More than 200 attendees gathered for the first ASUG Next-Generation SAP Enterprise Architect Summit at the SAP North American headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, last month. They came from near and far to learn more about how they can create for tomorrow while delivering value today within their organizations.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be an enterprise architect,” said ASUG evangelist Paul Kurchina. “As digital transformation continues to change our world, enterprise architects must adapt to take advantage of rapidly changing technologies and deliver business value at an ever-increasing pace.” Kurchina provided a platform for SAP customers to learn from each other as well as SAP product managers. “It was a great success,” he said.

Attendees participated in educational sessions, roundtables, and networking over a three-day period, covering everything from the SAP road map for integration to what skills and tools today’s enterprise architect needs to be successful. “Both ASUG and SAP are thinking about the right things in creating this platform for enterprise architects,” said Senior Director of Enterprise Systems at MOD Pizza and ASUG Board Member Tara Gambill. “Technology is transforming the world around us and the way we do business. It’s important to understand the how and why of that. As enterprise architects, we need to maintain our discipline but also learn how to transform it to bring value to our organizations.”

Enterprise Architects: The Role and the Mission

As more companies move toward digital transformations and adoption of intelligent technologies, having the framework and talent in place to architect everything will become essential to success. Organizations need to have a strategy in place that involves data, processes, technology, and people, and no one role is better equipped to manage that than an enterprise architect.

“We have to be thought leaders, said SAP Enterprise Architect Lori Foster. “We help everyone understand what’s going on right now, but also think about how we’re going to get to the future.” An enterprise architect’s most important role is to help stakeholders understand the “why” behind everything. “Leadership requires two things,” Foster added. “A vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it. Our role as enterprise architects is to communicate that vision and get people to rally around it.”

Beyond the technical skills needed, attendees learned about the soft skills that will set them apart in an ever-changing enterprise landscape. Architects need to wear many hats; they need to understand business processes and the technical landscape, as well as how to bridge the gap and align both to customer and employee expectations. According to Alison Hettrick, SAP solutions consultant at Google Cloud, “Today’s architect needs cognitive ability, too. They need to be able to understand the problem, collect data, but also know when to stop collecting information, and then use that to identify solutions and provide support for the solutions, and finally, to be able to communicate all of that clearly.”

Integration: Problem to Strategy

Integration was the elephant in the room, as most attendees were eager to learn more about the SAP integration strategy. “It’s great to hear SAP leadership talk about integration, especially as an organizational priority,” Gambill said. “But now, we need to see the action plan. How is it actually going to be rolled out and implemented?”

During the summit, there was an entire track dedicated to the topic, and each session was packed with curious minds. Dr. Michael Ameling, head of intelligent enterprise at SAP, shared the SAP integration plan in the cloud. “SAP customers are asking for deep out-of-the-box integration, flexibility to integrate non-SAP components, and compatible data models. We are committed in supporting every customer to become an intelligent enterprise. And we’re doing that by providing holistic integration of both technology and business processes.”

It used to be that organizations had point solutions where each Line of Business handled its own platforms. ERP systems offered the opportunity to integrate everything in one system. But with cloud and software as a service (SaaS) solutions, integration of data is more critical than ever. “When your data is being moved all over the place, you’re going to have an issue with harmonization and quality, said Lee Johnson, ASUG member and director of systems engineering at Virtustream. “We didn’t have those concerns 10 years ago when everything was inside of an ERP box sitting behind the door of your data center. Now, we have to think holistically, and everything needs to be connected again.”

Ameling emphasized that the intelligent enterprise is the SAP approach to connect experiences and operations by “using experience management solutions, a business technology platform, and a suite of applications—all in a well-integrated manner.”

Enterprise Architects: The Value Proposition

As more companies embrace digital transformations and intelligent technologies, the need for understanding the value those bring will be even more important. “SAP had at one point gotten away from enterprise architecture,” Johnson said. “But it’s back in the game, and that’s a positive thing.”

Technology is great and it can change the landscape of any organization, but at the end of the day, it needs to provide some unique value that can be delivered to your customer. Companies are embracing technology and collecting data, and that’s great. But the key is to bring it all together and tell a story, and that’s what enterprise architects do.

According to Gartner, by 2021, 40% of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies. And by 2023, 60% of organizations will depend on the enterprise architect’s role to lead the business approach to digital innovation.

“We need to show thought leadership to be able to influence,” said Andreas Hofer, lead enterprise architect, SAP. “We also need to continue to learn new technologies.” Michele Krom, director EA practice at SAP, added, “It’s critical to be connected to the company strategy and to help drive that leadership. That is really the way you're going to make an impact.”

According to Kurchina, ASUG will continue to engage with enterprise architects throughout 2020, both virtually and via one-day face-to-face events. “We are pleased to announce not only our 2021 summit in Newtown Square on Feb. 23–25, but also that we will be scheduling another three-day Enterprise Architect Summit in 2021 on the West Coast. It’s a very exciting time to be an enterprise architect as we kick off the 2020s.”

To connect with more enterprise architects virtually and add your voice to SAP road maps, get involved with the ASUG Enterprise Architecture Influence Council.

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