Author: Deepak Chaudhary

Digital transformation often involves reshaping business models. It grants traditional businesses an opportunity to create market differentiation. They can take their set of pre-existing capabilities, and cohesively integrate them to deliver new products and services.  However, if the enterprise is not architected properly, it will not be able to execute the new strategy.

Traditional companies aspire to behave like start-ups, but they generally lack the technology and operating model to keep up with digital natives. Fully implementing pilot programs can bring challenges, most notably in scaling legacy architecture and technologies.

These companies must therefore go through a more profound transformation. They must overhaul the way they operate and manage technology. Success here will make them more nimble and more innovative, and thus, more competitive.

The beginning of a digital transformation

Investing boldly and adopting cutting-edge technologies at scale requires strategic planning. This starts with collaboratively unpacking the business strategy to outline key objectives and priorities (immediate, mid-term and long term). In addition, you need to develop a good understanding of:

  1. Your customers and stakeholders
  2. The market your company operates in
  3. The regulatory environment
  4. The technology landscape in the industry, including the impact of sophisticated, disruptive technologies

The next step is to identify the business capabilities required to deliver the strategy and desired outcome. Once understood, you can start to outline the target state technology and data architecture, while meeting security, data privacy, and compliance requirements.

The target state architecture must be strategically validated by ‘proof of value’ pilots across the business. Once you have gathered enough support and acceptance across the business, you can scale the implementation to deliver measured outcomes.

Enterprise architecture enables digital transformation

Enterprise architecture equips executives with the tools needed to deal with the complexity of digital transformation. It drives alignment on business objectives, defines priorities and identifies business capabilities. It enables complex decisions to be made within companies that are trying to transform with technology.

Guided by a business’s strategy and requirements, enterprise architecture binds the old technology landscape with the new. It does so by deploying solutions that meet strategic objectives. The goal is to holistically define a target state technology architecture that delivers the desired business capabilities.

Russell Ackoff once said, “the performance of the whole is never the sum of the performance of the parts taken separately, but it's the product of their interactions.”

Enterprise architecture facilitates these interactions, delivering enterprise-wide insights and improved collaboration.

Data is the main asset that drives both strategic and tactical decision making. Through data provenance and business insights, enterprise architecture also unlocks the value of an organisation’s data. Quality integrated data improves accountability, informs better decisions, enables deeper customer engagement and contributes to the design of new products and services.

Organization culture underpins digital transformation

Digital transformation is far more likely to succeed when executives understand it and commit to it.

The best example I can quote here is the famous Amazon API Mandate written by CEO Jeff Bezos in 2002. He mandated that all teams use APIs and web services to share data and functionality. The note closed with a statement: “Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.” This mandate turned out to be instrumental in furthering Amazon’s marketplace strategy.

The lesson here is not to mimic Amazon. It is simply that enterprise architecture can elevate engagement, which in turn elevates an organisation as a whole. Enterprise architecture aligns governance, process, technology and capability models with the business’s needs, and promotes effective collaboration between business and IT.

Enterprise also needs to architect itself for agility, to cater to changing business needs and improve time-to-market. This requires enhanced collaboration and leaner, self-organising teams. These agile teams can track their accomplishments in terms of how many business capabilities are deployed and at what rate.

Role of Enterprise Architects in driving Digital Transformation

The cloud, AI, blockchain, AR/VR, 3D printing, quantum computing, CRISPR; the last decade has seen technology evolve dramatically. This means that a digital transformation will never be ‘complete’ – instead, it is a continuous process.

Enterprise architects play a pivotal role in advancing and accelerating transformations in line with the pace of technological innovation. Amongst other things, they must provide strategic vision to executives, participate in strategic business planning, help improve the customer experience, unlock the value of data across the organisation and accelerate adoption of emerging technologies. And their role looks set to become even more far-reaching into the future.

Here at CGI, our consultants lead our clients toward a technology-enabled or technology-led future. They offer deep and wide-ranging expertise in the disciplines of business strategy, business architecture, emerging and existing technologies, data, integration patterns, and running the business of IT.

Through an agile operating model framework, enterprise change methodology, structured innovation management approach and emerging technologies, CGI supports clients in redefining value creation in today’s digital world. We help clients continually innovate, change and operate in an agile manner.

If you’re excited by the innovative world of Digital Transformation, I’d invite you to join me. Check out CGI’s open positions here.