With Agile Architects, a brand-new initiative is emerging that seeks to redesign the approach to Enterprise Architecture for good. We had a chat with Tom Callant, Lead Solution Architect, and Evert Deweer, Lead Enterprise Architect, at Agile Architects about the origins, mission, vision and future.
Agile Architects is the brainchild of two people with a common background. Can you tell us more about that?
Tom Callant (Managing Partner, Lead Solution Architect): “Let’s say that I’ve come full circle within the world of IT consulting. From infrastructure to architecture, via development. But also, leadership roles at the project and later organisational levels. Taking initiative has always been at the core of what I do. As an intrapreneur however, I always felt limited. Even with the fanciest job title, one’s impact in a traditional organisation is often limited and in most cases, it’s imperative to colour inside the lines. That is why I consciously chose to exchange the classic career trajectory for a culture in which trust, entrepreneurship and ownership are centre stage. Something that is fully in line with the vision of OECO, a part of the Cronos Group. So, I started here as a business coach and now I can also do my own thing with Agile Architects.”
“Before Agile Architects saw the light of day, I took some time to observe. I concluded that there are mostly “builders” within OECO, companies that build a solution based on a certain technology. Fewer capabilities are offered around strategy, vision and shaping however. Capabilities that focus on defining the best possible solution before building it. With Agile Architects, we really want to bridge that gap. The fact that throughout my career I have always approached all kinds of technology roles in a fairly generalistic way can only help me now to combine all these different perspectives as a Solution Architect.”
Being different doesn’t mean you can’t work together. On the contrary.
“It goes without saying that you cannot write such a story on your own. I am someone who likes to work on the creative side, focuses on business development and looks for new opportunities. But you also need someone who can articulate the vision and objectives of an enterprise architecture company and who can dot the i’s and cross the t’s at an operational level. That is why I reconnected with Evert. We used to be colleagues and I saw the perfect partner in crime in him to set out on this great adventure.
Evert Deweer (Managing Partner, Lead Enterprise Architect): “In my career as an ICT architect, I have always focused intensely on business IT alignment. Always in large, complex environments in a state of flux: rolling out major programs, transferring entire legacy environments to modern platforms, unbundling organisations and their ICT landscapes, you name it. Very wide-ranging, but always based on big road maps. My drive in the entrepreneurial field lies mainly on the substantial level; drawing out an organisation’s strategy and implementing it.”
“That’s why I also have a clear vision for Enterprise Architecture, and how we want to set this up as a professional environment within Agile Architects. We very much aim for autonomy and appreciation for our employees. In that respect, our ambition is twofold: to market a new vision on Enterprise Architecture on the one hand, and to create a healthy working environment on the other.
Tom: “Evert and I are quite different in character, but this creates a kind of complementarity. Being different doesn’t mean you can’t work together. On the contrary.”
Evert: “Complementarity works well if you have the same goal. The long-term strategy of where we want to go must be fully aligned”
What mission and vision are you pursuing with Agile Architects?
Evert: “We aspire to be the competence centre for all things Open Agile Architecture™ on the Flemish and Belgian market. We want to embed a new methodology to deliver value to the customer with Enterprise Architecture. How do you set up Enterprise Architecture, but above all, how do you ensure it delivers value in today’s digital world?”
It is not an either-or story, but an and-and story: maintaining control without sacrificing speed.
Tom: “With Agile Architects, we want to introduce a pragmatic initiative that aims to reinvent and demonstrate the value of Enterprise Architecture. A completely new approach to Enterprise Architecture for companies that want to move fast. And we absolutely want to build the bridge to implementation. Within the Cronos Group, we can fall back on a large network of partners who can build the perfect solution. In this way, we can provide a comprehensive approach : we start with the vision, provide consistent guidance and stay on board until everything has been built and successfully rolled out.”
What added value do you want to bring with Agile Architects?
Tom: “A lot of companies who focus on Enterprise Architecture limit themselves to a theoretical framework. They offer a road map, but skip out on the implementation. We want to be architects who remain on board during the entire implementation. In that respect, the customer can come to us for an end-to-end coverage: from vision, over development, all the way to the operational side.”
Evert: “We want to focus on pragmatism: creating value for the business as quickly and iteratively as possible. It is important to do this in the right way as an architect; to find the right balance between setting out architectural guidelines for the benefit of the organisation as a whole over the longer term on the one hand, and on the other hand allowing the autonomy of agile teams to pay off so they can respond quickly to changing business priorities. It is and remains a great challenge: to realise changes that quickly deliver added value. It is not an either-or story, but an and-and story: maintaining control without sacrificing speed.”
Is it important that your customers already display that agile mindset to a certain extent before you come on board?
Tom: “Let’s be clear that this is absolutely not a requirement. On the contrary, most of our customers still have a long way to go. But even in those cases, digital transformation is given top priority and our pragmatic and value-driven principles apply.”
When the market thinks ‘Open Agile Architecture™’, they should think of us.
Evert: “The methodology is not an end in itself. We want to identify obstacles and objectives. How we go about achieving that remains variable. Our methodology is a guide, but it remains crucial to take the reality and maturity of an organisation into account. The soft skills of our architects are very important here. Listening to our customers, explaining the business strategy and its impact on the organisation together. An architect must come to the table with a clear opinion about solutions and how we deal with (Enterprise) Architecture. Not mountains of documentation, but short, relevant answers that are able to convince the various stakeholders that they are creating value for the business. That’s what we want to stand for.”
What does the future hold for Agile Architects?
Evert: “At the moment, our main objective is and remains the marketing of our vision and methodology: how to map Enterprise Architecture to the agile way of working.”
Tom: “Our mission is to make Agile Architects the go-to partner in this regard. When the market thinks ‘Open Agile Architecture™’, they should think of us. We truly seek to become the voice of Open Agile Architecture™.”