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Enterprise Architecture 2.0: Key consideration for digitalisation

To deal with the pace at which tech and competition move, companies must use all the tools at their disposal to timeously incorporate digitalisation into their core business.
Read time 7min 00sec

Many organisations are overwhelmed with the daunting and complex challenge of digitalisation; of making sense of the application of digital technologies and data, as well as interconnectedness, that result in new activities, new business models and new operating models − or changes to existing ones.

This is exacerbated by the difference in uptake of digital technologies across countries (multinational organisations), target markets and business eco-systems resulting in potentially creating an uneven playing field. Furthermore, organisations are expected to, in this context, manage customer demands, deal with supplier and distributor optimisation, and ultimately ensure employees have the right skills and motivation to support this effort.

Although organisations may look far and wide for solutions, the best place to look is often disregarded. Enter Enterprise Architecture (EA) 2.0. There are several reasons why organisations often overlook EA 2.0 for their digitalisation efforts: 

  • Living in the past: Many organisations view EA as a legacy approach. EA originated in the 1960s from various architectural manuscripts on business systems planning written by Professor Dewey Walker. John Zachman, one of Walker’s students, assisted to express these manuscripts into the more structured format of EA, where after he published the well-known Zachman framework in the IBM Systems Journal in 1987. During the 1980s, EA was a response to the same problem organisations face today: integrating technology with the business strategy in support of the rapid growth of technology.
  • EA is perceived as an IT accountability: Some organisations view EA as the IT department’s responsibility and unfortunately, most organisations place EA in the IT department. With the evolution of digital technologies and the requirement for digital transformations, technology is no longer only IT’s business, it is the business’s business. The organisation needs to ensure it is aligned with digital transformation strategies and technological growth, an area where EA strategies now extend into. EA is especially beneficial to large organisations going through digital transformation, as EA focuses on creating a more seamless environment by uniting legacy processes and applications.
  • EA is not seen as a strategic capability: Some organisations do not associate EA with strategy development and implementation. Originally, EA was often directed toward addressing narrow technology needs for particular business units, resulting in EA developing a poor reputation, as the value to the business was not clear. As John Zachman said: “This afternoon is not too early to start working on it, it is likely that it will be the next generation that will make EA an essential way of life like it is for buildings and airplanes and automobiles and every other complex object.” Digital transformational thinking is truly a distinctive cross-functional capability and the power of EA lies in bringing together operations, talent, in-depth IT knowledge, customer insight, innovation and organisational change, in order to better inform strategy discussions aligned to business value.

According to Jaco J du Preez, an experienced enterprise architect and entrepreneur: “A lot of organisations still deal with legacy systems reinforcing legacy thinking. Decision-makers need to make a paradigm shift to a more information society-centric way of thinking where it is about the organisation, rather than just the system. In this, organisations must understand the key role that EA can play, not only as enabler, but also as thought-leader in a business/IT-centric partnership.”

But how do organisations make this paradigm shift? How do they re-enforce their ability to deliver great organisational value by addressing complexity, aligning IT to emerging technology tools, and defining strategic business goals in such a way so that they can meet the speed and demands catalysed by digitalisation?

Forward-thinking businesses will be those that are able to recognise, understand and rapidly respond to change, while adapting their operating models to leverage disruption appropriately. It is with this in mind that it has become increasingly important to empower EAs to be the driving force of strategic decision-making and transformation that delivers high-impact value; especially in this ‘pre-post-pandemic’ landscape many organisations find themselves in.

With the evolution of digital technologies and the requirement for digital transformations, technology is no longer only IT’s business, it is the business’s business.

In order for organisations to optimise EA 2.0 as a strategic capability, the following key aspects must be considered:

EA 2.0, business strategy and digitalisation

Business context is essential. Consolidate the digitalisation capability by establishing a cross-functional EA 2.0 team led by an executive and mandate them to link the digitalisation plans to business strategy, but also to drive relevant technology strategies having an impact on the business model.

Blueprint this effort from two perspectives. Firstly, as the ‘new capabilities system’ is not constrained by traditional silos, ensure the right digital technologies, a digital culture, fit-for-purpose training, and appropriate recruitment, are driven.

Secondly, rather than waiting until you have the perfect solution, pilot the new capability with an emphasis on rapid results. Find cost savings by identifying technologies and capabilities that could be decommissioned or outsourced. Such cost savings may then be used to support the development of other technologies, such as relationship-building and interoperability platforms, that would distinguish the company from its competitors.

EA 2.0 creating a digital twin of the organisation

The company needs to see the entire organisational landscape if it is going to optimise it and drive the digital transformation effort.

EA 2.0 offers a mechanism to build an accurate representation of the organisation, including strategy, business models, applications, infrastructure and capability-based planning. This also enforces a single-minded focus on applying the organisation’s resources to deliver business value.

A digital representation – a digital twin − of the organisation is possible, only if the strategy, business and operating models, products, end-to-end services, customer journeys and segments are known and connected.

EA 2.0 as a business function

EA 2.0 represents the entire spectrum − business outcomes, business capabilities, organisational purpose, IT and the activities of the organisation. The more complex the company is, the more important it is to also understand capabilities such as business control, security, risk management and programme management – business capabilities curated by the relevant business stakeholders.

This is necessary as the IT assets and digitalisation agenda need to implement and support these business capabilities − a business-architecture-centric view.

EA 2.0 and managing complexity

Over time, and as organisational priorities change, companies establish a complex network of systems – both core and ancillary applications, both legacy and modern software solutions.

Without an all-inclusive view of this landscape, it is difficult to assess such assets, to streamline operations, to optimise cost and capital investment and to uncover redundancies where multiple applications address the same process.

EA 2.0 creates a top-down, holistic view enabling the organisation to identify opportunities, address challenges and ensure essential applications relevant to operations are not impacted by unsubstantiated cost-saving decisions.

It highlights capability gaps and pre-empts what capabilities will be required in the future, clearly plotted on understandable roadmaps.

EA 2.0 and organisational agility

While considering the digitalisation agenda as part of the strategic vision of the organisation, it needs to cope with current operational demands, new opportunities, potential disruptive competitor activity and rapidly-evolving technologies.

Such digital transformation efforts need to be implemented in a timely and efficient manner.

EA 2.0 accelerates impact analysis, decision support and roadmap development, through supporting prioritisation of development plans and optimisation opportunities, and by ring-fencing change effort.

There is an exciting global trend around EA. Most large organisations − some analysts say two out of three − have started or restarted their EA functions (or programmes) during the last couple of years.

This seems to be excellent timing as companies need to deal with near real-time responsiveness to their digitalisation agenda. If you have not yet aligned existing EA efforts to EA 2.0, or started any organisational EA initiative, now is the perfect time.

Dr Hanlie Smuts

Associate professor, Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria
Dr Hanlie Smuts is an associate professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of Pretoria since 2017. During her tenure in industry, her role aimed to deliver consistent customer relevance across all digital touch points, empower customers through convenient and effective self-service, and drive growth through personalised digital offerings. Through a deeper understanding of the digital and adjacent ecosystems, she championed transformation to digital and the need for collaboration in this context. She currently focuses on research in IT and the organisation, with particular emphasis on digital transformation, disruptive technologies, big data management, enterprise architecture and knowledge management. Dr Smuts has published several papers and book chapters in her field of study.

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