The modern architect: accelerating and shaping the financial services transformation agenda during times of change

COVID has forced us to adjust fundamental aspects of our lives with little warning and against a background of anxiety and uncertainty. However, while they test us, such dislocative events can also foster innovation and unlock opportunities.

Whether their focus is enterprise-wide, solutions-oriented, strategic or technical, the role of the architect in modern delivery projects is to thrive in the face of change, whether incremental or more abrupt. Modern architectures, design thinking, and ways of working are key success factors for each and any digital transformation journey. Modern architecture is about enabling your IT landscape to evolve iteratively, managing change holistically, and stimulating innovation.

The impact of remote working on the modern architect has been far greater than merely redefining the ways that language, messaging, diagrams, and concepts are packaged and communicated. Agile has already forced that transformation to happen. ?Just-in-time? architecture, cultivated by new ways of working, has already been adopted by our architects and continues to be embraced. Their role as facilitator and influencer has already evolved. Now it is time for soft skills to be redefined.

How can architects prepare for future changes?

  1. Get cloud architecture right: The pandemic has (once again) highlighted the importance of a diligent and careful approach when architecting for cloud-based systems. It is preferable to embrace a host of models, patterns, and services rather than focusing solely on the public cloud. A highly scalable, dynamic, and extensible architecture ? largely based on the same principles, no matter if ?on-prem?, hybrid, or using its public version ?is ideal. At CAPCO, we advocate laying down patterned code that is agnostic of infrastructure topology. Well-defined interfaces and standard protocols, complemented with a comprehensive DevOps pipeline, will allow a quick and reliable response to change.
  1. Modernize applications: When it comes to ?demonolithing? legacy applications (such as a traditional client/server), an architect not only needs to have a deep grasp of both the new patterns and the legacy approach at all levels ? logic, rules, and data. These elements will form the new services, with a view to establishing a fast-changing, scaling, and descaling ecosystem that adapts dynamically to meet demand.
  2. Harvest the power of data: Beyond the super-computing power provided by the cloud, there is a need to address current data architecture concerns. Integrate siloed systems and normalize data access; and while maintaining a focus on security and privacy, redesign data architectures to allow moderated and controlled data mining. Looking forward, data will be generated on a whole new scale and will consequently require enhanced business intelligence and analytics.
  3. Evolve their own core skills: The modern architect also has to keep up with the ongoing proliferation of architectural styles (microkernel, layered, n-tier, event-driven, microservices, space-based, serverless), as well as the plethora of new languages, cloud-native architectures, data architectures and security architectures. Last but not least, architects should be embedding themself within development teams and identifying and championing change.

The path forward

The lessons of history are instructive. For instance, the deregulation of UK markets ushered in by the ?Big Bang? of 1986 prompted a fundamental change in working and professional practices. It required a plethora of technology-backed support mechanisms to be architected and developed to facilitate a seismic transformation. Crucially, it also triggered a change in the consulting architect?s language and toolset, and a variety of enterprise architecture frameworks were born during this decade: PRISM (1986), Zachman (1987) and NIST (1989).

We now find ourselves in a similar scenario, one that is at once immensely dislocative yet also rich with potential. As Albert Einstein noted, ?In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity?. History has shown that there is always a winning path. By continuously and holistically assessing the readiness of your architecture to accommodate change, you will be better placed to identify that path ? and in that context, modern architecture has a primary role to play in defining the future.

The author is Principal Consultant at CAPCO

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