We hear a lot about "digital transformation" these days. It’s one of those nebulous phrases that vendors, analysts, and pundits twist to mean whatever they like. But interestingly, a common thread runs through nearly all those interpretations: A new wave of technologies (cloud, IoT, Linux containers, big data processing, machine learning) is enabling enterprises to change applications, products, and workflows continuously, with greater speed and flexibly than ever before.
Yet technology doesn’t initiate transformation -- people do, and as this year’s InfoWorld/Forrester Enterprise Architecture Awards winners demonstrate, architects are often today's change agents. The business driver for transformation is often a set of business initiatives, but the end state is not an end state at all -- it’s a platform for continuous change that EA plays a key role in planning and, in many cases, delivering.
Take Aetna, one of this year’s five winners. Architects became part of delivery teams and played an active role in successfully integrating software, eliminating design defects, reducing delivery times, and more. Thanks to an excellent track record, both IT and business execs now turn to the EA practice for trusted advice. This is a far cry from EA’s ivory tower reputation of yore.
Gone are the days when enterprise architects moved boxes around on flow charts in search of perfect process models -- or acted merely as enforcers of policies. Yes, the role of EA is still to look at the big picture, identify synergies and redundancies, and develop designs that act as a collaborative focal point for business and IT alike. But these days EA is also in the trenches, playing a vital role in getting things done, from prototyping to delving into risk assessments of complex systems. You can’t be an agent of change by sitting on the sidelines and keeping score.
Transformation transcends individual projects. As Forrester vice president and research director Alex Cullen says in this year’s Enterprise Architecture Awards feature story, it’s about “speed and responsiveness for the enterprise.” To get there, you need organizational change. The pervasive nature of that transformation at Humana, MassMutual, South State Bank, Aetna, and Cummins earned each of these organizations a 2016 Enterprise Architecture Award.