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End2End Innovation | Frameworks & Methods

The Role of Enterprise Architects in Innovation Management

According to a recent study by McKinsey and Henley Business School, nowadays innovation management and digital transformation go hand in hand. Enterprise Architects play an integral role in this. The study emphasizes the need for enterprise architects to facilitate digitization by managing technological complexity and setting the course for the evolution of the IT landscape around their companies. While everyone claims to be a digital leader, the study shows that companies do not invest enough time in combining innovation and enterprise architecture.

Enterprise architecture as innovation enabler

Enterprise Architects support everyone involved in change, from management to production. If the enterprise architecture in your business is future-oriented, it can help you understand the opportunities and implications of innovative technologies such as AI, new business models, new products or services, improvements in the customer experience, or changes in the environment.

Your enterprise architecture must be able to implement promising innovation projects and recognize business strategies that can change the architecture. Although innovation and enterprise architecture can be managed successfully separately, the company will only reap benefits and generate synergies when both areas are linked.

There are plenty of teams having lost their agility in micro services and API spaghetti structures. The more complex their network dependencies become, the faster such innovative teams lose their agility. Instead of delivering optimal results, they find it increasingly difficult to implement major changes. Too many components have to be elaborated simultaneously.

When enterprise architecture is seen as key, it is possible to keep complexity in your organization at bay. To do this, you need to see enterprise architecture as a linchpin connecting various changes. Enterprise Architects help you plan for future change by creating autonomous business and IT capabilities with minimal dependencies.

The new roles of Enterprise Architects

The role of Enterprise Architects is going to change significantly in the future. Instead of pursuing a top-down methodology, they will increasingly become pioneers of change. They support the company in renewing and improving itself. Their task is to optimize innovations today and make them fit for the future. Occasionally, Enterprise Architects can act as innovators. More often, however, they become pioneers of innovation by creating an environment in which change is feasible.

To do this, everyone must be involved, while Enterprise Architects provide the entire organization with the knowledge and tools needed to implement local or global change. 

There are three key roles Enterprise Architects play in driving innovation:

Inside-out perspective: the role of architects is to create space for innovation, reduce complexity and facilitate change. To enable innovation, all the complex systems must be tamed and kept in check. Otherwise, when all components are interconnected, and there are numerous dependencies, change is literally impossible.

Outside-in perspective: the role of architects is to coordinate investments and prioritize in case of numerous innovative projects and initiatives. Ask yourself in which direction your company wants to develop and to what extent initiatives are focused on the desired business results.

Outside-out perspective: the role of architects is to connect business and technology trends from the environment with the internal structures of the company. This helps the business identify, assess and respond to opportunities and risks in its broader ecosystem.

10 strategies to bring together Enterprise Architects and innovation drivers

The strategies that used to work in the past no longer yield far-reaching successes. It is, therefore, the role of Enterprise Architects to make "just enough" and "just-in-time" decisions that help businesses remain flexible and innovative. The following 10 strategies can help you to implement them.

Run an innovation health check: Evaluate your Innovation Performance to have a clear understanding of where your company is standing today and where it should go tomorrow. The innovation performance is assessed based on our unique Innovation Operating Model. Using it will show you concrete suggestions on how enterprise architecture is pivotal to running innovation operations as fast and efficiently as possible.

Remain adaptable. Enterprise Architects must look to the future and be open to new solutions. Instead of developing a supposedly future-proof strategy that can meet all potential requirements, adaptable solutions must be designed to be able to adapt on the go. 

Experiment and take risks. Innovation requires exploration and a willingness to take risks - a terrain that is unfamiliar to architects and often involves uncertainty. Instead of controlling all processes, one should seek new ways to give the company a continuous competitive advantage. The speed of change can collide with a culture of control.

Make compromises. Adapt your strategy to your needs. For example, if you want to maximize cost efficiency, you could share resources within your organization. But if each of your business units uses the same IT infrastructure with different requirements, this complexity can hinder rather than encourage innovation.

Take outside-in and outside-out perspectives. Architects should be involved in strategic discussions about the direction of the company. In this way, they learn more about the company's environment and its role in it. They can also respond adequately to the various needs of customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Adapting exclusively to your environment is not enough. As an innovative company, you should influence your environment in your own interest. In this way, disruptive changes are created, leading to the development of new markets and ecosystems.

Contribute to shaping the ecosystem. The tools and techniques you use can also be applied to your ecosystem. In this way, Enterprise Architects can test whether new business ideas are feasible. In addition, they can help polish business for agility, so that you can respond immediately to changes and opportunities. This applies to all business capabilities and processes as well as IT and other technologies.

Monitor trends and technologies: Use tools to monitor technology trends and signals in the marketplace and put them into a business context. Use curated trend and technology content to gain actionable insight and additional inspiration via the ITONICS Radar software. Visualize the relevance and timing of selected technology trends and how they relate to others.

Provide one digital home for everything innovation: Your organization will only flourish and survive when they are constantly adapting to changing market environments and technological developments. This requires a strong basis to identify promising opportunities and make evident decisions. At best, this can be done with one single Innovation Operating System that unites all the innovation knowledge and tasks. One tool: more productivity and less costs.

Create portfolios: Collaborate to create technology plans that optimize capabilities and implement digital strategies. Analyze and monitor your technology portfolio against your strategic goals and identify innovation gaps. This allows you to invest effectively in new technologies that have great potential both as products and in new markets in the future.

Communicate via digital roadmaps: Enable stakeholders to visualize the common path to the future by using roadmaps to highlight cross-functional relationships. Create an environment with company-wide alignment on collaboration activities allowing for efficient day-to-day planning as well as a long-term strategic planning. Thus, you will be able to leverage digital roadmaps to build that transparent innovative and collaborative ecosystem.

Enterprise Architects are driving, not only supporting digital transformation

Today's business models are changing rapidly. This means a major shift for business architects and technology innovation leaders from technology to strategy development. Today, too many EAs still play a supporting and advisory role instead of driving the digital business and being actively involved in management decisions. The continuous innovation and monitoring of digital trends and new technologies as a key element for digital business success.

The enterprise architect role is changing at the speed of digital transformation. In the past, enterprise architecture and technology innovation leaders offered guidance on in-flight projects, fiscal-cycle planning, and assessing the fitness and value of existing IT assets.

Today and especially in the future, successful enterprise architects will shift their focus toward continuous innovation and planning — promising the convergence of innovation and operations in near real-time.

Digital innovation management tools, such as ITONICS Platform, enable teams to get the most out of the synergy between enterprise architecture and innovation management. Drive digital business with the help of strategic technology portfolios and combine strategy and innovation centrally and create groundbreaking digital growth opportunities.