Digital Disruption for Enterprise Architecture

By Myles F. Suer, Chief Platform Evangelist, Informatica

Recently, I got to sit at the font of wisdom which is Jeanne Ross, and get her view into digital disruption and the role of Enterprise Architecture in enabling firms to respond. I am going to summarize her main points here which I hope will be as useful to you as it was for me.

Jeanne, Research Director and Principal Research Scientist, MIT Sloan School of Management, started her talk by saying that she has a passion for Enterprise Architecture. And she said for me and for you, as the digital economy has arrived, I have felt this was our moment. We were going to have integrated channels, seamless end-to-end transactions, real understanding of customer data, and real tight security. “And this of course means architecture”. And she in jest says that she was hoping that the whole world had come to this very same conclusion. Clearly, she said, it hasn’t happened yet but Jeanne importantly believes with the march to becoming digital, it will happen soon.

Success in the digital economy is not guaranteed

Jeanne says one thing is becoming increasingly clear–enterprises will not be successful if they are not architected to execute their firm’s business strategies. At the very same time, she has found with the companies (existing successful enterprises) that she talks to believe their success is not guaranteed in the digital economy. Given this, Jeanne decided to research what incumbent enterprises actually look like that have taken concrete steps to respond to the digital economy’s mandates. The 27 companies :

  • The challenges they are facing
  • The disruptions that they had identified
  • The strategies they were moving forward with
  • The changes that they had already put in place

She found that digital strategies were inspired by the capabilities of powerful readily available technologies including things like social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and internet of things. Digital strategies were forcing companies around a rallying point but surprisingly there was not much distinction behind the rallying point more than, “I want to be the Amazon or Uber of my industry”. But Jeanne claims this is okay because competitive advantage is not going to be about strategy but instead about execution. And being the best at execution is going to eventually take you in a different direction than other market participants.

Competitive advantage today requires executing on integrated capabilities

At this point, Jeanne stressed that there is no competitive advantage in a single capability. This is why Uber has so much competition. But for established companies, advantage will come from an integrated established set of capabilities. “Competitive advantage will come from taking capabilities that others may or may not have and integrating them in ways that make something extraordinarily powerful”. This in Jeanne’s mind is how established companies can best startups because as we know, startups “can only do one thing well”. Integrating business capabilities provides a whole value proposition that is hard for others to copy.

Jeanne says that there is one more thing that existing companies need to get good at. They need to become responsive. Startups are constantly monitoring and learning what to do next. Think about Christopher Columbus and what an established company and a startup would do. The startup would pivot and learn how to do something different. Established companies need to learn how to do this too.

Now as we move into the digital economy, there are two strategies possible. And established companies must choose one to lead with. They are customer engagement or digitized solutions. Customer engagement means that every day, you wake up trying to figure out what you can do next to make customers love you. The great example that Jeanne gave is Nordstrom. She said that Nordstrom a few years ago was clearly being disrupted. And Nordstrom responded by creating a personalized shopping experience. This was enabled by combining capabilities around a transparent shopping experience and transparent supply chain. This of course is layered on top with predictive analytics. This allows them to predict what a customer needs and to know how to get it to them regardless of channel.

The second strategy is digitized solutions. Here you figure out what customers need that they don’t know they need. GE is doing this today as an industrial company. They are moving the value from the physical asset to asset performance management.

Her parting remarks

If your company has not embraced either of these then it doesn’t get the digital economy. You need to pick one to execute now. Enterprise Architects have a major role to play here. In the past, architecture was largely a divide-and-conquer approach. Today it is about integration. Today architecture is about empowering and partnering. We need to architect for agility. This means flatter organizations. Today, we need to be able to use data for decisions. The jobs of architects are incredibly important. You see the change that is necessary and you are in a unique position to help get your company there.

By Myles F. Suer, Chief Platform Evangelist, Informatica

Myles Suer acts as a Chief Platform Evangelist at Informatica Corporation. In this role, Mr. Suer is focused upon solutions for key audiences including CIOs and Chief Enterprise Architects and the application of Informatica’s Platform to verticals like manufacturing. Much of Mr. Suer’s experience is as a BI practitioner. At HP and Peregrine, Mr. Suer led the product management team applying analytics and big data technology to the company’s IT management.

Mr. Suer has also been a thought leader for numerous industry standards including ITIL and COBIT. As part of this, Mr. Suer was a reviewer for the ITIL Version 3 standard. For COBIT, Mr. Suer has written extensive. Most recently, he published in COBIT Focus, “Using COBIT 5 to Deliver Information and Data Governance”. Prior to HP, Mr. Suer led new product initiatives at start-ups and large companies. This included doing a restart of a Complex Event Processing Company. Mr. Suer has also been a software industry analyst. Mr. Suer holds a Master of Science degree from UC Irvine and a 2nd Masters in Business Administration in Strategic Planning from the University of Southern California.

Twitter: @MylesSuer

Further Reading

Jeanne Ross of MIT/CISR talks on Digital Disruption

Should the CDO drive corporate Digital Disruption?

The Importance of data in Digital Disruption Via @ComputerWorld

What is the role of government in Digital Disruption?

Are you acting like a software company? Your business may depend upon it

Using data and IT to gain Competitive Advantage

Leadership in an age of  digital disruption

Business model change: how does digital disruption drive the need for it?

@theopengroup