How AtkinsRéalis creates shared value between solution and enterprise architecture

Feb 29, 2024
Written by
James Goodwin
James Goodwin

How AtkinsRéalis creates shared value between solution and enterprise architecture

To effectively navigate changes, Enterprise and Solution Architecture teams need to collaborate to enhance an organization’s architectural agility and ensure a competitive edge. Ensuring that these teams coexist and complement each other to drive business value is often easier said than done.

Successful collaboration can be achieved by carefully managing touchpoints or points of interaction among teams, maintaining shared value, and fostering a culture of shared governance and ownership – and this is what we’ve achieved here at AtkinsRéalis.

AtkinsRéalis is a design, engineering and project management firm that collaborates closely with organizations to deliver smart cities or critical national infrastructure, like railways and expansive urban developments. Our architect teams consist of enterprise, data and solution architects who all play a crucial role in the building process.

We’re responsible for ensuring that project teams can adapt to changes quickly and effectively during project delivery. We do this by designing the architecture and supporting and providing a holistic connection between the different delivery aspects of a project.

Read on to find out the techniques we use to drive collaboration between our architects.

Learn how architects at AtkinsRéalis collaborate

As Technical Director at AtkinsRéalis, my main driver is to strategically build and nurture architectural teams to collaborate cohesively and enhance our business’s agility and responsiveness. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Manage team touchpoints through shared value

Learn how to leverage common objectives, align goals, and create cross-functional synergies to enhance your architecture efforts. Building a shared understanding among architects of business models, operating models and roadmaps is essential, as these constitute the three key touchpoints between teams.

Understanding shared value necessitates a thorough grasp of your business model and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being tracked. It involves understanding shared catalogs, assets, and artifacts and thinking about using them through a common language. Shared governance around these touchpoints also needs to be understood, including who owns the catalog and how it is maintained. I will explain more about this below.

So, practically, how do we manage touchpoints at AtkinsRéalis? We create a shared mental model or a world view of what architectural designs look like in reality for a project and how they fit together. A shared mental model creates a unified understanding and vision of architecture among stakeholders in a project. This is important for understanding the bigger picture of organizational culture and to improve our clients’ experiences.

A digital twin is incorporated into this process, where we create immersive and interactive visualizations of these models. They’re critical in our client’s pre-building phases to understand how physical systems might operate and to make necessary adjustments.

We create our digital twins in a tech stack that includes an enterprise architecture tool, Bizzdesign Horizzon, which allows us to create visualizations and do analytics tailored to the decision-making requirements of specific audiences.

Solution and enterprise architecture collaboration

Source: AtkinsRéalis – Working at the intersection between dashboards, diagrams and GIS to provide a rich experience for both change agents and the customer

2. Maintain the value between enterprise and solution architecture teams

Winning over the teams you’ll be collaborating with is the most critical aspect of fostering a collaborative way of working. Understanding shared interdepartmental value is vital when coordinating across various teams.

Teams can maintain shared value through a variety of strategies. These include establishing a clear understanding of the interdepartmental values and ensuring they are driven out through behaviors, reward mechanisms, and ways of working so everyone sees the bigger picture. Understanding the touchpoints and communication styles among the teams is also necessary.

3. Foster a culture of shared governance and ownership

Governance in shared settings can be challenging, requiring substantial collaboration between teams, often across different parts of the organization. To govern teams effectively and holistically, it’s necessary to consider shared working methods. Focus on how assets and information are governed, maintained, and accessed within your organization, particularly between solution and enterprise architecture.

Establish a collaboration framework for two or more teams to facilitate a mutual understanding of the value they collectively contribute to the organization. These may include:

  • Shared catalogs: Develop a universal understanding of your assets, such as software, processes, roles, hosting infrastructure, and physical equipment. You can surround elements with structured management and establish collective ownership by conceptualizing elements as catalogs and portfolios.
  • Shared languages: Consider shared languages for articulating catalogs. This extends to whether you’re presenting lists in dashboards or creating more dynamic views and visualizations to promote an appropriate and understandable language UML, Archimate, BPMN (for those who know it), and rich pictures, images, and templated visuals for broader buy-in.
  • Shared governance: Effectively manage the touchpoints, which typically fall between the organization structure cracks. Clarifying shared governance around interaction points is crucial. Questions like who owns the catalogs and how they are maintained are vital. Understanding who our joint enterprise and solution architecture teams serve is paramount.
  • Shared personas: Create a clear and universal understanding of the customer. Also, consider your partners in the process, including change leads, compliance managers, security managers, and key strategic decision-makers such as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

Getting started today

The convergence of solution and enterprise architecture is more than just a functional necessity; it’s a strategic enabler for your organization. By fostering a shared understanding and creating governance structures around key touchpoints, your organization can navigate the complexities of its business landscape more effectively. This approach leads to more coherent strategies, better decision-making, and a stronger competitive position in the market.

As a starting point, to ensure synergies between your solution and enterprise architects, ask yourself a series of reflective questions:

  • How can we build and visualize a shared mental model?
  • Do we have the necessary technology stack to support this model?
  • What is our culture of decision-making?
  • How are we driving pace, change, and agility in our organization?
  • How are we considering how teams work in parallel within a complex, adaptive system?
  • How are we managing touchpoints with broader teams?
  • Which architectural roles are we focusing on?
  • How are we describing these roles, and how do they resonate with the customers and partners they serve?

See how Bizzdesign Horizzon enables you to create better collaboration between enterprise and solution architecture. Click here.

About the author:

Dr James Goodwin is the Head of Blueprint & Technical Director at AtkinsRéalis.  His team creates and governs the end-to-end digital blueprints for major change programs across several critical national infrastructure clients.​ James leads the AtkinsRéalis Agile Architecture course, which focuses on building adaptable and resilient businesses.​

James has a wealth of enterprise architecture and data analytics experience, having previously established the Office for Data Analytics (ODA).  The ODA enables the sharing of intelligence and vulnerabilities across Police, Fire and Ambulances services across South-West England.​

He holds a PhD from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.  His early work led to the development of the NATO robotics framework, which now forms the basis for many autonomous systems, including rescue and mine clearance submarines.​