By Robert Castles
Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Just ask Home Depot or Walmart.
Digital transformation is the force moving businesses forward. But moving forward and adapting to technological change are easier said than done when a company has a legacy business model and decades-old information and processes on aging systems. Unless a business is digitally native, going digital is not a simple act of throwing out old architecture and quickly replacing it with new.
However, digital transformation can be much smoother if someone champions the change: the enterprise architect (EA). Today’s EA should be key in leading digital progress efforts in an organization, which ideally includes trying out new technologies while ensuring departments have the tools needed to get their jobs done.Unlike EAs of the past, modern-day EAs don’t prescribe solutions—they enable them by having the flexibility to pivot mid-flight—just like their organizations must do to survive and thrive in the digital age.
DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER
Many of today’s traditional businesses are working to innovate and digitize to avoid becoming the next Encyclopedia Britannica or Blockbuster. For a successful digital transformation, companies must change not only their technology, but also their mind-set. Businesses too often go on a mission to deliver a project—in this case digital transformation—rather than having the preferable mind-set of a product owner. Product owners, for example, are more focused on the care and feeding of the system after a product launch—a much more successful way to stay relevant while undergoing change. Yet, this adaptive mind-set is a tall order since employees are being tasked with projects at odds with one another: be agile and adopt new technology while simultaneously ensuring legacy systems run error-free. Plus, eliminating old systems—essentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater—isn’t an option since they hold pertinent information, and often there is no one left with the knowledge to decipher the company’s old code, logic, or algorithms.
Still, successful digital transformation can materialize if it starts with executive buy-in and trickles down. It’s imperative, however, that the vision doesn’t sit in the C-suite. Instead, leaders must communicate change initiatives to empower all levels of the organization to participate. All employees should be in on the digital transformation initiative and have a clear understanding of how they fit into the overall organizational goal.
MODERN EAs MUST BE CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE
To champion enterprise-wide techno-logical change, companies need a new breed of EA, unlike the prescriptive ones of the past. Rather than demand that departments use a certain technology, EAs must embrace the tools employees need to get their jobs done. At the same time, enterprise architects need to roll up their sleeves, jump into the trenches, and try new technologies to see whether they belong in a company’s ecosystem. To be effective, they must constantly evaluate and bring new ideas; and more importantly, they should allow and respond to new ideas and technologies emerging from various business units.
In fact, the EA’s job parallels the path of a company undergoing digital transformation. If either is unwilling to experiment, try new ideas and technologies, and work toward agility, their jobs and companies will be in peril. They will be left behind because change is coming so fast, and many competitors will invest the funds needed for improved technology.
EMPOWER CHANGE WHILE PROVIDING JOB-CRITICAL TOOLS
Specifically, spending on the new technologies and services that enable digital transformation of business practices, products, and organizations is forecast to reach $1.97 trillion in 2022, according to the International Data Corporation. As such, your company should be in the race, too, as agility and progression are critical to staying competitive.
Trying to hurry the process, however, is a mistake.Companies that rush forward and insist on putting everything on one or two platforms effectively eliminate the tools that employees need to work. For example, using the IT rationalization strategy—insisting so-called redundant systems must go—typically backfires when employees rebel and can’t complete their work on the new platforms.
This is where EAs can help champion change through a compromise. While exploring new technologies, they can ensure disparate point solutions are tied together with a low-code workflow automation and integration platform, which can be deployed quickly and provide additional functionality. Because force-feeding solutions rarely works.
GO DIGITAL OR GO HOME
In a perfect world, companies going through digital growing pains would eliminate legacy systems and processes and start anew. However, this rip-and-replace method is often impossible since critical information would be lost, so businesses must piece systems together to compete in the digital age. Trying to architect a solution backward into the business never works. Therefore, EAs need to be agile and open to iterative changes so they can advocate for enterprise-wide change and push the technology initiative forward.
Organizations undergoing digital transformation must find ways to integrate old processes and technologies with new ones that will enable them to compete.The process can be smoother with a top-down strategic focus and a new breed of EA to drive agility, experimentation, and change. And, using low-code platforms are the perfect way to marry the old with the new. As Darwin said, species most adaptable to change are the ones that survive.
Robert Castles is Chief Vision Officer of PMG, leading the team in creating a forward vision for the company and the PMG Digital Business Platform. Robert brings over 20 years of technical expertise to the company, including enterprise software development, systems development and network infrastructure solutions.