As a consultant offering technology advisory to both the enterprise and startup sector, I’m surprised by the amount of requests I receive for end-to-end bespoke development when other viable options are available. In 2018, there are many freeware or open-source alternatives, and the API Economy allows for functional integration and information exchange via 3rd party platforms. There’s no competitive advantage in re-inventing the wheel by redeveloping pretty basic features from scratch (with a low budget).
Yet stakeholders still want to develop solutions from scratch. One of the first questions that I ask clients are what their vision and motivations for their business are. Are they planning to be a specialized or general service provider, or a software development company? Why build when you can re-use and configure? Why try to be the best at everything when you can leverage capabilities from partnering with best of breed solution providers?
If you have experience working in an enterprise with a formal Enterprise or Solutions Architecture center of excellence, you’ll probably be accustomed to searching for the best of breed solutions by typically identifying what building blocks are required, embarking on an RFP process with various vendors, piloting those solutions and then integrating via middleware and a process orchestration engine with the rest of the enterprise stack
Large organizartions typically have Enterprise Architects who can see the big picture across the business, process, people and technology domains. They can help unpack what the root problems are, what the business really requires; and what industry best practices, standards and patterns exist. They assist with conceptualization and visualization for various audiences, understanding dependencies, prioritizing and creating a programme of various projects to deliver the required solutions. At the same time they are aware of legacy system constraints and work towards reducing technical debt.
Solutions Architects then work on particular projects across technical and business domains to deliver the project that aligns with the Business and Enterprise Architecture’s vision, working with a team following the project management methodology that the client organization subscribes to (typically an agile variant in 2018).
Startups may not believe that they need an Enterprise Architect, and it may seem to be an overkill to follow a typical, by-the-book, x-month EA Analysis. However, EA’s are dynamic and craft their methodology to suit the organisation. By working with an EA that is open to best of breed solutions, startups can get to market faster with lower risk of rework and resource wastage; and tried and tested capabilities that are reliable and can be tailored where necessary to offer the company its competitive advantage in the marketplace. How can a startup disrupt without being aware of their internal and external environment? This is where EA’s can help.
My fascination with the blockchain world in part goes to the various projects that teams are looking to implement, utilising AI, Big Data, Robotics, Cloud, VR/MR/AR, and other solutions regarded as 4th Industrial Revolution enablers. However, many of these teams are looking to raise incredulous amounts of funding to develop from scratch (just read their whitepapers); when they should rather consider partnering with best of breed traditional or blockchain service providers, focusing on business development and getting to market with a working product as soon as possible.
Many enterprise professionals have this best of breed mindset. I believe that the blockchain and startup community can benefit from this sort of thinking, which in part can be learned from those in the Enterprise Architecture profession.
Enterprise Architecture by Steve Jacob
Why Startups Need Enterprise Architects by Lesa Moné
Enterprise architecture vs solution architecture by Marius Snel
Why Choose a Best of Breed vs. Multi-Purpose Software Solution by Lauren Rennie