At no time can an organization say they are finished digitally transforming, brush their hands off, and move onto the next thing. Instead, digital transformation requires organizations adopt change as a core competency. Change must be by design. Instead of looking forward to some theoretical final, transformed state, organizations must move from being less able to deal with change to being proficient with change.
As a form of enterprise transformation, digital transformation promised to transform enterprise architecture (EA). The role of solution architecture (SA), on the other hand, has always been relegated to the trenches, hammering out the design of one technology-centric solution or another for this business unit or that.
For solution architects, therefore, digital transformation has a more limited meaning, where individual solutions focus on incremental digital transformations rather than the end-to-end, comprehensive transformation that enterprise architects strive toward.
As a result, enterprise and solution architects have struggled with forces pulling them in separate directions. How can solution architects rethink their role to better align with customer needs where change is by design? How can enterprise architects leverage the hands-on impact of solution architects to better support enterprise transformation initiatives?
Organizations must rethink the role of SA today, just as they are revamping the role of EA to better deal with digital transformation. Only by realigning these two essential architectural disciplines can organizations succeed with their digital transformation initiatives.
As organizations proceed with such initiatives, the very definition of ‘solution’ evolves, often leaving solution architects in a dilemma.
Here is an example. When banks first rolled out mobile access to consumer accounts, solution architects stepped up to the plate. Such projects had well-defined stakeholders and clear goals.
But mobile enablement is but the first step on the long road to digital transformation.
Eventually, banks realized that to best meet the needs of customers, they must make the mobile app the primary point of interaction for all bank products and services, well beyond checking and savings.
Mortgages, business loans, wealth management, customer support, and every other business function should be represented – and the app interface should be streamlined, simple, and work across devices.
Such change is precisely what we mean by digital transformation.
The solution architect for such an effort now faces a Herculean task, as there are stakeholders from across the bank, and they each have different priorities. The organization must transform front-office and back-office business processes, cutting across departmental lines in order to deliver an outstanding customer experience (CX).
These architects soon find themselves in endless meetings, often dealing with contradictory priorities that lead them away from a delightful CX, rather than toward it.
The role of the enterprise architect differs from organization to organization – but regardless of how a company positions its EA efforts, digital transformation depends upon successful EA.
Digital transformation requires change along many axes – process, organizational, and technological, among others. Only the enterprise architects are in a position to take a best practice architectural approach to such change.
When the enterprise and solution architects work at cross purposes, however, the focus on limited digital solutions that align with siloed departmental priorities rather than transformed customer-facing initiatives lead to ongoing conflict and resulting inefficiencies.
On the other hand, when these two architectural teams work collaboratively, there is hope that the roles of both SA and EA in the organization can themselves transform along digital transformation lines.
One way to think about this collaboration is that the enterprise architects must run interference for the solution architects, while the solution architects bring successful implementations to the enterprise architects.
Take the banking example above. If the enterprise architects have adequately designed the organizational, process, and technological change necessary to affect the cross-organizational mobile initiative, then the effort to get stakeholders on board with the digital transformation will take place before the solution architects begin their work.
As a result, the solution architects can focus on the customer-focused, cross-organizational aspects of the digital solutions they are working on.
This collaboration between architecture teams must be ongoing. Ongoing success requires a continual focus on managing change.
In other words, the enterprise and solution architects must collaborate on facilitating solution governance – guardrails that help the solution architects focus on the right activities necessary to achieve the goals of their respective solutions as well as the digitally transformed organization overall.
Such governance is an ongoing process that requires the appropriate tooling from a vendor like Bizzdesign. Not only does Bizzdesign provide the reference materials necessary to foster collaborative EA and SA, but it also gives architects the framework for effective solution governance.
Digital transformation requires organizational change – a breaking down of departmental silos to better align with customer needs.
Nevertheless, it would be unrealistic to assume that digitally transformed organizations will do away with such silos. In reality, there will always be a conflict between traditional organizational structures and the end-to-end digital efforts that support the digital transformation initiative.
Dealing with this conflict is part of what we mean when we say digitally transformed organizations must adopt change as a core competency. This context of conflict and change raises the stakes on every organization’s architectural efforts.
The solution architects in particular are on the front lines of this turmoil, as each solution brings together technological capability and customer-focused stakeholder requirements.
With the help and collaboration of enterprise architects, this turmoil doesn’t go away, but its now possible to govern it, providing the guardrails that keep the organization on track in the face of ongoing change.
Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Bizzdesign is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this article.