CTOpinion

The Digital Architect

A new role for forward-thinking companies.

Most enterprises today operate end-user computing environments in a highly specialized fashion. You have desktop specialists, mobile specialists and, perhaps, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) specialists. You might have a separate group (perhaps the identity management team) -- or no one at all -- managing Web applications. That all said, consider the problem we are actually trying to solve: Securely connecting people to applications and content.

That's it. On the surface, the business challenge is straightforward. Yet our attempts to solve the challenge are a convoluted mess, segmented by device and application type, with separate teams and strategies for each. The problem with this approach is that the individual strategies within each group often lose sight of the business challenge.

In addition, a greater burden is placed on the end user, who often must know how an application is to be delivered (for example, Windows, Mac, Web, mobile) in order to follow the appropriate process to access it. For too long, we have designed application and content delivery based on the convenience of IT; not on the convenience of IT's customers, the end users. As a result, business units are increasingly voting with their feet and choosing solutions offered not by central IT, but by external Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers.

Don't get me wrong: SaaS isn't a good thing, it's a great thing. SaaS is speeding application deployments and dramatically reducing the software maintenance burden that has historically plagued IT teams. However, SaaS still carries traditional IT challenges, such as data privacy and security, authentication, policy enforcement, provisioning/de-provisioning and so on. And as with Windows and mobile applications, management is siloed and policy enforcement capabilities vary with each platform.

The bottom line is that applications are consumed in a variety of ways on a variety of devices -- many of which aren't controlled by central IT -- and most organizations struggle to address application and content delivery across all these various endpoints.

Enter the Digital Architect
Solutions exist today to centrally deliver and manage a digital workspace comprised of Windows, Mac, Web, and mobile applications, yet separate buying centers often evaluate individual parts of these solutions and not the solutions as a whole. That's because most enterprises lack a digital architect role to help oversee the IT landscape in a holistic fashion.

The digital architect should have the cross-IT autonomy to own decisions involving delivery of applications and content to people. Without this unifying IT function, you cannot address the business challenge of connecting people to applications and content in a centralized fashion; the result will continue to be inconsistent security, policy, management and service-level enforcement for the variety of applications that IT must manage and secure.

If you're skeptical about the digital architect's future, consider the role of the cloud architect -- a role that didn't exist a decade ago. In the early days, cloud-purchasing decisions were highly fragmented, and private cloud architectures were overly democratic in design and overly complicated in production.

Today, the cloud architect role and its associated interdisciplinary multi-cloud architecture teams have autonomy to make cloud architecture decisions across the organization. The result has been more agile and secure public and private cloud operations. These teams are now building or operating centralized brokers, dashboards, and network, security, identity, and governance solutions that traverse multiple public clouds and private datacenters.

The digital architect should lead a similar effort to streamline multi-cloud application and content delivery that improves UX and security across all application delivery mechanisms. The architect's team should include specialists from Windows and Mac application and device management, mobile enterprise management, VDI, cloud and SaaS management, and key business units (to understand user requirements).

For those of you in the end-user computing space, this is your chance to pursue a new set of skills and lead a revolutionary charge in helping your organization better partner with end users. Take a look at Windows 10 policy advances and you'll see how laptops can now be managed like mobile devices, leveraging such factors as physical location to determine how applications or content can be accessed.

Opportunity Calling
The technology capabilities for truly holistic IT exist today. All we need is commitment within each organization to lead a modernization effort that is long overdue and will be enthusiastically received by end users. Are you ready to lead that revolution? Opportunity is knocking. Answer the call.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is the CTO, Americas at VMware. Chris serves as a partner and trusted adviser to VMware's customers in the Americas, and also collaborates with the IT and business community at large on cloud, mobile, virtualization and data center modernization strategies. Chris and his peers in the Office of the CTO work closely with VMware's product teams to ensure that VMware's future innovations align with essential market needs.

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