What is the role of Enterprise Architects in an “as a Service” world?

Service Integration

June 27, 2017

Darren Harvey is a Principal Consultant for CTO Group. He is a recognised expert in architectural and service transformation design for the largest and most complex Government ecosystems.

Are you an Enterprise Architect? Do the following statements sound familiar?

Many people in your business don’t quite understand what you do and what value you provide.

You often find yourself constrained to doing technology architecture for IT projects rather than enterprise architecture for business transformation.

You put a lot of effort into generating current and future state models, but they are not used as part of business strategy.

Business (and even IT) are increasingly bypassing the Enterprise Architecture team and going directly to external service providers.

In short … are you having trouble being heard?

I would say this would be the experience of many practitioners working in the role of Enterprise Architect and I see it manifesting as a common problem within the organisations we work with.

In effect, with the Enterprise Architecture discipline, many organisations have a valuable resource that they may not know how to fully utilise.

What is the traditional role of the Enterprise Architect?

“The enterprise architect links the business mission, strategy, and processes of an organisation to its IT strategy, and documents this using multiple architectural models or views that show how the current and future needs of an organisation will be met in an efficient, sustainable, agile, and adaptable manner.” – Wikipedia


The reality is that this is difficult to achieve, unless the Business and IT parts of an organisation are joined at the hip, talk the same language and can communicate effectively with each other.

In the past, Business and IT were compelled to work together through there being no other options. Now however, the Business can consume IT services directly from external service providers regardless, of what the IT Strategy might state.

What do we mean by the “as a Service” world?

Put simply, “as a Service” is the application of standardised product and supply chain concepts to the provision and consumption of IT. Allowing IT to be encapsulated and consumed just like any other real world product puts control back into the hands of consumers and allows providers to establish economies of scale that drive prices down. For the purpose of this blog I will use the term “service product” to describe the product equivalent in an “as a Service” world.

In the “as a Service” world we have three primary perspectives:

  • Consumer: Individuals and organisations who find, purchase and use service products
  • Product: How service products are defined and instances provisioned, managed and de-provisioned
  • Provider: Individuals and organisations who run the virtualised computing platforms that the service products run on

How do we apply Enterprise Architecture to the “as a Service” world?

The most valuable skill that an Enterprise Architect has is the ability to model: To take a complex system and break it down into simple parts and show how the system changes as you change the individual parts.

Trying to model an enterprise as a single complex system (or ecosystem) is too hard to do and too hard for stakeholders to understand. It would take so long to produce that it would be obsolete before it was completed.

A better way is to adopt a service product focus and model each of the three perspectives listed above. The service product lifecycle is very much like an agile software development lifecycle, as described nicely in this article, and indeed the product focus brings Business and IT together around a common goal.

Another key resource is the definition of “as a Service” included as part of the US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Definition of Cloud Computing (PDF). This definition was produced back in 2011, but it is still a useful baseline reference today.

Ultimately, Enterprise Architects can help drive enterprise transformation through a three-step approach:

  • Step 1 — Service Integration and Management: By developing a holistic model of the roles, functions and technology platforms
  • Step 2 — Service Provider Model: Each perspective can be modeled as a separate ecosystem to create generic (or standardised) templates with its own strategy and roadmap. This is where the Enterprise Architect embeds standards, guidelines, governance, measurement, financials etc
  • Step 3: These models can then be used to create a specific context for each service product on behalf (and sponsored by) the service product owner

What do you believe is the role of Enterprise Architecture in an “as a Service” world? send a comment to Darren directly or through social media.