I was at an industry forum where the discussions focused on strategy realization and roadmaps and some of the challenges with digital strategy execution. While discussing the challenges, many were in agreement that Business leaders are generally well versed in capabilities of IT, and the promise of digital tools and techniques.
Strategy realization involves executing on pre-defined roadmaps, and aligning business processes with appropriate technologies and platforms. In an earlier blog post, I described the process of reconciling Architecture Roadmaps across an organization. (link). This involves bringing together views from across functional and regional domains that coexist along with Business, Information, Data, Applications and Technology (BIDAT) areas. In addition to BIDAT, Architects also need to align across IT Services and digital backbone domains, each with distinct strategic drivers, business sponsorship and execution strategies. A brief description of each of these along with some of the implications on EA roadmaps follow.
Enterprise-IT - services for internal consumption
Many large enterprises have moved towards a shared services model to centrally support systems and processes for business units and functions that may be globally distributed. IT, along with selected functions like facilities management, HR, finance and production may be managed within the shared services organization.
The enterprise-IT in a shared service will be designed to support internal operations in organizations with thousands or tens of thousands of employees. . These employees will need consistent processes and systems to support business operations, sales, support clients, manufacture and distribute goods in regions across the globe.
The enterprise-IT systems and processes must be continually supported, enhanced and upgraded. A large ecosystem of Enterprise IT application vendors with a variety of tools and technologies offer services for business verticals.
Implication: Senior executives closely watch the SLAs, metrics and cost of operations of enterprise-IT platforms and processes. The costs of operations can influence the organization’s bottomline, and so can productivity gains from transforming some of the processes and systems.
In many organizations, the growth engine is driven by distinct capabilities or intellectual property aligned with its core competency. In some organizations, the digital backbone may be called the “engineering” or “technology” capability. At a manufacturing company, the digital backbone will include R&D behind design of products and services. For a media company, it will be the newsroom operations supporting reporters and journalists. At a petrochemical company, the digital backbone will include innovation that drives its geo-information, GIS and drilling capabilities.
Systems and processes to manage core competency have evolved with emerging digital technologies and tools; and these are also likely to be most impacted by digital disruptors in the marketplace.
The past decade has seen entire industry segments and companies disrupted by digital innovators. Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted taxi services and public transit systems around the world. A decade ago, low cost online-only brokers disrupted full-service brokerages. Similarly, advances in electric vehicle technologies are being watched by the entire transport segment dependent on internal combustion engines - from automobile companies to oil drillers.
Implication: Technologies that enable the digital backbone are generally customized to the organization’s business processes and can be the engine for growth. Transformation of an organization’s digital backbone can impact the top-line, improve market share and sales, and transform its business model.
Architecting in the Enterprise: Impact on roadmaps
In most of the large enterprises I have worked with, there is a line in the sand when it comes to managing Enterprise-IT services and the organization's Digital Backbone. The platforms and systems are managed and operated independently, but there is value in working across the silos.
Many of the tools, technologies and services are interchangeable across these business units. For instance, a cloud hosting strategy may be applicable across these BU’s. Similarly, the organization will have a better negotiating leverage by consolidating licenses for infrastructure, network, databases and other technology services. Knowledge of Design and development skills may also be interchangeable across the organizations.
The organization’s culture may dictate the level of collaboration across enterprise-IT services and the organization's Digital Backbone. An effective way to bridge the divide without being constrained by the culture is for technology leaders to continually reconcile Architecture Roadmaps as described in an earlier post. The reviews and reconciliation should be consultative, although some aspects - like external vendor inputs or Technology Debt (link) - may have to be directive.