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EA's Role in Shaping Valuable Transformation

Our previous blog post in this series examined how enterprise architects work closely with senior business leaders and provide guidance and direction to shape and drive digital transformation execution, including identifying and clearing obstacles, shaping digital delivery capability and building delivery teams, and monitoring technology developments. This blog will discuss their roles in building technology knowledge among senior executives, helping executives justify investments in technology assets, and protecting the organization against oversimplification. 

Building Technology Knowledge Among Senior Executives

In the digitally driven commerce world, where true customer-centricity is vital to success, technology is now central to the business proposition. Because technology is now a required core competency for retailers, senior executives need a much deeper understanding of new technology and a strong appreciation for the way it empowers their business and creates new possibilities. This knowledge is vital to put them in a better position to optimize and lead transformation initiatives.

Enterprise architects are a great resource to help senior executives become familiar with modern technology concepts, terminology, constructs, components, and vendors. Alongside executives, they can formulate strategy, develop technology execution plans, and decide on change initiatives. This relationship becomes a valuable two-way street that provides enterprise architects the opportunity to learn from business leaders about key drivers and opportunities for value creation and profit generation. 

With digital technology a critical part of how businesses operate, it can be challenging for senior executives to be strong advocates and leaders of transformation without firsthand knowledge of the technology that powers these initiatives. While CIOs and enterprise architects play vital roles, the drive to a digital business cannot be left only to the technologists in the organization.

Justifying Investment in Technology Assets

Enterprise architects are central to designing new digital channels and experiences and building a case for how to invest in new and existing technology assets. Retailers have built up significant assets on which they run their operations – point of sale, self-service kiosk, inventory management, promotions, merchandising, supply chain, payments, etc. that have been in place and delivering value for a long time. 

How do businesses justify evolution in these systems in the context of new digital customer experiences? How does IT accelerate the change process for or harvest investment from legacy systems to better align with the pace of the digital world?

Enterprise architects are well-positioned to navigate these deep-seated technical challenges and analyze options that best utilize, modify, or modernize the legacy footprint. The best option could be as basic as creating new interfaces that enable connection to digital front-ends or, in some cases, as complex as a full replacement of a legacy system or systems. Finding the right path and being able to communicate the options, costs, and investment justification is a critical task to achieve executive buy-in and empower transformation.  

Protecting Against Over-Simplification

Because it is human nature to prefer simplicity, it is easy to underestimate the difficulty and complexity of transformation and thereby create false confidence that can later lead to inflated expectations and disappointment. 

With knowledge, insights, an ability to handle ambiguity, and good communication skills, enterprise architects bring clarity to the transformation story and convey intricacies of the journey in a digestible form. Finding ways to develop, extend, and foster a strong transformation team that includes enterprise architecture is a key component of long-term success.

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