Enterprise Architecture: Building Blocks for the Future

The pandemic has accelerated changes to the responsibilities, structure, and importance of enterprise architecture (EA). Insurers are rapidly investing in digital and other capabilities gaps at speeds that force them to rethink how they operate.

Last Tuesday, Novarica hosted its bi-weekly Virtual Panel Series, this time on the topic of EA. I was joined by Novarica senior team member Mitch Wein and three panelists, including Rick Vinson of Tokio Marine HCC, Rick Moran of MassMutual, and Jason Ennis of MMG Insurance Company.

Mitch Wein kicked us off by discussing how the need for speed and reflexivity has required enterprise architecture practices to evolve. Insurers can no longer perceive EA as a governance or compliance function that impedes businesses’ ability to adapt. It is of growing importance for enterprise architectures to be lean and agile, create simple but powerful guiding blueprints, listen to business and IT feedback, develop proofs of concept for new technology, and hang up their police hats to become partners.

Our panelists described their companies’ internal processes and the best practices they have learned while rethinking EA. Rick Vinson talked about his organization’s journey in becoming more product- and less project-focused, describing how EA’s role has evolved into an enabling function. Jason Ennis built on this point, talking about creating “purple” teams that bring the business (red) and technology (blue) people together. The focus and goal of EA at his firm is to get more businesspeople thinking about IT and vice versa.

As Rick Moran put it, “In the last 25 years, we have seen the pendulum swing back and forth between centralized architecture, federated architecture, no architecture, and everywhere in between. I think the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.” He talked about how MassMutual has been building towards that middle ground by enabling its EA team to create centralized strategies, reference architectures, patterns, and roadmaps and allowing them to train and work with a community of solution architects embedded within solution teams. Their focus is on education and communication, establishing a form of governance that is not spelled with a capital G but is instead agreed upon by all parts of the organization. He also noted that, done right, “Agile architecture doesn’t need to be fragile architecture,” a clear reference to the changing times we face in the waning days of 2020.

Next week, I will be joined by Novarica VP Nancy Casbarro and a panel comprised of Kim Pfiffner from Principal, Bob Pick from Tokio Marine North America, and Jim Niehaus from Great American to discuss trends and issues of talent acquisition, development, and retention during the pandemic. Registration for the event, which is open to all, can be accessed here.

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