Are enterprise architects the new platform team leaders?

BrandPost By Betty Junod, Vice President, Product Marketing, VMware Modern Apps & Management
Oct 16, 20235 mins
DevopsInfrastructure ManagementSoftware Development

Navigating the evolution of platform engineering and the resurgence of enterprise architects in the modern tech landscape

Executive working
Credit: iStock/SeventyFour

With platform engineering seemingly the latest buzzword, it might surprise you to learn that it’s not new. It has existed for a long time, particularly in software as a service (SaaS) companies where the platform itself is in fact the core product or service delivered to customers.

However, platform engineering is new for enterprise IT and in many ways, it heralds the return of the enterprise architect. This shift signifies a pivotal moment in the way organizations approach the technology they use to enable their business – one where organizations must adopt a platform thinking mindset to keep up. In fact, a recent Gartner report on platform engineering finds that teams should ignore the hype and embrace the value of a customer-focused approach to deliver infrastructure platform products that optimize agility and innovation.

The evolution of enterprise architecture

The role of enterprise architects was a central pillar in the organizational structure of business years ago. They were originally tasked with defining the overall company’s vision, strategy, and roadmap for their technology portfolio; including the architecture, and enforcing standardization – with the goal of supporting digital transformation, IT growth, and modernization.

During this period, technology came at a considerable cost – capital investments of tens of thousands were commonplace for hardware like servers and storage solutions. Enterprise architects and IT leaders held the reins tightly, acting as gatekeepers to control the procurement of technologies. This oversight was deemed necessary given the substantial financial investment and strategic importance of these technology investments.

However, the emergence of open-source solutions and the proliferation of cloud computing services opened the floodgates and shifted power from centralized control to individual developers and engineers. They could now access servers on-demand, by the minute, and harness the capabilities of software freely from the internet. This democratization marked the beginning of a new era where users had unprecedented freedom and flexibility in their technological choices.

Today, as the adoption of these technologies has started to scale, companies are finding they have too many islands of tools and systems without standardization or consistency. This complexity has introduced risk, hampered operational efficiency, and has given rise to unexpectedly high costs.

The role of platform engineers

The “rise” of platform engineering is really just that this type of practice is making its way to the enterprise. Enterprises are grappling with increasingly complex environments with a large portfolio of different applications and infrastructure, both on-prem and in the cloud of many generations and types.

As a vendor, I’ve recently seen the resurgence in enterprises having their enterprise architects lead the portfolio conversation, including platform architecture design and definition. This shift in responsibilities in the enterprise architect role is an effort to make sense of the increased complexity in their technology adoption across different teams, while also recentralizing some of the technology decisions and governance to deliver managed and secured services.

While enterprise architects are not always engineers by trade, the platform team is more than engineering. Typically, platform leaders architect the connections between the business outcomes and technology investments to build the right platform to drive the business forward. To that end, are today’s enterprise architects the new platform leader? I say yes.

The path forward

Today there is a need for platform teams to architect the connections between business processes, outcomes, and the technology. Many teams today still operate in silos which can manifest within their specific functional pieces of technology or just individual teams.

However, today, there are several key factors reshaping the way teams approach their work. The easy access to technology outside of corporate IT has fundamentally changed the dynamic. In addition, the idea of IT owning a very small piece of the technology is no longer acceptable. For example, if you are a database team, you can’t just be responsible for the database itself – you must also own the delivery of that database as a service, including the additional technology around it like the OS, compute, memory, and all elements of cost, security, access, and performance.

Enterprise architects in this new role as platform leaders must adopt a cross-functional mindset. They must look left and right x-functionally at the technology, how it should fit together, the services the company should offer – and for what use cases. Platform leaders should be a critical part of the decision making process on what will be part of the stack and how it will be delivered. They should also ensure customer adoption and satisfaction by leading engagement with customers or internal app teams to drive their platform like a product.

At the end of the day, don’t get hung up on the term platform engineering or enterprise architect, instead focus on adopting the right practices and a platform thinking mindset. Shifting the mindset from a singular piece of technology to thinking like a service provider will enable teams to think end-to-end and across these silos.

To learn more, visit us here.