Before the internet, enterprises that thought about business platform design leveraged technology only when they achieved a certain scale that required technology to operate and to compete at a national or global scale. Phones, & faxes were used to connect disparate units and locations. Mainframes were connected to smaller computers. Today much has changed, but much has remained the same. Instead of phone calls and faxes, different business units talk through email, APIs, and Enterprise Service Buses. Customers use web portals, and mobile apps to interact with The “cloud” representation of the company, the modern-day mainframe. The modern enterprise, as I have called it since 2010 is a set of people, processes, information, and systems (also collectively known as technology) coordinated through the internet.
Over the history of IT, companies have always outsourced in one way or form. Either they buy hardware or software or rent it. Either they hire talent or contract it. In one way or form, they don’t want to be responsible for everything related to technology. They want to rely on stable companies or providers. They also want to retain some control. This came in the form of having servers in their offices or all talent sitting in their office. The reasoning always given was “security.” Today, that is not the case.
Most companies (70-90%) in most commercial businesses and defense & intelligence related government, and more than half of government agencies have a digital strategy to get them to the cloud. All “modern enterprises” started on the internet so they are 100% on the cloud. They couldn’t have been established without the internet or the extremely economically priced subscription software or the globally and nationally distributed talent pool.
What came as a sense of pride for being able to start a company on the internet and not rely on any particular experts to help them manage their sprawl, now could become an impediment. In the past, when the IT platform of a company ran in one closet, integration was still difficult but it was much easier to envision. Now, with all of the software powering a business in different data centers, servers, and even different countries, the challenge for a connected business platform is greater. It’s not necessarily more difficult technically, but there are more dots to connect.
Connecting those dots is what differentiates the modular business platform from just the silo’d business platform. When I read the book Enterprise Architecture as Strategy nearly 12 years ago, I learned how these dots were to be connected for organizations at that time. Back then, organizations had the same problems they do today, but in different contexts. The internet was not as prevalent in software operations for a business. The cost of building a business platform was not cheap. Getting a managed dedicated server used to cost at least $250/month/server from a reputable hosting provider if you wanted to move your operations to the “cloud.” Virtual machines were around, but the orchestration tools weren’t as slick as they are today. The server huggers would not want to move their IT operations to a third party location or hosting company if they could help it, let alone outsource full software suites to online service providers. (Now we have a different challenge. I call them “custom application junkies.” They don’t want to buy any software or use any software frameworks but rather want to reinvent the wheel. Read Software Algebra article to learn more.)
I could see the writing on the wall. Businesses were going to fundamentally change as software like Basecamp.com and Freshbooks.com started to make a splash. I knew that business was going to “turn inside out,” as a mentor Daniel Mintz, a former CIO of the Department of Transportation told me. Back then, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe it let alone visualize and organize it. It took me another 5 years of working in the industry to see the patterns while building business platforms for businesses. I had an “aha” moment. It was the “modern enterprise,” a business that started with it’s roots in software as a service, without any owned infrastructure at all. (This is different from server-less architecture, which is getting hype now with virtues of it’s own , but that will be a subject of other articles.)
How do the business phases in Enterprise Architecture as Strategy adapt to today’s software? Since I started researching the Modern Enterprise nearly 8 years ago, much has changed. As technologies like IoT, Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning, Blockchain Ledger / Tangle / Hashgraph, Data Science get commoditized all “as a Service,” provided on the Cloud, what does the Next Generation of the Modern Enterprise look like?
We, at Anant, always knew our Modern Enterprise Canvas, in it’s 2-Dimensional representation was limited. Originally we had anticipated other “dimensions,” but this would have made it hard to conceptualize for most people and we stuck to the 2-D model. We think that the fundamentals of the canvas will still apply. There are more complex, more mature frameworks for enterprise architecture that make sense for large organizations. Our goal is not to serve them. Our goal is to help smaller teams bring order to the chaos of their growing number of systems.
The next generation of the Modern Enterprise is coming. As technology becomes more distributed, reactive, open, realtime, and very cheap a modern enterprise must respond to the needs of the users of a business platform. The Modern Enterprise will be a custodian of the business platform which brings people, processes, and information through interconnected systems. The next generation of the Modern Enterprise will succeed in business platform design, specifically how to get the customer what they need, when they need it, and if possible before they even think they need it. Can your business do that?
Anant is a boutique management & technology consulting firm that helps teams and organizations maximize their digital / internet IT by managing and streamlining their vendors, processes, and online software & cloud platforms into a cohesive business platform. Let’s get you on the playing field.