Managing Digital Transformation with Support of Enterprise Architecture

By Terry Blevins, Fellow of The Open Group and Enterprise Architect at Enterprise Wise LLC

I applaud the choice in the book Managing Digital, Concepts and Practices” by Charles T. Betz “to NOT include dedicated chapters on “Project Management” and “Process Management.” Instead, more general chapter titles of “Coordination” and “Investment and Planning” were chosen. I like this because the more general terms get to what must be done and get away from the legacy disciplines that have been assumed to be the right and only way to get them done. In other words, I think we have lost the reason for employing legacy disciplines and they have become embedded, maybe even institutionalized, without accountability for adding value – especially through answering questions to support decisions. On the other hand, I do not feel that one should simply dismiss the goodness of legacy disciplines lest we throw the baby out with the bathwater!

So why is this important? Well, with everything going on around digital transformation you must truly look deeply into what you choose to transform – including how you transform. I’ve heard of some views that espouse wholesale transformation, replacing everything, including people. Other, and in my opinion more realistic, views promote examination of your most important areas such as the customer journey. On the other extreme, I’ve heard some say the focus should be in the areas where there is already automation because it is already likely to be supported digitally already.

I can imagine scenarios where any of the above could work – especially if you’re smart about going at it! Conversely, not one view will work in all scenarios. So where do I stand? It all depends on where an organization stands.

I believe that Enterprise Architecture represents a package of tools that can help you make the right choices along your specific journey toward digital transformation. To elaborate on this, let me describe how one might use Enterprise Architecture to support digital transformation.

Unsurprisingly, I will reference the TOGAF® Architecture Development Method (ADM) and attempt to put it in the context of Digital Transformation. My caveat is that, rather than thinking of this as long running cycles of developing Enterprise Architecture artifacts, think of this more as calling upon Enterprise Architecture Services that address specific questions and/or decision points along a transformation journey. (See The Open Group Blogs on “Enterprise Architecture As A Service”).

I need to do this in the context of an objective view on digital transformation. Out of the plethora of views on this subject I have chosen “The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation” by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee and reviewed by MIT Sloan Management Review. This viewpoint identifies three focal points for digital transformation and, for each focal point, three building blocks or elements. In this paper, digital transformation is described as “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.”

The following table presents these nine elements per focal point and lists questions that one must answer in order to take appropriate action while reducing risk of failure. Please note that the questions are pertinent to the overall set of elements – they are not one-for-one to the elements.

I submit that Enterprise Architecture methods, such as the TOGAF ADM, can be implemented through Enterprise Architecture Services to answer these key questions and more. Delivered as services, as opposed to through a long-lasting Enterprise Architecture Development cycle these questions can be answered on-demand, thereby addressing the tempo of the desired digital transformation.

The following matrix maps the key questions to the TOGAF ADM cycle phases to suggested Enterprise Architecture Services.

You probably noticed that there is a more in the Business Architecture phase – this shouldn’t be surprising since digital transformation is all about improving the business, and understanding that business is the most important task a hand!

These architecture services can best be delivered in an approach that some call doing just enough architecting – or producing a “minimum viable architecture” to support answering the questions needed to set forth and succeed in digital transformation.

As an aside, and to finish with a seemingly irrelevant topic, I am not the biggest fan of going completely digital. I think science fiction stories do a decent job projecting extreme possibilities. One extreme view of digital transformation gone wild can be seen on Amazon Prime in an episode called “Autofac.” Autofac is one of the episodes in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams anthology series. It is based on the short story of the same name written by P. K. Dick in 1955. The 2017 TV episode was an adaptation by Travis Beacham that stayed true to Dick’s original vision. Check it out. X-Files approached extreme consequences in the “Kill Switch” and “Rm9sbg93zxjz” episodes. Of course, the Terminator series of movies express the direst view. While I watched all these episodes I couldn’t help say if the folk that implemented those solutions considered things from an enterprise viewpoint they could have avoided those negative consequences. Like the fictional Lt. General Robert Brewster said in Terminator 3, “I still prefer to keep humans in the loop.”    @theopengroup

Terence Blevins, a Fellow of The Open Group, is owner of Enterprise Wise LLC and a semi-retired Enterprise Architect. He is currently a Director of The Open Group Governing Board and an active contributor to the Healthcare Forum within The Open Group.

Terry has been involved with the architecture discipline since the 1980s, much of which was done while he was Director of Strategic Architecture at NCR Corporation. Terence has been involved with The Open Group since 1996 when he first was introduced to The Open Group Architecture Forum. He was co-chair of the Architecture Forum and frequent contributor of content to the TOGAF® framework including the Business Scenario Method. Currently he is excited to help the Healthcare Forum work on Boundaryless Healthcare Information Flow.

Terry was Vice President and CIO of The Open Group where he contributed to The Open Group vision of Boundaryless Information Flow™