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  • Mike J. Walker

Episode 22: Can Enterprise Architecture Step Up to the Innovation Challenge?

In this episode, I catchup with long-time friend, Eric Stephens. In this hour and 20 minute long episode, we chat about our love of bourbon and enterprise architecture.

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Bourbon and Innovation

For the first time on the podcast both Eric and I enjoyed a nice glass of bourbon. Both of us no strangers to it and we share a few stories from our enterprise architecture pasts together.

What's interesting about bourbon though is it is an American innovation and is the US only native spirt. In fact, a 1964 Congressional Resolution declared Bourbon an indigenous product of the United States, meaning it must be made in this country (hence the saying that Bourbon is “America’s Official Native Spirit”). In other words, no other country can make a product and call it “Bourbon.”

Another quality that Eric and I talk about is the "purity" and simplicity of bourbon. It's a whiskey made from a mash containing at least 51 percent corn, distilled out at a maximum of 160° proof, aged at no more than 125° proof for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. If the whiskey is aged for less than four years, its age must be stated on the bottle. No coloring or flavoring may be added to any straight whiskey. It's there American equivalent to the German purity law but for whiskey.

So you might be saying, well that innovation happened in the 19 century. However we are seeing modern innovations happening with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI). Sweden-based Mackmyra Whisky is one such distillery. Founded in 1999 after eight friends decided to create their own whisky, it has since won several international awards, and its Master Blender has recently been inducted into Whisky Magazine’s hall of fame. The distillery’s ambitions, however, reach much further.

Together with Finnish tech company Fourkind and Microsoft, Mackmyra is creating the world’s first whisky developed with artificial intelligence (AI). In an industry synonymous with deep-rooted tradition, human expertise and craftsmanship, what happens when 1,000-year-old techniques meet advanced 21st century technology?

Enterprise Architecture and Innovation

Ok, I have to say from the "get go" that I am a little biased on this subject. I, like Eric, have spent a large part of my career as an Enterprise Architect or a Chief Architect. With that comes optimism but also some hard truths about the profession given our real life experiences. You also may know me as "Mike the Architect" where I ran an EA blog for 10+ years as well as my work at Gartner on the subject as well.

You may of seen my blog post on "Predictions Revisited: Grading my Enterprise Architecture in 2020 Predictions", where I discuss that innovation is an emergent trend in Enterprise Architecture. Innovation and digital transformation is a vital component of what leading EA organizations are doing right now. But keep in mind that I said leading EA organizations.

Eric and I discuss some of our personal experiences with the EA space. What we've found is that there tends to be some baggage that either inhibits or halts enterprise architects to evolving to be a trusted source of innovation within an organization. Some (not all) the aspects we discuss are:

  1. Gravitating towards a technology only view.

  2. Using frameworks and legacy constructs as a crutch.

  3. Lack of emotional intelligence limiting ability to "land" ideas and building executive relationships

  4. Skewed public perception of EA of past failures.

  5. Not communicating effectively and fostering an inclusive community.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that there is an enormous amount of potential for enterprise architects here. There are also many that have conquered this challenge. But those that are going to make that leap need to temper the traditional "EA classic" mode whereby the focus was on the solution architecture and shift to what business need right now, strategic insights and innovation. While I think that this is still aggressive, Gartner believes that by 2023, 60% of organizations will depend on EA’s role to lead the business approach to digital innovation. This replaces the prediction, "2021, 40% of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies."

Eric and I chatted about our last physical meeting on EA was at the Open Group Enterprise Architecture Conference in 2014. That year I did the keynote on business architecture where I highlight many of the aspects that Eric and I discussed on the podcast. Check it out, most of the concepts still hold up.

I think what you will find when you thumb through the deck is that many of these concepts are required for EA organizations to evolve into an innovative powerhouse.

Lots more in this episode to check out. Remember to leave a comment on your thoughts!

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