Today’s business models are more complex than ever before. With previously independent enterprises expanding into complex ecosystems as mergers and acquisitions become commonplace, organizations have a number of dependencies they have to account for if they want to keep business moving cohesively.
However, managing such ecosystems has become difficult as COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily workflows. As a result, more and more companies are turning towards digital investments to help mitigate the pressure of the pandemic and maintain productivity amid sustained disruption. From aligning teams, to increasing efficiencies, organizations today are continually seeking solutions for the multitude of emerging business demands.
As these organizations assess their investment options and plan for the year ahead, many may be overlooking the potential of enterprise architecture (EA) in supporting their digital transformation efforts on account of dated understandings of EA’s capabilities. While legacy EA platforms have been around for nearly 20 years, recent innovations offer benefits immediately aligned with modern business needs.
Here’s how next-generation EA programs differ from old-school models, and why they’re critical for successful digital transformation today:
They take a holistic approach.
Oftentimes, companies struggle to align changes in the many people, processes, systems, data and infrastructures that comprise their organizations. For example, many organizations struggle to understand the impact of someone leaving the company; what projects do they own, and what applications do they manage? Without a keen understanding of the roles and responsibilities across their organization, businesses leave gaps in their business models that can sabotage other areas of business. Likewise, they cannot foresee the full impact—positive or negative—of proposed digital transformation efforts until the investment is made.
EA can help avoid this pitfall. By holistically assessing an organization’s business and IT capabilities, next-generation EA programs can help business leaders to identify true opportunities for improvement within the larger context of their unique business models, so that they don’t opt for digital tools that fall short of their expectations. When these variables are considered, leaders are better positioned to identify low-performing areas of business, whether that be an employee whose skillset is underutilized or a cumbersome process that’s costing multiple workers excessive and productivity-hindering amounts of time. Further, with a map of their organization’s dependencies, leaders can better anticipate the effect of any organizational changes before they’re put into action, thereby saving resources spent on those that won’t be worthwhile.
A common misconception is that companies first need a complete overview of their business before launching an EA program; however, because today’s EA programs only need a holistic survey of the business, companies don’t need to fear delays in progress as they work to capture the entirety of their data. Instead, they only need to take as much time as their unique business model necessitates to ensure business decisions are rooted in context rather than gut feelings.
As businesses become increasingly digital, so too are today’s EA platforms, a quality that empowers a greater level of flexibility and growth than the static models of the past. The new generation of cloud-based, digitally native tools allow for scalability, hence why leaders don’t need a complete data set at the outset. As projects arise and organizations expand, employees can continually add more data (or subtract as needed) to strengthen the EA model of their company. Therefore, modern EA programs can continue to prove value over time and help organizations adapt to new demands as they emerge. This buildability also means that employees don’t need to start from scratch with every new digital transformation project, as they can reference existing models.
Being tech-forward also makes the EA process more democratic, enabling employees across departments and seniority to input information on their respective roles. SaaS platforms are available today that go beyond just the processes, systems and technologies that live within an organization and include employees in the EA process. The benefits of this accessibility are twofold; leaders get a more encompassing understanding of their organization, as well as have less work to do on their part.
Beyond helping companies make more strategic business decisions, EA helps them protect their current assets by strengthening their systems for governance. For example, ensuring data privacy and securing consumer trust are requirements for doing business in today’s world, but digital business models make enterprises increasingly vulnerable to digital threats. If leaders don’t have a holistic view of everything that constitutes their business—such as which data its responsible for protecting and where and how that data is stored—then it can’t execute proper risk assessment and mitigate issues as needed.
Further, because they facilitate collaboration, modern tooling allows for distributed governance management, which leads to greater organizational efficiency and security. Rather than centralizing governance command in one body, distributing the responsibility empowers those who are experts on a given area of business to maintain control in a way that makes the most sense to that specific subject, thereby ensuring all data is cared for as strategically as possible.
Digital transformation is no small undertaking, and as organizations continue to expand and accrue new members and data, the considerations for successful evolution can seem infinite. However, with the support of next-generation EA tools, business leaders can take stock of their companies’ assets and better evaluate their options for moving into the future.