17 days ago

From Our EA Community: Top Digital Transformation Themes and EA Strategies

Link: https://www.ardoq.com/blog/digital-transformation-themes

“Digital transformation is a top priority for 74% of organizations.”
Flexera 2023 Tech Spend Pulse

Despite digital transformation being a clear priority, many Enterprise Architecture (EA) teams still face substantial pushback and other organizational struggles. Is it a matter of tooling? Or do the ghosts of past EA misstarts continue to haunt organizations and undermine the efforts of today’s teams? Another question is if there are consistent digital transformation themes in specific industries, regions, or even organization types.

To uncover what’s at the heart of these difficulties, we took to the field. Over the last year, we spent a lot of time with our customers, digging into their challenges and accomplishments at our community exchanges and meet-ups across the world. From these group discussions and debates, several very clear themes around challenges with digital transformation emerged.

  1. Engaging Stakeholders
  2. Driving Change
  3. Data Complexity and Siloes

In this blog post, we explore how these themes for digital transformation played out in some organizations, their tactics for dealing with them, and what other EA teams can take away from their experiences.

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1. Engaging Stakeholders: Enhancing Communication and Collaboration Across the Organization

The Challenge

Enterprise Architects (EAs) face significant challenges in engaging business stakeholders. One of the main difficulties is shifting the perception of the EA platform from a tool imposed by the EA team to a collaborative instrument that benefits the entire business. EA teams also have a tendency to focus inwardly, leaning on technical architectural terminology and objectives that other business units may not understand or resonate with.

“Every time we spoke to the business, it felt like we were on opposite teams. We were frustrated that they were ‘resistant to change’, and they were frustrated that we were asking the same questions as last time.”

– Sam Booth, Technology Consultant at 74 Solutions Ltd

Tips for Engaging Stakeholders

To effectively engage stakeholders, the Enterprise Architects we spoke with recommended several strategies.

No more navel-gazing: EA teams need to get better at communicating and collaborating using terms that speak to the business to improve adoption, traction, and support for their function.

“How you communicate is key. You must speak the language of the people you are working with! You need to be the bridge builder and provide solutions to their problems. Get to know their business and strategy and what’s happening in their domain. This is not traditionally the role of the EA, but it needs to be. No way you can talk to every business domain, but [we architects] can provide the solutions that [the organization] needs if we listen to them. Find a willing and able ally, and train them. Build ambassadors who can use the platform to amplify business value.”

– Ole-Jakob Rosenvold, Architect

A platform for all, not just EAs: Architects need to position platforms like Ardoq as collaborative tools that serve the entire organization and not just the EA team. Having top management promote this narrative can significantly improve engagement and change mindsets toward EA. To sell this to top management, it’s imperative that architects frame EA’s benefits and intent in alignment with and support of the organization’s strategic goals. Demonstrating this connection makes it relevant and valuable to more stakeholders. 

“It was a revelation for everyone when we could see the relationships between business services, applications, and technology and even cascade KPIs along the chain using calculated fields. It makes us think as one joined-up team and shows that the best digital transformation doesn’t need to be called digital, as it directly enables true business transformation.”

– Sam Booth, Technology Consultant at 74 Solutions Ltd

2. Driving Change: The Need for a Business-First Approach to Architecture

The Challenge

Architects often struggle to communicate the ROI of Enterprise Architecture or link architectural initiatives and value directly to the business’s overarching goals and metrics. A common hurdle is the traditional IT-centric approach of EA, which may not align with the dynamic needs of the business.

“Changes to technology are not just about the technology. When introducing technology change initiatives, do not have a top-down or bottom-up approach. Instead, look at it from the side or the perspective of the users of the new technology.”
– Will Chapman, Director at Willtures

Tip for Driving Change

To adopt a business-first mindset, Enterprise Architects are advised to:

Prioritize business problems: Take the time to understand and address the concerns the business has. Listen actively to the objectives of business stakeholders and collaborate closely to find solutions. This requires a shift in focus from purely technical capabilities to those driven more by business needs.

Focus on actionable architecture over good architecture: Developing the perfect architectural model means energy is spent on minutiae that the rest of the organization may not appreciate or benefit from. EA teams need to change their mindset about modeling to focus on the actionable instead. They should ensure that their models are not only technically sound but also flexible and extensible to adapt to changing business environments. This will guide the architecture and their efforts to be more aligned with business values and more responsive to its demands. By doing so, EA teams will be better placed to drive valuable change initiatives with the rest of the organization.

“Business acceptance and usage are the real things that determine success, especially when rolling out a capability like Ardoq.”

– Will Chapman, Director at Willtures

3. Overcoming Data Complexity and Siloes: Mastering the Tangle of Technology To Uncover Value

The Challenge

Data complexity and data silos are inevitable in large enterprises due to the scale and diversity of their operations. These organizations often have multiple departments and units, each using different systems and processes to collect, store, and manage data. This means they often have a fragmented data environment where information is isolated within specific departments, hindering accessibility and visibility across the enterprise. These silos and the complexities of shadow IT create significant challenges for architects when it comes to data governance, integration, and utilization across the organization.

The segregation of data into siloes hampers transparency and makes it difficult to achieve a comprehensive overview of the organization’s data landscape. So when architects try to bring all this information together, the complexity often results in bottlenecks as they struggle to manage and govern IT effectively. This severely limits the potential for insights and efficiency across the organization.

“One of the challenges in capturing information about your estate is the number of people who have that knowledge, and you can become a bit of a bottleneck.”

– Gary O’Reilly, Chief Technology Officer at His Majesty’s Passport Office

Tip for Overcoming Data Complexity and Siloes

To make the most of their organization’s data, architects should:

Embrace democratization and “crowd-sourcing”: Leveraging automation can significantly improve the efficiency of managing architecture, IT management, and governance, thus ensuring that EAs do not become a bottleneck for data access and usage. Siloed data is something the business side is also troubled by. Democratizing data and leveraging collaborative EA platforms like Ardoq can provide some much-needed transparency across the organization for all stakeholders.

“The democratization of business data has been absolutely invaluable, especially with capturing and maintaining information. Helping users recognize that we’re not asking them to do any more work when they’re supporting and contributing to Ardoq. We’re asking them to do the same work in a much more structured fashion. So, it simplifies their own workflow processes, with the advantage of being able to share their input with other business users. This means we can give back much greater insights than they would be able to derive themselves.”
– Steve Killelay, Lead Architect for PA Consulting (Major Technology Debt Consolidation Program for HMCTS)

Close the gap between business and IT: Developing and making architectural overviews of the organization accessible means more stakeholders across the organization can understand how technology supports business goals. This is invaluable in fostering closer collaboration between the business as IT departments can help break down data silos, promoting a more unified approach to organizational data handling.

“Being able to visualize [our application portfolio] for the first time, look at the complexity of a large landscape, and navigate around it by clicking on components, that power — the power of visualization — really landed with a lot of our stakeholders in the community. They realized what data-driven visualizations could give us and other teams.”
– Peter Grayley, Senior Solutions Architecture Manager at ASDA Technology

Which Digital Transformation Themes Resonated With You Most?

Our findings from conversations with customers in the field have been encouraging and enlightening. By addressing some of these challenges head-on and learning from the collective wisdom of the community, Enterprise Architects can lead their organizations to successful digital transformations, making them more agile, informed, and prepared for future challenges. Collaboration, communication, and celebrating individual success stories are key to advancing how architecture is leveraged in modern organizations to create “win-win” situations.

Learn more about how Ardoq empowers architects to achieve alignment with the business and drive meaningful outcomes in their organizations.

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