How Enterprise Architects serve as Influential Business Partners in Digital Transformation

Tackle the challenges of digital transformation with enterprise architecture.

New challenges for enterprise architects (EAs) are expected soon, especially with digital twin technology and artificial intelligence accelerating the digital transformation process. By taking a holistic approach towards enterprise architecture, EAs can help to accelerate growth and optimize all areas of business. They can effectively manage the impacts caused by constant business changes, ranging from business digitization to IT strategic planning to data governance.

How Enterprise Architects serve as Influential Business Partners in Digital Transformation. Source: MEGA International
How Enterprise Architects serve as Influential Business Partners in Digital Transformation. Source: MEGA International

Discover in this article how enterprise architecture can tackle digital transformation and improve various business imperatives:

  • Improve the customer experience by digitizing processes and achieving operational excellence
  • Rationalize IT by optimizing the application portfolio and mitigating technology risks
  • Embrace IT strategic planning and build a solid business architecture
  • Turn data governance into a strategic approach

Companies can’t wait to pursue digital growth strategies while more technology-savvy competitors capture customers and market share. They must achieve their business transformation to become more relevant to their customers and more competitive in their markets. Digital transformation continues to be a priority for company executives because they know it drives their ability to improve the customer experience, stay ahead of competition and generate business growth. So how can enterprise architecture play a key role in the digital transformation process?

“By 2020, at least 55% of organizations will be digitally determined, transforming markets and reimagining the future through new business models and digitally enabled products and services,” – IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Digital Transformation 2019 Predictions.

The new paradigms of digital transformation
Digital transformation takes hold as the path to business improvement. To help them reach their goals faster, many companies have adopted four best practices:

  • Offer a flawless customer experience
  • Reduce time-to-market through improved agility
  • Adopt disruptive technology
  • Insure data governance and compliance with data privacy regulations

How enterprise architecture tackles digital transformation challenges
The enterprise architecture approach can improve various business imperatives:

  • Design business processes and customer journey maps
  • Rationalize IT to make IT systems ready to support constantly evolving business needs
  • Build a solid business architecture and embrace IT strategic planning
  • Turn data governance into a strategic approach

Within the context of new business challenges, enterprise architecture models will be enhanced through data mining. Helping to determine priorities for improvements or failure of systems.

The new roles of enterprise architects leading digital transformation
Enterprise architects have sometimes been described as living in an ivory tower, disconnected from reality and finding it difficult to demonstrate the business value that results from enterprise architecture. However, they can play a pivotal role in advancing and accelerating digital transformation. In the highly disruptive and agile environments, see how enterprise architects can be business partners working closely with agile teams who facilitate digital business transformation.

Content Summary

Introduction
Digital transformation still dominates business decision making
The new paradigms of digital transformation
How enterprise architecture tackles digital transformation challenges
The new roles of enterprise architects leading digital transformation
Conclusion

Introduction

The opportunities for company growth depend on successful digital transformation. Large companies especially must complete business transformation through technological change in order to become more relevant to their customers and more competitive in their markets. They can’t wait to pursue digital growth strategies while more technology-savvy competitors capture customers and market share.

Enterprise architects play a key role in the transformation process because they have visibility into all parts of the business and recognize how the IT landscape can produce business success or failure.

Enterprise architects can easily assess the impacts of constant business change on the IT landscape, and how that in turn affects daily company operations, the customer experience, and the ability to grow and gain market share. This sweeping perspective can significantly improve the transformation process. At the same time, enterprise architects are the gatekeepers of a streamlined and agile IT landscape so that IT is ready to undertake new business transformation projects.

Digital transformation still dominates business decision making

Technological changes such as digital transformation will have a greater effect on short-term business decisions than any other factor; this according to 735 to 1,559 North American and European enterprise business and technology decision makers asked in a Forrester survey. In the same survey, 56% of companies claim digital transformation is currently underway (Source: Forrester Data Global Business Technographics Business and Technology Services Survey, 2017).

Digital transformation continues to be a priority for company executives because they know it drives their ability to improve the customer experience, stay ahead of competition and generate business growth. “

By 2020, at least 55% of organizations will be digitally determined, transforming markets and reimagining the future through new business models and digitally enabled products and services,” according to IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Digital Transformation 2019 Predictions.

In a 2018 Forrester survey of 354 business and technology decision makers, digital transformation and customer experience were the two primary target areas for process improvements (Source: Forrester’s Q1 2018 Digital Process Automation Survey).

The new paradigms of digital transformation

As digital transformation takes hold as the path to business improvement, companies have adopted four best practices that help them reach their goals faster:

  • Offer a flawless customer experience
  • Reduce time-to-market through improved agility
  • Adopt sophisticated, disruptive technology
  • Insure data governance and compliance with data privacy regulations

Offer a flawless customer experience

In a 2018 Forrester survey, 83% of respondents said they plan to increase customer journey mapping. (Source: Forrester’s Q1 2018 Digital Process Automation Survey). This endeavor helps companies fully understand what steps customers go through when they interact with the business, where they might abandon their contact, and what keeps them loyal.

As the world speeds through the digital age, the customer is king. Companies that have reached the point of customer obsession did so by imagining the journeys that will delight their customers and increase loyalty. Improving the customer experience can only be done by redesigning company processes and increasing process automation to meet consumer needs and desires. And, in taking on the challenge of process redesign, companies with enterprise architects leading the way, with their broad view of the business and detailed data on processes, can more quickly reach a higher level of digital and business transformation.

Reduce time-to-market through improved agility

In a 2018 Forrester survey (Source: Forrester’s Q1 2018 Digital Process Automation Survey), 92% of decision makers said they planned to change or expand agile processes in technology and process improvements.

Shrinking the window for time-to-market for new products and services has become critical in today’s lightening speed world of buying, both by individual consumers and businesses purchasers. There are constant and instant changes in markets that make it necessary for companies to be able to evaluate their processes quickly in order to alter them to meet new customer demands.

Industry leaders have adopted agile development as the way to increase delivery speed and introduce greater flexibility in how a company responds to fast-paced changes.

Enterprise architects are usually at the forefront of these changes to introduce IT agility because they offer a broad strategic view to development teams who often work in silos and have adapted their own practices and capabilities to stay steps ahead of ongoing evolution in markets and the company.

Adopt sophisticated, disruptive technology

Organizations with successful transformations deploy more technologies than others do according to a McKinsey survey (Source: McKinsey & Company, Unlocking success in digital transformations, October 2018).

Companies that make a successful digital transition are more likely to adopt sophisticated and disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, advanced machine-learning techniques. Personal computers, email, cell phones, mobile apps and cloud computing are examples of past disruptive technologies that gave a competitive advantage to companies that adopted these technologies faster than competitors.

Because the impact of emerging technologies on businesses is so massive, companies can use them to even greater advantage if they are prepared to analyze their potential impact and how to best integrate them into their business models.

Enterprise architecture is a vital tool in creating a seamless process to assess and adopt new technologies.

Ensure data governance and compliance with data privacy regulations

In today’s digital world, data has become the most valuable asset. Companies collect and use massive quantities of data to develop new business opportunities. Data also allows them to take advantage of emerging technologies that can accelerate digital transformation.

In a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 71% of the respondents said that regulatory compliance requirements was the primary reason for addressing data governance aspects, followed by reaching strategic goals (38%), and lastly, to fulfill the requirements of the organization’s corporate governance policy (33%) (Source: PwC Data Governance Survey Results, A European Comparison of Data Management Capabilities in Banks, 2016).

Cyber security risk, which continues to grow, puts this data at risk and the nature of the risk changes quickly. Governments around the world have begun to impose increasingly restrictive regulations, particularly regarding privacy and security. This makes data governance an increasingly strategic issue for executives and an essential consideration in planning the future IT landscape.

How enterprise architecture tackles digital transformation challenges

Enterprise architecture is a valuable approach that companies use to improve all areas of business:

  • Improve the customer experience, digitize processes, achieve operational excellence
  • Rationalize IT to make IT systems ready to support constantly evolving business needs
    • Optimize the application portfolio
    • Manage technology standards and mitigate technology risks
  • Build a solid business architecture and embrace IT strategic planning
  • Turn data governance into a strategic approach

Improve the customer experience, digitize processes, achieve operational excellence

Business imperative

In the digital age, the customer experience is tightly interwoven with digital capabilities. For example, customers now have multiple channels for making purchases and endless possibilities when looking for the best products online. Also, businesses create a brand personality and leverage digital capabilities to stay connected to the customer outside of the purchasing process. These developments have created unprecedented competitive pressure which affects the pace of innovation in all companies.

A disappointed customer can easily damage a company’s reputation through social media and can seamlessly switch from one vendor to another.

Even though companies may focus on the customer experience, operational excellence – strategy executed better than competitors, along with increased productivity and efficiency – is lacking. This typically happens when a company fails to deliver a satisfying, effective experience to customers, such as when a purchased item is out of stock or delivery is too slow.

The enterprise architecture approach: design business processes and customer journey maps

To avoid these failures, business leaders should incorporate the customer experience when designing new business processes. To do so, companies can use customer journey maps to document and understand the end-to-end customer experience.

Customer journey maps that are based on customer satisfaction information also aid in assessing each touchpoint with the customer. This helps companies build or redesign internal business processes to maximize customer satisfaction.

Using customer journey maps, enterprise architects can adopt an outside-in approach – mapping customer touchpoints to the organization and linking them to internal business processes. By doing so, architects can envision the customer experience first, before business process design and modeling.

This approach is necessary to modernizing existing processes and result in operational excellence. By focusing on the operational pieces that support the delivery experience at the touchpoints, companies can be sure to deliver an outstanding customer experience.

Rationalize IT so the IT systems are ready to support constantly evolving business needs

Optimize the application portfolio

Business Imperative

Constant market changes, the internationalization of businesses, mergers & acquisitions and other forces make it difficult to secure clear visibility into the IT landscape. This is complicated further by increasing technology complexity that results from a growing number of applications, multiple deployments and redundant applications.

In many organizations, the lack of flexibility prevents positive change, especially when IT teams are unable to assess the impact of change when contemplating the addition or removal of applications.

Often, the costs associated with application support aren’t pinpointed, nor the overall value of the application to the business. Soaring IT budgets are often a result of accumulated legacy systems.

The enterprise architecture approach: application portfolio management

Enterprise architects can map the current IT environment, creating a comprehensive inventory of applications used throughout the organization. The application inventory can be done using multiple perspectives, including application lifecycles, costs, deployments, exchange flows, and how each one supports the business.

Through data collection and crowdsourcing, important business data, such as organizational roles, processes, locations, business capabilities, vendors, etc. also become important information in the inventory. This leads to capability maps that reflect the business capabilities of the organization and provide a planning tool to help fill operational gaps.

Enterprise architects will conduct objective analysis using the collected data, based on KPIs such as lifecycle, cost, risk, supporting technologies, and vendor dependency. They will also perform subjective analysis through automated questionnaires to stakeholders who assess the business value, technical efficiency, and business fit of the applications they use.

When the analysis is complete, enterprise architects can rank applications by importance and value, consolidating scores and cross-referencing KPIs. This ensures that the most important investments and resources are focused on the most critical applications and become the first recommendations for improving the portfolio.

Manage technology standards and mitigate technology risks

Business Imperative

Constant change and agile development make it difficult for IT departments to be aware of and track all technologies used by development teams and business stakeholders, and throughout the organization.

Often, IT projects use technologies that may not follow policy or technology standards as defined by the IT department. This opens the door for increased risk from shadow IT, non-compliance and uncontrolled data flows.

When non-standard technology is incompatible or inconsistent with the existing IT portfolio, the result can be serious security breaches and harmful effects on business operations.

The enterprise architecture approach: technology architecture management

Enterprise architects turn to technology architecture management to standardize the IT portfolio and avoid technology obsolescence. They create inventories of technologies that include information on vendors and lifecycles (release date, end of life, etc.), by retrieving and cleansing this information from an existing CMDB. In the case of multiple sources of information, a normalization tool can streamline technology names. Additionally, external libraries can be used to collect technology lifecycles and complete the technology inventory.

They then conduct the following steps:

  • Select the technologies to be assessed as standards, based on the requirements of the dev teams or other stakeholders, including architects and risk managers.
  • Determine the basis for the assessment: the applications they support, business capabilities, lifecycles or vendor dependency.

Technology status can be updated through the different stages of its lifecycle:

  • Envisioning: the technology is currently assessed for future use
  • Emerging: the technology is in its early days of knowledge. It is not fully deployed
  • Confirmed: the technology is fully available, and the organization has a good knowledge of it
  • Obsolete: the technology is obsolete and may be risky. It should be removed or replaced

After the assessment, it is much easier to decide whether technologies comply with the company’s standards and are put in the following categories:

  • Approved: technologies recognized as standard and expected to be used,
  • Permitted: technologies permitted to be used
  • Prohibited: technologies against company policy

Build a solid business architecture and embrace IT strategic planning

Business Imperative

Thriving companies are on the forefront of innovation and digital transformation. Innovative business leaders recognize that IT systems often don’t effectively support strategic business initiatives. Sometimes, IT projects aren’t well planned or prioritized based on business objectives. Other times, it is difficult to understand the impact of changes to project scope, time or budget, especially in agile environments.

When IT activities are not aligned with business strategy and performance goals, teams are unable to quickly respond to needs that require innovation.

The enterprise architecture approach: business architecture and IT strategic planning

Getting a clear understanding of business objectives is the first step. Enterprise architects engage with business teams to map current business capabilities and understand how they can change. This provides a better view of how a capability should evolve in the coming years, or if the capability is consistent with business strategy or can address a new customer segment.

Enterprise architects capture current and future business needs using an enterprise roadmap that positions transformation objectives, business capabilities, and required IT functionalities in a timetable. As a second step, enterprise architects define the future IT architecture, ensuring that it fully supports the planned business capabilities. To do so, they map the current IT environment and develop a new IT architecture based on the business capabilities that have been identified. Business capability maps show which IT resources are required to support business operations as the company evolves to meet new challenges.

Build the IT Roadmap

The third step of the process is to initiate and manage IT projects necessary to complete the defined future IT architecture through a gap analysis between the current and future architecture. Each process includes a justification or a business case that explains why the project should be undertaken, its costs, and resources, as well as a timeline and possible risks.

Once projects have been prioritized, they can be put in a timetable, forming the IT roadmap, which should include a statement on strategic business priorities, a timeline of projects, a business case, the estimated cost, and the duration of each project.

With a clear IT roadmap, IT leaders have a comprehensive view of future IT projects and can plan resources as well as budget accordingly.

Build an Agile Architecture

By building a “just-in-time” architecture, the company can continuously evolve as market requirements change. Starting from the intentional architecture first envisioned, it’s possible to update it using an incremental approach based on the emergent design of the development teams and their feedback.

In the SAFe framework, the architectural runway is formed by reconciling the intentional architecture with the emerging design and can be advanced to support upcoming epics. If the architecture doesn’t follow the pace of developments, it can be viewed as a brake by development teams instead of bringing value.

Implement a solid data governance strategy

Business Imperative

After deploying enterprise architecture to achieve several best practices and goals, data is now at the core of the company’s strategy. The newest challenge is to collect, store, organize, and protect data, as well as analyze it to take advantage of its full value in boosting business innovation.

While data is essential to all organizations, ungoverned data can be a significant source of risk. Legacy data systems are not often properly documented from all perspectives (business, technical, regulatory, etc.). There may be a lack of visibility into the company’s information overall. Some companies can’t provide evidence for data quality to regulatory bodies or quickly adjust to the continuous changes of the market because business data isn’t documented or tied to technical data, therefore preventing impact analysis.

New privacy requirements have gotten corporate attention at the board level and have opened discussions about data governance to include data usage, privacy considerations and information security. These new regulations make companies and their boards much more accountable for security breaches and compliance failures related to data.

The enterprise architecture approach: data modeling and governance

Defining standard data governance processes, sharing best practices and documenting data usage all along the business processes are the keys to successful data governance. Enterprise architecture provides clarity and ease of understanding on the multitude of data collected, processed and managed by any company.

Through the enterprise architecture process, data architects or data stewards create business glossaries, as well as representations of an organization based on semantic models. They create data dictionaries, and also model existing databases in a logical way. Doing so, they discover data from existing data sources or data lakes in order to extract metadata and rationalize it to a common metamodel.

Business data can then be tied to the data dictionary. This linkage can be automated, creating the basis for business data lineage, which allows architects to analyze the impact of a potential change. This helps the company anticipate and manage continuous market changes and streamline their digital transformation efforts though a consistent representation of their business and technical data.

Finally, by integrating General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or other data privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, requirements with enterprise architecture, companies can speed compliance with these new regulations.

  • Enterprise architects can document GDPR impacts on their applications, describing how personal data is being processed.
  • Data privacy officers (DPO) can easily document GDPR processing activities by reusing applications created by enterprise architects.
  • DPOs can access detailed information about business processes and applications tied to existing GDPR processing activities, such as diagrams, flowcharts, and detailed properties.

The new roles of enterprise architects leading digital transformation

Enterprise architects have sometimes been described as living in an ivory tower, disconnected from reality and finding it difficult to demonstrate the business value that results from enterprise architecture.

However, in the highly disruptive, agile environments that are at the core of most businesses today, enterprise architects are business partners who facilitate digital business transformation.

As a true business partner, and also a trend spotter and working closely with agile teams, they contribute significantly to digital transformation initiatives.

As a business partner

Enterprise architects make strategic recommendations, assess business opportunities related to emerging technologies, and evaluate the impact of business change on IT systems and may build an entirely new ecosystem. In their role as a business partner, they clearly show the value generated by the connections between people, processes, applications, and infrastructure.

The role of enterprise architects today is to:

  • Bring the strategic vision to organizations that often work in silos and lack an overarching view.
  • Engage with the business to refine its needs, showing how a business capability should evolve in the next three years, or whether the company has the capability to address new customer segments.
  • Contribute to an improved IT roadmap that efficiently and proactively supports business needs and better plans future IT investments.

As a technology trend spotter

Companies are investing massively in emerging technologies to stay competitive. A key finding in a 2017 Forrester report, that surveyed 105 global senior technology executives online, was that 86 percent of advanced companies saw technology as the most important driver of business strategy.

Today, enterprise architects are at the forefront of their company’s efforts to understand and analyze the impact of emerging and strategic technologies. They are leaders providing a hands-on approach to defining how digital business platforms deliver value in the modern enterprise.

Enterprise architects fill the trend spotter role because they are well-equipped to recognize market trends and potentially valuable new technologies, especially those that are just beginning to emerge or those that could prove to be disruptive in the marketplace. They help business leaders and IT teams understand and take advantage of the technologies that will move their company ahead of competitors.

Enterprise architects also serve as pacesetters in business transformation ventures because they unite IT capabilities with business strategies.

As an active member of agile dev teams

In agile environments, developments move fast, and agile teams are empowered to design the architecture they need based on the eleventh principle of the Agile Manifesto, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” In the SAFe framework, this is called “emergent design.”

However, emergent design can present many flaws because development teams may be unaware of business objectives, technical standards used by the organization, or other architectural projects running in the organization. Using an architecture designed by development teams can therefore induce reworks and affect the time-to-market.

As part of an agile team, enterprise architects have to:

  • Facilitate collaboration with development teams to share the intentional architecture and its constraints. In return, development teams help correct the intentional architecture. By reconciling the emergent design with the intentional architecture, an “architectural runway” is created as described in the SAFe Framework. As developments occur, enterprise architects can incrementally update the architecture based on their feedback, and also support new epics.
  • Share the strategic vision. While agile developments are well adapted to continuous market changes, large development teams may not fully understand the entire ecosystem. With an agile enterprise architecture practice, enterprise architects work collaboratively with development teams to share the strategic vision and help break down silos.

As an influencer and leader

Enterprise architects function as one of an organization’s most influential leaders. They lead critical change initiatives by leveraging company assets and exploring new business opportunities, such as those delivered by emerging technologies.

In the past, enterprise architecture was often seen as an intrusive cost center that build “architecture for the sake of architecture”, delivering nothing more than noise throughout the organization. Enterprise architects can take steps to accelerate and elevate the value they bring to their organization, moving from being perceived as noisy to truly influential.

Enterprise Architecture: Four Steps to Influence. Source: MEGA International
Enterprise Architecture: Four Steps to Influence. Source: MEGA International

Step 1: Be useful. To start gaining influence, enterprise architects can Identify short-term projects and concentrate on tactical wins. Soon, they will be appreciated by a few key stakeholders.

Step 2: Be trusted. Enterprise architects can leverage that new confidence as a catalyst to bigger projects that have more visibility throughout the organization and expand the audience that recognizes the value of enterprise architecture. At this stage, they can implement additional use cases focused on business outcomes and establish a center of excellence that strengthens the discipline.

Step 3: Be influential. Once enterprise architects are viewed as trusted, they’ll be seen as a source of truth for reliable information and the business will start asking for their help. The C-suite will soon become their key stakeholders. To foster innovation, they will establish a governance process. They will have a comprehensive view of the enterprise to support rapid impact analysis and transformation scenario simulations. To remain in this stage, enterprise architects will have to continue focusing on capabilities and the needs of the business, providing tangible business value, and driving transformation and innovation.

Conclusion

The evolution of digital transformation challenges all companies to approach it in a new way, absorbing best practices identified as successful in recent years, and choosing a strategy that puts enterprise architecture at the heart of business transformation and innovation.

The role of enterprise architect is essential to ensure that the digital transformation process undertaken by an organization is successful. During this process, enterprise architects provide a comprehensive view of the impacts caused by constant business changes, ranging from business digitization to IT strategic planning to data governance.

New challenges for enterprise architects are expected soon, especially with digital twin technology and artificial intelligence, because both are expected to accelerate the digital transformation process. Within this context, enterprise architecture models, encompassing business, application and technology layers, will be enhanced with real data (through data mining). The analysis of the data will enable architects to better identify gaps between theoretical models and the real world and determine the highest priority areas for improvement or failure of systems.

Enterprise architects play a pivotal role in advancing and accelerating digital transformation. They provide an overall strategic vision to decision makers, helping them optimize strategic business planning, adopt emerging technology, improve the customer experience and ensure data security.

Source: MEGA International