At the start of a new year, everyone comes up with their predictions for the future. However, as we have learned last year, all these forecasts can easily be upended. There appears to be light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel with vaccination rollouts starting, but new variants of the virus could have nasty surprises in store. Who knows what’s going to happen? It’s like predicting the price of Bitcoin. You might strike it rich or you might lose your shirt.
Nevertheless, we see some trends emerging in our enterprise architecture discipline, as my colleague Raz recently highlighted. The one major development that we see is an increased attention to resilience and adaptivity. This is surely going to continue. Many organizations found out they urgently needed to change their operations in many different areas to adapt to the new pandemic reality. Scaling down (or up) certain operations, enabling your digital workforce, mending broken supply chains, fixing logistical problems, dealing with resource shortages, we have all been there. Enterprise architects often played an important role in this, with their broad and deep knowledge of the inner workings of their enterprises and its connections to various parties in its ecosystem. Our series of podcasts has several interviews with architects in such a role.
Already before the pandemic struck, I saw an increased level of attention to this topic among our customers. Two very different sectors where I have personally been involved in this are financial services and transportation & logistics. In financial services, regulators demand increasingly detailed operational resilience planning. Transportation and logistics, a very different sector, has quite similar needs when it comes to resilience analysis and business continuity planning.
Enterprise architecture covers a broad spectrum of aspects. It allows you to connect e.g.:
- Strategic goals of the enterprise
- External partners, suppliers, and customers
- Internal organization and people
- Business-critical capabilities and key business processes
- IT systems and other technology
- Physical and digital infrastructure
These connections and relationships are essential in addressing resilience and adaptivity. Risk analyses on architecture models are a great instrument to help you here, and I have written about that before.
In addition to the pandemic, we saw another reason for investing in resilience: cyber risk. Several high-profile cyber-attacks made the news in recent months. The most harmful was probably the SolarWinds attack that hit hundreds of companies and government agencies. Importantly, this was a supply chain attack that injected malicious code in IT management software via its supplier, thus compromising the users of that software. As a user, you could not have prevented this by adding some rules in your firewalls or running your virus scanners more often.
Like what we saw with the pandemic impact, this highlights the need for enterprises to understand not only their internal operations but also how they depend on all kinds of parties and technologies in their ecosystem. No architect has the full picture of these complex interactions, so this requires a collaborative effort across multiple organizations. In certain domains, we already see this happening. NATO, for instance, uses ArchiMate models of their architectures for collaboration between different countries and forces as part of its Federated Mission Networking initiative.
Analyzing and mitigating risk is only reactive though. Forward-looking enterprises proactively invest in adaptivity, so they can quickly respond to unforeseen situations, so they can quickly respond to unforeseen situations and even use their agility as a competitive advantage. Those change capabilities will be the big differentiator in many sectors. If you’re too slow to change, you’ll be obliterated by competitors, pandemics, regulatory impact (think Brexit!), economic crises, or even the effects of climate change. This has long been a theme for BiZZdesign; for more on the capabilities of adaptive enterprises, see our e-book on this. That is worth a few other blog posts though, so I’ll stop here.