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Digital Transformation

Enterprise Architecture Models for Digital Transformation

shutterstock_75988480Enterprise Architects learned long ago the benefits of describing architecture in different perspectives or views. John Zachman, gave us a structured way of viewing and defining an enterprise architecture in the 80s. But in many companies enterprise architecture (EA) has evolved to technologists that set architecture standards often without much insight into corporate objectives.

The goals of EA are to define the architecture of the enterprise and guide the organization to create the business structure, processes, information models and technology to execute the corporate strategy. And like EA model views, a digital transformation has multiple dimensions and constituents. Yet we often hear conflicting views and a lack of a cohesive vision of the digital transformation (DT) – a lack of EA for the DT effort.

We hear the argument for the CMO to drive DT and the counter argument that the CMO has neither the expertise nor the inclination to modernize legacy systems in support of DT. We have also heard that we need more C level executives (Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer …) to lead DT, which seems to be the antithesis of agility potentially creating more bureaucracy. So we have an ongoing debate on the organization structure to achieve DT. We often don’t have an organizational or business model for DT so there is no means to change much less transform.

In dysfunctional DT efforts, the C level view of DT is misaligned, not truly transformational and have barriers to change. The CIO thinks DT is a web site refresh and a bunch of mobile apps. The CTO thinks it’s securing the cloud, big data and deploying a mobile platform. The CMO thinks it’s shifting money to digital media ads. The CFO knows it will cost more money but has little confidence that DT investments will generate returns. The CEO worries about organizational and technical barriers and feels the threat of competitive disruption. Technology is often a barrier to transformation consisting of siloed legacy systems that are poorly integrated that perpetuate data quality issues, process inefficiencies, high maintenance costs and an overall poor user experience.

If we think again about what EA supposed to be, a means to execute the corporate strategy in terms of people, process and technology, EA certainly has the potential to guide the DT. There are EA models that will work for DT but we must add new approaches that are highly leveraged towards customer experience. EA in most companies has more of a technology focus than a customer focus. But we do need model views of DT that can be understood by the entire organization. Transformation obviously involves change and we need corporate buy in and cross-functional executive sponsorship for a common vision.

At a high-level we need models representing the following objectives:

  • Digital Strategy in terms of vision, business model and business case
  • Customer Journey maps that model the customer’s experience from initial contact through long-term relationships
  • Technology asset models that show snapshots in time of architecture, data and application changes – both customer facing and operational systems impact the customer journey
  • A prioritized Transformational Roadmap that includes people, process and platform changes

DT is not a website refresh nor is it a shift to digital ad spends. DT is innovative and disruptive and will require a roadmap, many iterations and organizational change. Think about how the transformation will be communicated and changed over time. Models are great; use models that best fit your organizations history of strategic and architecture planning then add user experience objectives and customer journey maps.


Thoughts on “Enterprise Architecture Models for Digital Transformation”

  1. If your executives are as clueless as this article paints them, then even the best EA models are unlikely to facilitate any effective transformation. If the EAs are going to effect any significant change, they must first rethink what it means to do enterprise architecture.

  2. Eric Roch Post author

    Part of the process needs to be alignment. I was not thinking of being clueless but of having different objectives that are misaligned. I have been hearing about IT alignment for decades yet we still lack alignment – politics? Maybe clueless fits in some situations too. And I agree that in most companies EA needs to change.

  3. Michael Porter

    This is an interesting article. Too often I see examples of people who claim that IT is a dinosaur and cannot contribute. The reality is that if the culture of IT and the culture of a company allow it, a role like an EA could be a significant enabler of digital transformation.

  4. Eric Roch Post author

    The “unicorns” – companies that have soared to a $1 billion valuation or higher – are virtually all based on technology. Established global companies – let’s call them “whales” – need leading-edge technology too. And the whales are the ones that need to transform. The unicorns are already there and threaten to disrupt the whales. Dinosaur IT shops need DT.

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Eric Roch, Chief Strategist, IT Modernization & Integration

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