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The Future of the Enterprise – An ‘Orchestrator’​ of efforts

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve written an article and I had an epiphany about the direction Business is going that I thought I’d share. And, based on my conversations with people I trust (thanks, John Lilleyman) and potential clients, I think I’m pretty accurate with what I see is going to occur.

I’ve been dealing with more and more SaaS solutions and I’m seeing less and less architecture activities as a result of SaaS and the Enterprise. Over the last 3+ years, I’ve been hitting walls with regards to higher level work around design and implementation. Yes, there is still work out there but architecture work is becoming more and more commoditized. So I’ve been contemplating what’s been occurring and what the future of the Enterprise is going to be.

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To understand where we’re going, we need to understand where we’ve been <queue the 2001: Space Odyssey music>.

In the beginning, there was the Enterprise. It was all powerful and had the resources to do what it wanted. It’s wanted complete control over everything and spent the money to get that control. It had everything under it’s umbrella. HR, Legal, Facilities, IT … It owned everything and managed / operated everything. 

Then, in 1968, a little company called EDS came along and started the Outsourcing industry. 

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They focused on IT but, over time, there came to be 3 different types of Outsourcing organizations; IT Outsourcing (ITO, that managed IT infrastructure including security), Application Outsourcing (AO, that managed big applications such as SAP as well as the underlying infrastructure) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO, that took over entire segments of the business that weren’t core to the organization (like Help Desk or Legal, or Procurement). This move was driven by the belief that there were savings to be had and that the Enterprise had to be focused on it’s ‘core business’. Anything else could be done better by someone that specialized in those areas. 

The interesting thing is that the ITO and AO became cloud over the last decade. IaaS, PaaS, SaaS are all just a logical extension of the outsourcing of these solutions. But now, rather than the capital expenditure (implementation costs primarily) as well as operational expenditure (maintenance and usage) being in the Enterprise, capital costs and maintenance are now with those Cloud Vendors and usage costs are all that remain with the Enterprise. 

Plus, and this is the big thing, the BPO activities have been accelerating. 

Over the last month, I’ve had to deal with a company that is taking over the Facilities management from an Enterprise client, an HR outsourcing organization working for a Utility, and an IT outsourcing organization for a BPO organization. And it’s made me realize something – the future of the Enterprise isn’t to be an enterprise anymore!

If you take all this to it’s logical end, which I suspect is happening, then in around 5 years we are going to see organizations that are basically an ‘orchestration’ of multiple organizations. The Enterprise itself will all be about conducting the transfer of services from one firm to another, with a hyper focus on a core product or service. What you end up is something like below:

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In this case, the Enterprise will leverage specialized organizations in various areas. In IT, we are already seeing that with the high volume of contractors in an IT organization rather than employees. By outsourcing of the IT organization, you’ll have an IT Outsourcer that may themselves outsource specific components of IT.

So here’s the next question, which impacts me and my future:

“How does this impact Architecture?”

Now, traditionally, we have really 3 different types of Architects; the Solution Architect, the Technical Architect, and the Enterprise Architect. But, to quote a friend of mine that is the Chief Architect for a BPO, if the Enterprise takes the view of “We are NOT an IT company”, then the inevitable end is that IT gets moved outside the organization. What happens to the Chief Architect and the other architects in the organization?

For Solution Architects, that’s already a situation that is being forced upon IT. That’s the entire situation with ‘Shadow IT’. Shadow IT has grown in leaps and bounds because the business units are bypassing IT and going direct to SaaS solutions. Why make use of IT if they are only going to slow down the business? As for Solution Architects, if solutions are being used OUTSIDE the Enterprise, the need for Solution Architects is going to diminish. 

Enterprise Architects? The entire purpose was of the EA was to work at the level of strategy and holistic solutions for the Enterprise. But if the Business Units are also making their OWN strategies and then going out to find the appropriate SaaS solution, why do they need to work with EAs?

As a result, we shall see a shift of architects and architecture. The concept of the Enterprise Architect will shift to strategies associated with business units, not with technologies, which is what should have happened a long time ago. But, and here’s the question – why use Enterprise Architects when the Business Unit Owner / Director / Manager should be creating their own Strategy? Answer that question and you become valuable in your organization again. And DON’T answer by talking about technology. Technology is being dealt with by SaaS vendors in their eyes.

Solution Architecture? Aside from integration patterns for SaaS solutions (eg. SFTP, SAML, some other solution) and making sure that the solution makes use of those patterns, what else is a Solution Architect going to be used for? There will be a reduction in the use of Solution Architects, primarily for transition activities from In-house to SaaS solutions or for modernizing the in-house solutions that may not have a SaaS solution … yet!

Doom and gloom for Architect, right? Not so fast.

Remember what I said about the Enterprise becoming an Orchestrator? Well, that means that smaller organizations will need assistance. How is that good for Architects though? In the past, an Enterprise would need full FTEs in various areas. Infrastructure Architect? Without the data center, they don’t need the full time Infrastructure Architect and the FTE demand shrinks to a fractional size. But that doesn’t mean that the industry total for Infrastructure Architects goes away, just that each individual organization only needs a fraction of a FTE. Company A needs 1/2 FTE. Company B needs 1/2 FTE. Company C needs 1/2 FTE. That means that the Infrastructure Architect then needs to have 3 companies as clients rather than 1 company. 

And each Company that we are now talking about is NOT the Enterprise. It’s the specialized firm. They’ll focus on their product, their software development. But that’s a small consideration compared to the traditional Enterprise. Hell, the SaaS vendors I’ve been dealing with all have their SaaS solutions either in Google/AWS/Azure or moving there. 

And the Enterprise Architects? Here’s my recommendation – learn to become a ‘Conductor’. Every Orchestra needs a Conductor to make sure that the various components work together seamlessly. You are becoming, in essence, the same as a General Contractor which will pull in various trade specialties and coordinate them together. Oh God … I just realized that sounds an awful lot like a Project Manager!!!!

In the future, to have success, you have to create small firms – speciality firms – that can provide specific business functions. Don’t focus on the technology. Remember, every solution has 4 components; people, process, governance AND technology. If you want to continue to focus on technology, you’ll have to have a very specialized niche and that can be limiting. Look at what the BUSINESS wants, and make the appropriate adjustment.

Me? I come from Security Architecture space. I’ve pulled together Architecture-as-a-Service but I’ve been focused on providing that to Enterprises because Enterprises have wanted Architects. But if Enterprises are becoming Orchestrators, do they really need Architects? My next step – contact SaaS vendors and see how I can help THEM. Pull in a number of fractional FTEs and maybe it takes off from there.

Or, and this is probably much more likely to succeed, if an Enterprise is NOT an IT organization, why do they need cyber security in house? Why not outsource CyberSecurity? I’m not talking MSSP which just manage boxes. I’m talking about all the various processes, people, governance, AND technology that make up a Security Organization. True outsourcing.

We’ll see. I don’t know which will work but what I do know is that the concept of Architecture is changing and I need to get ahead of it.

Hope this helps …

Neil