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Enterprise Architecture's Role in Planning an Achievable Transformation Journey

Posted by OneView Commerce on 02/10/2020

Our previous blog post in this series discussed the pervasive, undefined nature of digital disruption and began to reveal the roles of enterprise architecture and enterprise architects in making digital transformation successful. This next post in the series continues with a deeper dive that looks at the role of enterprise architects in planning the journey and building an effective transformation roadmap.

Telling, selling, and re-selling the transformation story relies on developing a trusting relationship with senior leaders through regular conversations that help them understand opportunities and the uncertain transformation journey that lies ahead. Senior leaders need a solid grasp of plans, challenges, and the role digital technology plays (alongside many other elements) in transforming their business. Working closely with senior business leaders, enterprise architects can provide guidance and direction to shape and drive many aspects of transformation planning and execution:

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  • Planning the journey
  • Dealing with complexity
  • Creating a pragmatic roadmap
  • Clearing obstacles to make a start
  • Monitoring technology trends and developments
  • Building technology awareness among senior executives
  • Designing the future state of new and legacy technologies
  • Monitoring transformation progress
  • Building a defensible business case

In this post, we focus on planning the journey, creating an environment capable of dealing with complexity and the importance of creating a pragmatic roadmap.

Planning the journey

The first step in planning the journey is to create a vision for the business’ desired market position that is supported by a set of goals. From there, the starting point is determined by unpacking transformation that delivers on the goals into smaller, more manageable and achievable steps. To execute in retail’s dynamic environment it is critical to adopt a test-and-learn approach where continual progress monitoring, outcome measurement, customer feedback, and nimble plan adjustments build confidence throughout the journey, especially through its early stages.

Business problems first, then technology

Think deeply about customers, products, processes, and people, then look at how technology can help solve the problems. Transformation does not just mean running Agile projects (versus waterfall), building a new website or mobile app, or simply digitizing existing processes. Real transformation should involve end-to-end business process redesign that goes well beyond front-end facelifts.

To optimize value, first review and simplify processes that impact your customers before implementing new technology. Technology is often the easier part of the transformation, although implementing robust and efficient solutions at scale continues to be challenging.

Dealing with complexity

Digital transformation adds another layer of complexity on top of an already complicated web of systems, processes, and interactions. The irony is that using modern digital technologies to provide appealing customer experiences that are easy to use, reliable, and efficient, generates complexity behind the scenes.

Two useful techniques for coping with this complexity are active simplification and consciously avoiding “analysis paralysis.” In other words, leverage facilitation skills to breakdown the challenge and quickly target small, incremental improvements. Many organizations lean on the skills of enterprise architecture as a starting point to envision the future state and apply structure while creating a path of execution. This type of execution requires logical thinking, analytical skills, ability to handle ambiguity, and clear communication with stakeholders at all levels that can often be challenging and unfamiliar to many organizations today. Senior leaders must establish a new climate that empowers their workforce and permits the type of fast trial and error, learning and re-learning, that fosters agility with measurement but without fear of judgment. This represents a cultural shift that must be led and supported from the top down to be successful. The second proven technique is to create pockets of simplicity by decomposing a complex ecosystem into smaller parts until:

  • The parts are within the capacity of a human mind to comprehend
  • The purpose, function, and behavior (of each part) is understood at a granular level
  • Relationships and interactions between parts are visible
  • The source or root cause of problems become evident and can be tackled

Enterprise architects do this by reviewing available documentation, by speaking with a wide cross-section of people that interact throughout the process, and by “lifting the hood” on systems to investigate internal functions and logic to identify opportunities to simplify and improve. Once they have the inputs, a clear path can be created that incrementally delivers change without compromising the ability to learn and adapt.

Creating a pragmatic, achievable roadmap

To be successful and to be able to measure results, digital transformation needs a roadmap of prioritized steps and initiatives that will move the organization towards its target state in a logical, pragmatic way, fast. Skilled enterprise architecture teams hone their ability to predict and estimate until they are comfortable with ambiguity. Leveraging strategic planning, they envision several steps ahead and anticipate results.

An effective enterprise architecture roadmap will show how to start the journey, the critical initiatives to deliver important new functionality and/or experiences, and how complications and obstacles should be addressed to make strategy execution successful. And most importantly, the roadmap must be a living document that goes through continuous planning and improvement. Meaning that enterprise architecture is an active, constant participant in the lifecycle of the transformation journey, providing input on process design, overseeing system designs to ensure alignment, quality, robustness, and flexibility, as well as working with business and senior leadership on the continuous evolution of people, process and performance to create a sustainable platform for growth and market share expansion.

Don’t miss our next post in this series on retail digital transformation that will focus on identifying blockers and clearing path for transformation success.” Subscribe below, and we’ll let you know when it is published.

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