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Episode 34 - What is the role of an EA?

The role of Enterprise Architect is the best role in America as per Glassdoor. But it may also be the most misunderstood role. So what is the role of an Enterprise Architect? We delve into that in this episode.

Business Consultation

 Hey, what's up everybody? You're listening to the Enterprise Architecture Radio. If you're thinking about organizational complexity and agility, if you're concerned about operational efficiencies and thinking of taking it to the next level, if managing innovation is one of your priorities, you've come to the right place on this podcast.

We talk about all of that and more. It's a jungle out there, and we'll attend to navigate this jungle of frameworks, methods, and most importantly, enterprise architecture in practice.

Let's talk about business IT alignment today. This is a topic that used to get talked about quite a bit a few years ago, and then I see that lately it's fallen off the charts a little bit, but this is a topic that's very close to my heart and the reason. Firstly, whenever someone talks about enterprise architecture, the first thing that comes to mind is to understand the business and then get the idea to do what needs to be done.


And it's really about business IT alignment. And the second reason is, well, it completely negates the first reason. I think there isn't really a business IT alignment issuer. It's not really something that needs to be talked about that much. And to explain the issue, I will need to go back into the past of how the issue of business IT alignment came up in the first place.


And this is completely my opinion and I've not really done a lot of research around this, but, well, when it became a thing, when information technology became a thing, when there, when computers were invented and it was realized that they can be used, For business. There used to be organizations that used to do information technology and then there used to be organizations that used to do business, so business, uh, organizations like healthcare, pharma, finance, or simpler businesses like Textile and machinery manufacturing and what have you.


During the Industrial Revolution era or probably after that, they used to do their business and then there used to be IT organizations that used to do it and, and. And the business would go to it and they would tell them their problem, that this is what we would like to do. We would like to do accounting, using computers, or we would like to sort of, uh, do look at who our vendors are or et cetera, et cetera, uh, using computers.

And the IT organizations would look at their problem. They would come up with some software solution. It would take them nine months, 12 months, what have you, and then they would come back with a, uh, with a solution and deploy the solution and, and, That's how it used to work. And of course the maintenance and all of that used to be given out to IT organizations as well.

And then since these are two different organizations, two different legal entities business, IT alignment became an issue. But we've come a long way from then and. We have it organizations within the organizations. Well, we started having that so you know, organizations started realizing that it would be a good idea to have a few programmers on the payroll or, you know, invest in a few servers where we are going to host our application considering various reasons like security or what have you.


It would be a good idea to host the applications on our own existing server farms or what have you. And then, so they started hiring people who would ma maintain and manage those servers and, and. IT organizations became a part of the business organization and then we took the next step where IT organizations started becoming more and more important.


And today, the situation is that every single organization invests heavily on technology. They, it invests heavily on information. Information has become a, a very important asset for every organization. And. People are called knowledge workers today, and the IT organization is a very, very integral part of the organization.


In fact, there is no organization in the world today that is not a technology organization. Think about it. Whether you are in banking or finance or or, or healthcare or pharma or or shipping or something absolute basic like textile manufacturing or heavy machinery, equipment manufacturing or what have you, you are going to need.


Information technology to enable your business. In fact, I was just looking at a Gartner case study where farmers are using iot, OT sensors to constantly monitor the the. The climate conditions and the, and the soil conditions and, and even how much of your, of your, of the farm has been tilled, uh, using their tractor plows or what have you.


So information technology becomes a very, very important asset and every single organization today is a technology company. There used to be a time when people used to say that. We adapt into the business of technology. We are into the business of fill up the blanks. You know, it could be pharma, healthcare, what have you, but today they can't say that anymore because technology plays such an important role in, in managing their business that every single business has become a technology business.


We are also looking into a different kind of, uh, trend. On one hand, we have core businesses like healthcare, pharma, finance, banks, et cetera, who are investing in technology and become more, becoming more technology aware. On the other hand, we have tech companies like Google who are investing into pharmaceutical industry.


Uh, there is a news that Google hasn't made 17 deals to pharma startups in the past three years. Uh, all through its Google venture investment. Arm. We are seeing that there is a merger between technology and core businesses like pharma and finance and banking. Um, and it's approaching from both ends, which brings me to the point that business IT alignment is not.


Really an issue. At least it's not an issue anymore. It's not been an issue for a really long time. Today, IT organizations are a part of the business and I don't see why there needs to be a business IT alignment topic if I don't see that there needs to be a business manufacturing alignment or business HR alignment or business communications alignment or be business legal and compliance alignment or business finance alignment or business accounting alignment.


It. Is as much a business function as all other business functions within the organization. Does that mean that there. Any issues, there aren't any miscommunications between IT organizations and what the core business wants. Of course there are, but IT organization is not the only one that is having issues with other parts of the business.


And I'm gonna stop calling it business because I think it is very much a business as any other organization within the enterprise. Let's take for example, Organizations have HR business partners and they're supposed to partner with other parts of the organization. They're a support service that provides support to, uh, other parts of the organization, helping them do various activities, uh, starting from, I don't know, recruitment and.


Employee benefits all the way till being an everyday partner for the other parts of the business. So if there is a, uh, there is an employee who requires assistance with something, whether it's getting his questions answered or, um, or, or his wellness issues these days after the pandemic, uh, wellness has become a very big.


Point of discussion, especially for the wellbeing of the employees. And so the HR business partner plays a very important role in providing that environment where an employee feels safe and secure and does his best work. So, It's a support service just like it. It is also a support service that provides information technology, support services, or information technology services to the rest of the business.


Now, I know a lot of HR business partners who could provide much better. Empathy, much better wellness support, much better, uh, recruitment services than they are providing today. And it's a clear case of miscommunication. Either they did not listen well or they did not ask the appropriate questions, and the outcomes were not as ideal as they could be.


And this is not just one organization. I've seen it in many, many different organizations, whether it is, uh, equal opportunities or whether it's diversity and inclusion or whether. Diversity and inclusion during hiring, or whether it's equal pay for all kinds of candidates, including diversity candidates and women leaders and what have you.


I have seen the HR organization fail at a number of times and every organization fails every once in a while and then they learn from it and they get better at it and, and I don't see that to be any different from an IT organization. And you could take it with manufacturing or marketing or finance or accounting.


There are always communication challenges, and those communication challenges definitely need to be overcome, but it is. A unique issue when it comes to it. We don't really need to talk about business IT alignment in specific. So now that I have postulated that business, IT alignment is not specific to it, I would like to talk about how it can get better alignment with the business because.

Uh, I have to admit that there is a mindset issue, and again, this is not specific to it, mindset issues are there, uh, between different organizations because they come from a different background and they have a different education level and so on and so forth. Now it organizations are filled with people who have an engineering background.


Uh, they have a different way of thinking, and the business, whether it's marketing or finance or accounting or what have you, have a different mindset. Grown up with a different environment if had a different educational, uh, qualification. They have had, uh, different set of experiences, their day-to-day activities involved a very different set of, um, activities which basically affect their mindset.


So there is a difference in the mindset. Um, having said that, I think, and this is completely my opinion, that it's easier for the IT organization. Understand the business sufficiently to be able to come up with a technology solution for the business challenges. It is easier than the business coming and understanding technology sufficiently to be able to come up with a technology solution for their business challenges.


Because I do feel. The business team should take business decisions and the technology team should take technology decisions. Now, if the business comes to technology and helps them understand the business challenge that they're facing and helps them understand the technology solution that they require, what's really happening is that the business is coming in and taking a technology decision.


What's better is that the technology going to the business? Getting aligned with them on a regular basis, understand their technology problems on a day-to-day basis, and come up with the technology solution because they already have a fantastic background in technology. And that is why it's very important that technology leaders or leaders within the technology domain have a seat at the strategy table.


Let me give you a, a classical example, and this is a completely fictitious example. So, um, I'm going to talk about what is po, what is possible in the pharma and healthcare domain. Is it already working somewhere? I'm not sure. Um, Is, is it already implemented? I'm not sure about that either. Let's talk about it.


Now in healthcare, lots of, uh, pharma organizations are in the business of drug development. What that means is they develop drugs for specific diseases. Now, the process that the pharma organization has to follow is, Well, they identify a particular molecule. Uh, let's say that it could, it could be a plant, um, or it could be a, um, a synthetic chemical formula.


And then they have to prove two things. One, that that particular drug is efficacious, which means it does fix a particular specific disease or pain area. And second is it does not have side effects. At least if it does have side effects, it's not, it's not so bad that it negates the entire benefits that the drug really gives in the first place.


These are the two things that they need to prove efficacy of the drug and lack of side effects. Now, how do they do that? They start with a clinical trial where they, on a Petri dish, prove that the drug is efficacious and then they go into animal trials where. Administer the drug to animals to test whether it's efficacious or not, and what are the side effects that they're getting.


After every stage, they have to, uh, submit their results to, um, a regulatory body. And then once the regulatory body approves the results, they go to the next stage, which, uh, after clinical trial and animal trial is human trials where they. Work with volunteers who volunteer to get the drug administered on them, and the results are tested and once the regulatory body approves that, the human trials are successful.


And then, and of course there are a number of other steps that might be a part of this. And then more detailed, and I'm not. Really a pharma specialist, but you get the idea that there are a number of steps and all the steps need to be approved. Now while all these tests are going on and regulatory bodies are checking for the outputs and results of these tests and approving them or what have you, the organization can't.


Really sell these products, obviously, right? And what they're doing is really investing and investing and investing, investing on, um, on, on labs, investing on tests, investing on, uh, doing all these trials in and, and so on and so forth. And after the tests are complete, the, the patent is granted to the pharma company.


What that means is they're the only ones who can manufacture that particular drug for that particular ailment and then sell. And then the patent is not permanent. Patent is obviously for a shorter period of time and, um, for, for, for a couple of years. And then they're able to sell that drug and recover their investment that they've done in the drug development process.


And after that period has elapsed. Everybody is allowed to, uh, to manufacture that drug, and that drug becomes a generic. What that means is that now they will have to compete with other organizations who have done no investment in the development of the drug, which means that they can sell that particular drug at one 10th the price perhaps, and make a huge profit, which this organization, the drug development organization, cannot, which means that this company will have to make the maximum amount of profit during the patent.


Now think about it. The process starts on the day that there is a potential for a drug, right? And then the pharma company starts working on the development of that drug, which could take anywhere between six months to one year, let's say, alright, or two years or three years, depending upon how complex the ailment is and what drug they're coming up with.


But let's say that. Let's, uh, to keep things simple, let's assume that it takes one year and then assuming the happy part scenario, that the patent doesn't fail, that the, uh, results are efficacious and the side effects are little, and it gets approved. Now the company starts selling that drug for the next, I don't know, three years, six years, let's say six years.


Which means they have to make the profit in the next six years. So there's a seven year period in which they have to create the drug and they have to sell it and make a profit, but. Let's say that we are able to reduce this one year period from one year to six months, wouldn't that be effective?


Technology could play a very important role in reducing the testing process from one year to nine months or six months, depending upon how, how flawed your existing. Manual drug development processes and how, how well you design your technology to improve the efficacy of the testing period. Now, this topic of the podcast is going to be split into two episodes.


How can we use technology to reduce the, the period taken for the drug development and testing? Let's talk about it in the next. Let me remind you that I'm still looking for guest speakers. There are a couple of guest speakers that have lined up and I've recorded a few episodes as well, and very soon I'll start publishing the episodes with guests in them.


And I'm constantly looking for guests on the podcast. So if you're someone who is an expert on a particular field and would like to talk in Enterprise architecture Radio, Please feel free to reach out to me and let's talk about it. That's all I have for you today, folks. I hope you enjoy the show more about organizational agility, innovation, and enterprise architecture in the practical world, in the business right here on the show.


But before I end the show, I want you to help me out with this one little thing. Pause the show and share this podcast via WhatsApp or text message with at least one person who might be interested in. It could be anyone, your colleague, your boss, someone in your team. That's all I ask. Just one share with one message via text or WhatsApp or any social media for choice, and it would go a long way in supporting this podcast and growing this listener base.


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If you would like to contribute to the EA discussions and what have you, just search for Enterprise Architecture Radio on Telegram, or the URL to join. The group is hdps slash slash t ME slash Enterprise Architecture Radio, while our contact details are there in the show notes. We are very easy to find.


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