Enterprise architecture

Enterprise architecture as a challenge to digital transformation

This is the fifth article in the series of articles on digital transformation. In the first article, we discussed the evolution of a digital enterprise. In the second article, we talked about building trust among the various stakeholders of the Enterprise Eco-system. In the third article, we talked about how experience is an important pillar in the success of a digital enterprise. In the fourth article, we discussed how technical debt slows down the digital transformation journey. In this article, we will throw light upon enterprise architecture as a challenge to digital transformation.

Outside-in perspective of Architecture

Before we talk about architecture, let’s look at the long-term planning of a large city, like Delhi. The city planners look at a lot of data and maps, and understand how the city is going to grow. What are the bottlenecks that are going to appear, what kind of constraints will come e.g. in water supply, electricity supply, etc. They are then building the masterplan to support the growth of the organization. So, you will have new roads, new water tanks, new long-distance water pipelines, bypasses , new parks, schools, etc. That’s the masterplan 2025.

The function of IT architecture is somewhat similar. The mandate comes from the company’s strategy; what are growth plans, products, geographies and so on. IT architects need to take a similar approach and understand:

  • Where will the current IT architecture manifest the bottlenecks.
  • how it needs to be capacity enhanced to support this growth.
  • where are the future constraints and risks.
  • what future IT capabilities will be required.

and then create an IT architecture blueprint to support the organization’s growth.

When I created my first IT strategy, we took a view of the three-year growth vectors of business units, what business capabilities they would require for their growth and what would be the IT contributions towards these capabilities. This exercise of translating business capabilities to IT Capabilities was then flipped and consolidated to a technology point of view – The IT capability platforms required to support the growth of various business strategies across BUs.

Enterprise Architecture is a strategic plan which defines an organization’s objectives and provides a roadmap for transforming the organization to achieve the objectives. The objective of enterprise architecture is to create a blueprint of an organization’s future state in terms of business processes, information systems, and technology infrastructure by designing a master plan to align business and IT.

The challenges in implementing enterprise architecture are:

1. Lack of integration with the business: For enterprise architecture to be successful, it must be closely in line with business goals and IT strategy.

2. Enterprise architecture is often seen as a project instead of a strategic program: The business and IT leaders want to know if enterprise architecture will deliver value to their organization. For this, it needs to be a strategic initiative with ongoing evolution goals.

Role of EA team in digital transformation

Many business leaders are unsure of what an enterprise architect does. So, bridging this knowledge gap is the first step in allowing an EA team to help the business succeed at digital transformation. IT architects can create a digital architecture map to ensure traceability and troubleshoot issues at speed and in real time. The whole process will identify areas where value can be created and efficiencies can save the company money.

One of the first things to address is identifying the architects who will team up for the enterprise agenda. Traditionally, IT teams are structured around technology-based delivery teams. We need to carve out a think-tank of architects across the organization, working together to plan your 2025 blueprint. But where are these planners?

Long back when I wanted to build an architecture function, I was wondering where to find the architects. I asked this question to a very senior expert analyst. He smiled at gave me a simple answer- “Jagdish, look around, who are the guys who are being approached by everyone for technical advice, trouble-shooting, or simply reviews? They are the ones you need on EA team” Wow! The answer was in plain sight. We got these experts who were helping everyone multi-dimensionally, and built the architecture team.

Can you do it alone?

Well, now you have built a team, but can they prepare the blueprint alone? The answer is, No. Your technology portfolio is coming from your partners. Each partner has a product roadmap of their own. Effective long-term architecture driven planning requires you to understand what their product roadmaps are.

As my architecture team was preparing these roadmaps, the partners were more than happy to collaborate in sharing their product roadmaps and their capability portfolios with us. We organized full-day off-sites for our architects and specific IT functional teams to deep dive into these roadmaps, and factor these into our own plans. Partners provided critical inputs to our technology roadmap.

My architects and Partners, Great! But is it sufficient?

The technologies are emerging very fast. There are new technologies and frameworks emerging. You need to keep your eyes and ears open for the experts and advisors.

I was always connected with top IT advisory firm to understand the emerging trends and technology options. This is even as we were talking to start-ups and promising partners, we were always synching back and taking advice from the experts. We were picking their brains to understanding clear pros and cons of putting our bets on new technologies.

You do need some people who are industry advisors, thought leaders. People keeping the technology evolution in their radar to calibrate your own plans as well as what you have understood from your partners.

By taking the initiative to learn some specialized tech skills, modern enterprise architects can make the difference in bridging the gap between IT and the rest of the business.

Architects are vital to realizing business value. They can keep a cool head if trouble arises and using the digital architecture map, trace the issue back to the cause. They will then be able to adjust and have visibility of the effects of change.

There is no other department that can have this oversight and bring an organization together like an enterprise architect, they are at the heart of digital transformation success.

For a digital enterprise, it is very important to understand what are the future strategies as well as emerging options for expanding your eco-system, and create architecture blueprint for the same. You need a team for this, which you should ideally induct partly from inside, and partly from outside. The partners of your technology product portfolio have plans and roadmaps of their own – collaborating with them will enrich your own thinking as well as expand your own future options. Finally, find some conscience-keepers who have no stakes with any of the partners, to keep your architecture and plans calibrated.

Please leave your comments here, or in the author’s LinkedIn Posts. In the next article, we will talk about the role of Partnerships in digital transformation journey.

The article has been written by Jagdish Belwal, Founder and CEO, Jagdish Belwal Advisory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *