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Digital transformation is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society.
Digital transformation through architecture is the process of driving innovation and digital or technology-based initiative to completion within an organization or society. Digital transformation derives value from using technology to provide new business models, impact customer behavior, increase employee success or derive operational benefits and excellence. It directly benefits to the primary owners or shareholders of the organization, and to quickly adapt to new business models or changes in the marketplace.
Digital Transformation and Architecture
Digital transformation includes many groups within an organization and therefore cannot be seen as being owned by architects. So why does it form such a core portion of our engagement model and how do architects participate and lead a transformation agenda?
Architecture practice is by it’s nature creative and focused on new development. After countless interviews, discussions and working groups, Iasa has come to equate architecture and the newer usage of the term digital transformation. That is, the Iasa body of knoweldge describes architecture very much as a innovation, transformation, and value based change activity with technology as a fundamental driving force for the changes. The Iasa body of knowledge describes business technology strategy, digital transformation and architecture as roughly synonymous.
In recent years enterprise architecture, in some environments, has become more focused on governance and IT operating efficiency than true innovation and business change. However, this case is drastically over emphasised as most practicing architects (by a percentage of the total architect population) are still very much driven by change and at the forefront of transformation.
Value Based Change – Digital Transformation
There is much being written about digital transformation but at it’s core it is relatively simple. It is the restructuring of technology (whether or not we call that IT) to directly impact profitability, explore new business models, impact the customer, redefine employee work and culture, and drive optimization (notice optimization is last on the list). It is business and growth based over optimization and savings based and at its core is using technology effectively. In short it is technology at the helm of business as opposed to the traditional enablement role. This transformation is not new and has been going on for years. It has also happened in other areas such as finance, operations and marketing, all of which started as enablement capabilities until they demonstrated top line impact and repeatable results.
The elements of a mature architecture practice are:
- Credibility and relationships with both technical and business stakeholders
- An innovation focus, reputation, and track-record
- A common language and system of value measurement
- Skilled and experienced professionals
- A robust engagement model including tools, coverage, process and artifacts
- A degree of ownership (responsibility, reward and/or authority) over outcomes
*A note about executive sponsorship and authority
Many readers of this article will assume they must first have executive support to begin this process but that is unnecessary if the team takes the right approach. Executive support is to be expected if a team is showing direct, measurable and obvious business value. The business to solution engagement method derives its value from its ability to start small and quickly demonstrate this value.
Building a practice with Business and solution architects
There are many steps involved in driving a digital transformation program. These steps involve not only the architecture team and may even be driven from out of a separate business unit.
Innovation Focus and Developing Credibility
In many architecture teams their focus has been on engineering, governance and IT efficiency for so long they have no time or credibility as innovators. This is both an outcome and a focus for growth. Becoming credible with business people requires a great deal of effort and will take time and energy.
The primary path to excellence in innovation is to develop an innovation capacity. To do this the team may start a few critical tasks specifically targeted at becoming innovative. One of these tasks is the business case. Innovation teams drive business change and the most common change recommendation tool is the business case. It can be a rigorous cost/benefit justification or as simple as a napkin sketch over coffee but ide-ation is at the core of innovation. This means the team needs to focus on it’s skills in this area. Start with simple ‘low hanging fruit’. Some business tools are extremely helpful here. To build good business cases the team will need a solid understanding of how the business makes money and what it sells. I recommend our expert series course materials on understanding business. You will learn to use tools like the business model canvas, business capabilities and strategy scorecards to understand deeply how your company works and its business model and competition. This activity need not be onerous or even lengthy. The big ideas will start coming quickly during even the first working session. The better the team gets with the tools the more they will interact with strategic business staff who will begin to see them in a new way from the start. This is the beginning of a real business architecture practice and will set a strong foundation between the business and the architecture team.
A solid foundation for innovation comes from making it a part of daily and weekly activities. The team needs to be responsible for holding itself accountable to this. A good practice may be to require each architect author at least one business case per quarter alone or in a working group then reviewing these throughout the entire team. For real results make that practice a part of job description and performance reviews. Although it may not be necessary as even the most basic business focus will begin to excite the team to perform.
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