The role of enterprise architects in digital transformation and optimisation
The enterprise architecture (EA) regime has been in play for quite some time, but it has remained a debatable function in the organisations as their true efficacy and effectiveness has neither been accredited at the customer experience (CX) level nor understood by the boards.
Even though, over the years, the likes of McKinsey, Accenture, Gartner etc have been putting EA in the spotlight and suggesting multiple ways and methods to adopt and leverage the EA function and role within the organisation, banks and financial institutions are yet to attain its true essence.
A look back at what McKinsey wrote in 2016, those organisations that realised the role and true essence of EA have now flown into the digital transformation work streams, if not completely migrated from their previous state. In its research, Gartner highlighted the “worst EA practices” that inhibit the transformation rather than expedite it and that at least 76% organisations are now revamping their EA functions and restarting the EA efforts.
Here are my thoughts as an enterprise architect:
While the problem statement is quite clear, banks are currently hovering between the two states, i.e. either they wish to transform digitally or they have embarked this journey, however neither have actually ascended to the serve the actual purpose. The question is why is the organisation eager to transform, what’s the objective to envisage this target “digital” state, is the goal clear and the strategy affirmative, are all the stakeholders on board (including the boards and investors), and so on.
Assuming the above factors have been meticulously spelt out, the next question is how does the organisation initiate this idea, who is involved in the structure and methodology of the transformation programme, are the end-goals aligned with business-driven outcomes, has the idea been bought by the board and investors. The response to these are the actual catalysts or inhibitors of the success and failure of any digital transformation drive.
Organisations such as The Open Group, BIAN and others are striving to establish frameworks, standards, and mechanisms to enable and assist banks and financial institutions to understand the fundamental principles. The value of these standards and frameworks is, however, often not being realised as they do demand a proper structure, function, role and skillset within the company.
Highlighted below are the success factors of the digital transformation, around which the need of having a full-scale EA function is preordained:
- Operating model
Visibility of the organisational structure, not just functions and business services. This is one of the core aspects that many banks completely miss out while starting the transformation journey. Analysis of this area gives birth to a new and efficient target operating model.
Functional and process overlaps and inefficiencies create unnecessary delays in identifying the critical areas of change. The business architecture regime solves this problem while delivering the complete picture of the organisational functions, processes and business services to enable a clear view of the as-is functions and correlate their effectiveness while aligning them to the transformation derivatives.
The business strategic goals are also visibly linked to the future state through the business landscapes. The final deliverable is a target operating model that is sustainable and is purposely designed to provide full thrust for the transformation efforts.
- Strategic coherence
Business and technology strategic coherence, while laying down the technology strategic roadmap, enables the organisation grow with a definitive velocity. Of course, it evolves over a period of time, but as part of it EA delivers in-depth information of as-is and view on the future business and technology trends and needs.
There are several debates around the strategy building blocks, while the CEOs are struggling to get the best-of-both worlds in terms of business needs and technology response. The organisations that are lacking such relevance are destined for a likely failure at some stage of their transformation journey. Utilising the EA skills and knowledge to build the business- and technology-aligned strategies is the way forward to fill in the gaps.
- Sustainable solutions
Business remains in the “everything is critical” mode and every “want” becomes a “need” that should be achieved in an “agile” manner. These constant pressures on the tech delivery teams play an adverse role. As well as an impact on the architectural and solution design, it also affects the end-product quality and sustainability.
The technical solution design for business needs is the most vulnerable link between business needs and the technology services. Organisations often fall in this pit after having excellent operating models and best ever technology strategies in place, but fail to deliver the best fit solutions.
EA designs the foundation architecture to deliver with most relevant, standardised and future-proof solutions for the organisations while keeping a close eye on redundancies and inefficiencies within the business services, processes and technology components.
The way forward
- The change in the EA norms is that they need to reduce the “extreme” standardisation, stop creating an “ivory tower” and align more with the business and delivery stakeholders, and sell their thoughts in a less bureaucratic manner.
- The measurement of EA execution should be not on papers and charters, but business driven. The EA efforts should be tied with the success and achievements of the business rather than being gauged on a highly complicated arithmetic formula of achievements. For example, how many artefacts they have produced so far in a year, how many applications were retired, what the cloud architecture migration roadmap was, and so on.
- Involve the EA in almost all relevant levels of the project lifecycle rather than keeping them at the initial phase as accountable and putting in them in the “informed” bucket for the remaining phase. There are several instances where the EA is not informed for the changes during the project execution and there are major risks that are not highlighted by the execution team members due lack of visibility and knowledge of the overall impact of the transformation.
Those banks and financial institutions that fail to place the EA in the right organisational structure and functional model and are typically slow in the transformation journey. They can and should use the EA as a catalyst in a more pragmatic transformation approach.
About the author
Samina Rizwan is a veteran IT professional, having been working for the past 25 years across various industries and organisations as a technologist. She is currently heading the enterprise architecture at United Bank Ltd (UBL).
Keen observer on the current and future states of digital transformation needs and corresponding technology ecosystems and responses. Candidly shares her insights on the FinTech Futures website and LinkedIn.