New perspective towards enterprise architecture

Customer-centric enterprise architecture will transformation IT organisations globally, while placing more control and power of technology choice back into the hands of customers.

Read time 4min 40sec

The customer is king: This has become an absolute reality given the challenging global economic situation and competition facing businesses. This poses a dilemma in the difference between a customer-centric and product-centric organisation, more especially with relevance to IT architecture, which internal IT organisations have started to unpack themselves.

Inevitably, they are forced to become customer-centric organisations by the increasing pressures from business.

Silos, silos... and silos.

Compelled towards customer-centricity, most businesses are pushing the basis to any enterprise architecture plan to be the customer, hence enterprise architecture cannot continue to be done in the same way.

Business has started to challenge internal IT organisations with business-centric or process-centric service level agreements, as opposed to technology-centric or application-centric service level agreements. Business is no longer interested in retrospective infrastructure or application performance measurements; instead, they want to know how quickly and effectively they can deliver an end-to-end business process to a customer.

One of the major challenges faced by an enterprise IT architect in designing or enabling a truly customer-centric organisation is that very few of their colleagues have enterprise-wide responsibilities, or any end-to-end responsibility for the customer. At some level, all large companies have siloed structures, such as product (eg, credit cards, mobile phones, etc); channels (eg, online, call centres, shops); and life cycle functions (eg, marketing, sales, service). Historically a company's IT projects and funding has been driven within these different silos.

So, how do we change our silo design thinking patterns? And how can we put the customer at the centre of our design decisions?

The answer to these questions is a customer-centric enterprise that ranks customers first, before the internal corporate organisations, functions and politics. Customer-centric enterprises define their results and outcomes in customer terms. A simple example is the expected and desired result of an order placed by a customer, which is defined as received from the bank on the promised date and fully operational. The outcome is that the customer continues to buy repeatedly since it is satisfied or delighted with the product delivered by the service provider's enterprise. This result is defined in customer terms, and it speaks very well for the customer-centric enterprise. A functionally centric enterprise might define success as having shipped the customer's order from the factory by a specified date.

Perhaps this is a good measure of success for the shipping department, but the customer may not really care when their order is shipped, but they do care when it is received by them and that it is operational upon receipt.

The missing piece of the puzzle that enables a customer-centric architecture is business architecture (BA); this is the customer-centric model of an enterprise. The core principle for a customer-centric enterprise is a value stream. The value stream is defined as an end-to-end collection of activities that creates a positive result for a customer, and it has a clear goal: To satisfy or delight the customer. Value streams were clearly defined by James Martin in his book "The Great Transition".

One of the compelling reasons to undertake a BA approach is to evolve and progress to a more customer-centric enterprise. This is achieved by defining and integrating the enterprise value streams and measuring its success in customer terms. Further, you have to continually improve and enhance the value streams in order to outperform the competition, expand market share and enhance the overall customer experience. Unfortunately, most of the organisations today are not customer-centric. Some may think this is a provocative statement, but in reality, it is reasonably accurate. The main reason for this is that, more often than not, there's a low emphasis on the business architecture and a loose definition of value streams that are more internally focused than customer-centric.

Hence it is time to relook at the purpose of the integrated value streams with a view to making it customer-centric. The BA "by design" provides this enabling capability. This is the purpose of the integrated value streams of the BA. Improving enterprise performance is paramount for both customer and enterprise success.

It is time for internal IT organisations to relook at their enterprise architecture plan from a customer-centric perspective and adopt more deployed architecture team structures that enable architects to place emphasis on the business architecture and develop an integrated value stream. This will bring a customer-centric perspective as well as insightful analysis and meticulous examination of the business architecture to chart the unknown possibilities of new products and services. All of this will culminate in discovering opportunities that will delight customers and deliver a competitive advantage to both service provider and customer alike.

In4Group, a level 1 BBBEE technology organisation, offers enterprise architecture services to clients with a view to transforming the client organisation into a customer-centric organisation by assisting them to develop a robust value stream that focuses on retaining and growing customer base amid challenging market situations.

Feel free to contact In4Group on or +27 (10) 045 0320 for more information and assistance in your enterprise architecture initiatives.

Editorial contacts
In4GroupDeepak Belur(+27) 010 045 0320
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