexible remote working policy, which simply isn’t enough to accommodate a global hazard.

As infections surged across countries, governments were left with no choice but to issue lockdowns, and rather suddenly too. In turn, companies had to hurriedly strategise how to ensure and maintain business continuity from employees’ homes. 

Quickly, it became clear what was needed. Businesses had to ramp up their digital transformation, becoming a somewhat ‘weightless’ version of themselves without impacting day-to-day operations. This meant ensuring employees had the support and applications they needed, all while maintaining watertight security and keeping an eye on costs. What’s more, organisations would need to understand and marry up the needs of business and IT teams, aligning them in an improvised business model that could see them through the crisis. 

The weight of such tasks are tremendous, but enterprise architects (EAs) are making it happen. Notoriously known for being the bridge between business and IT, EAs have proven themselves to be the linchpin in pandemic-stricken continuity. So, how exactly are they doing it? 

To find out, we reached out to LeanIX, a company that offers Software-as-a-Service for enterprise architecture and multi-cloud environments, enabling organisations to make faster decisions in turn. LeanIX has a highly impressive client portfolio, catering for companies such as Volkswagen, Santander, Adidas, Merck, and many more.

The company’s CEO and Co-Founder, André Christ, shared his expertise with us on how EAs have risen in prominence amid the outbreak. Firstly, he introduced us to four trending categories (as identified by LeanIX) which show where EAs are most in demand throughout the crisis.

Increasing employee experience

With so many people working remotely, it’s inevitable that IT teams would soon be swamped with tickets. To begin with, IT personnel will likely see an increase in troubleshooting queries, such as “why can’t I log in to Zoom?” or “why isn’t Microsoft Teams working on my mobile?”. 

Not only that, but while at home, employees are increasingly requesting more software to be installed onto their computers. Despite, say, Microsoft Teams being the business’s prescribed communication platform, employees may also wish to add Slack to their toolkit too. 

With so many inbound requests, it won’t be long before IT teams are totally inundated. To remedy this, EAs are bringing in self-service to address larger audiences and empower employees to access information for themselves.

Historically, only IT personnel would go into the enterprise architecture repository to see which applications are available today and which may be made available in the future. Now, businesses are making this information accessible company-wide so that employees can enjoy an at-a-glance view of the software they can use. Most often, employees only need to go as far as a page in the intranet to access this information, meaning IT no longer has to be the ‘gatekeeper’ to answer such requests.

In a time where employees need more support than ever, this presents a great way to reduce the burden on IT, who can then shift focus onto other priorities such as addressing the security challenges that come with remote working.

Reducing IT cost and complexity

The pandemic has also caused a sharp decline in revenue for many businesses, and industries such as travel, retail, and hospitality have been hit especially hard. Today, store closures and layoffs are a daily fixture of our business news, and companies everywhere are exercising budget cuts, salary freezes, and cost control in an effort to not follow suit.

However, endeavours to save money needn’t be so ominous. In particular, businesses should take the opportunity to conduct or accelerate an application rationalisation program. This refers to the process of determining which applications should be kept, removed, replaced, or consolidated.

LeanIX found in a survey of their customer base that 33% of companies with more than $1 billion in revenue had more than 1,000 applications. The volume alone is indicative of how complex application rationalisation programs can be. Most likely, there will be some that can be culled, as well as others that can be consolidated, such as merging redundant security platforms. So who is best to Marie Kondo your business applications?

EAs have historically been the right people to identify which applications are critical and which can be cleared out. A method EAs may use to do so is the TIME method, where they classify every application to either Tolerate, Invest, Migrate to another application, or to Eliminate it. This method is simple and structured, and has been adopted by many of LeanIX’s customers. In fact, LeanIX has developed a nine-step approach to help their customers conduct application rationalisation with the help of an EA repository in as little as four weeks.

Cloud governance

In a bid to digitally innovate, many companies are harnessing public cloud. However, digital innovation was the main driving force behind this initiative, while productivity and efficiency were less so. Now, during such an economic downturn, LeanIX found that its customers are increasingly contemplating one question: how efficient is our company with our spending on public cloud?

By optimising and understanding their architecture, businesses can save up to 30% of their cloud spend without making dramatic changes or necessitating layoffs. In investigating one’s architecture, you may find projects that once used cloud services (perhaps for testing and development) are no longer in use now. 

EAs have the expertise to spearhead this investigation, as well as achieve transparency across all ongoing cloud projects to help you move forwards with cloud initiatives. By getting better visibility into which applications are still on-premise, organisations can action those to move into the cloud, enabling them to save significant money. What’s more, EAs can also help to speed up cloud transformation, while keeping disruptions and costs to a minimum.

Business model transformation

With digital initiatives being accelerated faster than ever, existing models could perhaps be facing extinction. However, rather than deeming them redundant, companies could benefit from realigning their business models, new and old, to make something more future-proof.

EAs are the best port of call, as they can proactively position ideas based on the capabilities a company has. In particular, they can cherry pick IT and business capabilities to create new or changed business models, helping to drive forward the innovation process too. 

EAs also have the necessary expertise to determine what is feasible and how actions can be realised. Rather than an innovation identification approach, EAs can weigh up capabilities specific to your business and have the answers to more complex questions, such as “do we have the right APIs available so that we can get access to the data that we need?”.

Recognising EAs as IT champions

What can we take away from these four categories? André explains that we are seeing enterprise architecture shift focus from an internal perspective to one which is much more collaborative and outwards facing to employees. This is partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated the need for a more digital enterprise environment. 

In particular, André tells us that “COVID-19 elevated enterprise architects into the IT champions for an organisation. They’ve played key roles in ensuring business continuity so that remote workers have access to business critical tools and services they need while also giving the C-suite important data as they rationalise costs or adapt business models in an unprecedented time.”

If anything is clear, it’s that EAs are not only imperative for business survival, but they can also enable prosperity against the pandemic-induced odds. When normality returns and we all meet our colleagues again, be sure to give your EA a well-deserved pat on the back.

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