Architecture belongs to the entire organization

Xander van Rooijen - Business Architect Data & Analytics

“We design the organization.” Business Architect Xander van Rooijen makes no bones about it. “As architects, we look at the needs of the business within Rabobank. What applications and services do they need to do their jobs well? You direct the design of those processes and that’s how you help the organization move forward.”

Xander explains further: “Ever heard of Conway’s Law? It states that what an organization designs will mirror the communication structures of that same organization. And that in turn affects the architecture. This is why I find the reverse variation of Conway’s Law fascinating. If you want the designed architecture to work, you have to align the organization accordingly. So we really help in shaping the organization.”

His position is Managing Business Architect at Rabobank. “But the focus of my work lies with my role as Tribe Architect Data & Analytics, where I am responsible for architecture development and assurance. In doing so, I contribute to the vision and strategy of the Data & Analytics Tribe at Rabobank.”

Data as a value proposition

Xander believes data is crucial for the bank: “In addition to being a bank, Rabobank is also a technology company, and data and analytics play a crucial role in this. You need the data to keep your IT organization running and improving its efficiency. And the analytics are there to help us develop ever better services and propositions for our clients and our own organization. That’s why, to me, this is the area within the bank to which I’d like to contribute. The different value propositions make it varied and challenging!”

Xander explains how he sees the various data & analytics (D&A) value propositions within a bank. He recognizes 3 aspects in this regard:

  1. D&A as a tool: You can use data & analytics to support other parts of the bank, enabling them to develop new services. Among other things, the Tribe builds self-service platforms where colleagues can internally offer, edit and provide data to other departments. But colleagues can also create advanced analytics solutions, compile reports and create dashboards. We make this possible by using the latest cloud technologies and are constantly pushing the envelope.
  2. D&A as a business driver: Within the Tribe, we take ownership of generic data products that can be used in multiple ways within the organization. Take, for example, an analytics engine that was developed internally to label transactions. That feature is primarily designed to give our clients insight into their financial health, but we quickly saw greater potential. This functionality can, for example, play an excellent role in other use cases and be used as an accelerator. The Tribe thus helps the business develop new products and services.
  3. D&A as a business enabler: Using our platforms and generic building blocks, other departments independently create business-specific applications. We as a Tribe provide them support with our expertise. This can include complex analyses on our client journeys or the implementation of a specific solution serving KYC analysts.

Xander continues: “The added value is in the business enabler. With this, we make it possible to roll out data and analytics scalably across the entire organization.”

That value proposition doesn’t come out of thin air. “The raison d’être of our Tribe is summed up in the mission ‘Tech and data for people and society’. With technology and data, we help our clients lead financially healthy lives by giving them insight into their spending habits through the Rabo app. We do that thanks to the data we have and the tools we can build with it.” He thinks for a moment and continues: “In a broader social context, we are developing applications to implement KYC (Know Your Client) even better. We can apply smarter techniques that allow us to detect fraud and track down money launderers faster. This is how we’re fulfilling our social mission as a bank. And all with the help of data and analytics. Doing your part to combat those issues, from technology to teams and processes; that’s absolutely what drives me in terms of content.”

Business Architect Data & Analytics Xander van Rooijen van Rabobank in gesprek met een collega op het hoofdkantoor in Utrecht

Architecture for and by everyone

But it doesn’t stop there for Xander. As Managing Business Architect, he has HR responsibilities for a small team of Business Architects and collaborates with approximately 20 solution architects. He provides support, facilitates where needed and coaches his team members to get the best out of themselves. “Doing meaningful work for the bank, for society and for my team members. To me, that’s the most beautiful combination there is.”

Xander doesn’t believe in the role of architect as something that stands alone. “No, definitely not,” he says firmly. “Ultimately, the architecture belongs to the organization as a whole and everyone should be responsible for it. An organization must be mature enough to take ownership of the architecture, regardless of your role. Until that happens, it is absolutely necessary for you to have architects to support you in this. An architect can look at things more independently from multiple perspectives.”

That does require something of his people and the new talents he seeks. “That’s correct. It is the responsibility of us as architects to safeguard the interplay of clients, the organization and our colleagues. It means being able to clearly explain where you want to go with your architecture. How to get people to buy into your story. That makes your storytelling skills and persuasiveness very important.”

An organization must be mature enough to take ownership of the architecture, regardless of your role.
Xander van Rooijen - Business Architect Data & Analytics


Xander talks often about the human aspects of his work. It’s no different in his search for new talent. “You have to look at more than just processes and IT. How can people develop and take each other to the next level? Is it the people who can fulfill our vision in a way that we cannot yet do ourselves? I think that’s important.”

“When I talk with people, I always expressly look at how they present themselves and with what perspective they look at problems. Is it out of curiosity and forward-looking? And do they think in terms of patterns rather than strict solutions? Can you look at the potential of a line of thinking from an abstract level, rather than just saying whether one technology is better than another? Then I’m interested in you!”

Business Architect Data & Analytics Xander van Rooijen van Rabobank onderweg naar het kantoor in Utrecht


Xander spent many years in the Navy before transitioning to a career in banking. They seem like different worlds, but Xander certainly sees similarities. As he himself says: “Contributing to the collaborative resolution of complex issues is why I get out of bed in the morning. Because you really are doing it for a greater good. You are part of the chain.” He refers to his time in the Navy.

“On a ship, every position is important. No matter what you do, you have an important role, at that time, in that place. That’s an important line of thought, if you understand. The same applies equally to my current role as an architect. I am a link in a much larger chain, in which we contribute together to a greater cause. So it’s important to work with people who can help with that as well, who can add something. That makes it really awesome. That you do it together. We all contribute to the chain of a healthy and safe financial climate.”

Rabobank’s appeal is sensible to Xander. “We are an international player and active in many areas. It’s a large and complex organization so as an architect you can always find your own challenge. My mission is to take ownership of the architecture in the organization and have everyone adopt architectural thinking. I’m passionately dedicated to this every day.”

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