Digital transformation is unlike previous business transformation efforts insofar as there is no fixed final state – no point in time where the people involved can look up and say, ‘well, that’s done.’
Rather, digital transformation means transforming the organization from having less agility to having more agility. In other words, being able to deal better with change overall.
Fundamentally, digital transformation requires that organizations adopt change itself as a core competency.
Makes sense, except that the devil is in the details. What does it mean for change to be a core competency? What does the organization have to do in order to achieve such a capability? And perhaps most important of all, who should drive the transition?
The answer may surprise you. The people best suited to effect the transformation to a more agile organization are the architects.
It’s notoriously difficult to pin down the role of an architect in a typical enterprise. First of all, there are many types of architects: solution architects, data architects, enterprise architects, software architects, business architects, and more. All of these roles focus on different activities and require different expertise.
That being said, some architects are quite technical, often rolling up their sleeves and serving as a kind of senior developer. Other architects place themselves squarely in the realm of the business, helping to translate business needs into guidance for technical teams.
To be sure, architects often have a hand in helping their organizations change, but typically on a project-by-project basis. In other words, a typical architect will help envision and formalize the final state of some initiative, and then move onto the next project once that initiative has reached a certain level of maturity.
Given the fact that change must become a core competency in digitally transformed organizations, however, today’s architects must up their game. Simply designing a final state, be it a data model, a cloud configuration, an infrastructure plan, or an IT portfolio, won’t adequately position their organizations for change.
An essential but often misunderstood part of digital transformation is breaking down organizational silos in the organization. Once again, easier said than done.
Architects can facilitate such organizational change by learning the lessons of Conway’s Law. Conway’s Law (more of an observation, actually) states that software organization will mimic human organization, and vice-versa.
In other words, departments or other organizational units will generally have their own software. Contrariwise, when the software landscape is broken up into its own silos, the organization will follow suit.
In order to become change experts, architects must play the game of Conway’s Law both ways.
Attempting to break down organizational silos is a quixotic endeavor in any large bureaucracy (and most small ones as well, for that matter). Breaking down technological silos, while also difficult, presents challenges that architects are well-positioned to overcome.
For example, if different departments have different instances of a particular type of application, it’s up to the architect to identify the inherent inefficiencies and help lay out a plan for resolving them. The same goes for siloed data models, disparate multicloud deployments, and any other situation where the organization finds its technology falling into silos.
This ‘breaking down silos’ role of architects also applies to the architects themselves, fostering greater collaboration and organizational consistency across the architecture teams in the broader organization.
Cloud-native computing is a perfect example of this trend, as infrastructure architects, security architects, cloud architects and application architects (and others, perhaps) must work together to guide the cloud-native effort in the right direction.
The most important lesson for our new architect change experts to learn is how Conway’s Law applies here. Breaking down technological silos will necessarily lead to the breakdown of organizational silos – and furthermore, will be more successful than efforts aimed exclusively at organizational change.
Leveraging technology to effect organizational change, therefore, is at the center of the change expert’s role.
Fortunately, architects have long leveraged technology tools in their day-to-day work. An important question, therefore, is what sorts of tools do change experts need to drive the sorts of transformations they are now responsible for?
The general category of tooling most useful to the change expert is the enterprise architecture (EA) platform – with one important caveat. Many EA platforms are essentially IT portfolio management tools.
Such portfolio management is a component of the change expert’s job to be sure, but doesn’t go far enough in helping architects effect change as a core competency in their organizations.
Instead, look to platforms like BiZZdesign’s HoriZZon, an EA platform that focuses on consolidating and correlating relevant information from across the enterprise – more than simply the IT portfolio. Horizzon brings together strategy, IT architecture, operating models, data, capabilities, change portfolios and ideas into a single collaborative business design platform.
The platform provides change experts real-time visibility into the state of the organization’s architecture, as well as the key metrics and trends that empower executives to take action more quickly.
HoriZZon, therefore, does more than provide useful information. It empowers change experts to guide the organization’s transformation to change as a core competency.
The role of change expert clearly isn’t an easy one. These professionals must know how to connect the dots across organizational and functional silos, engaging business and IT stakeholders in collaboration for change.
Part of their role is designing current and future states, roadmaps and guiding principles and standards, but more importantly, they must move beyond ‘future state’ mentality to dealing with change itself, within the ranks of architects, across IT, and for the enterprise at large.
No architect can drive such change singlehandedly. Transformation is a team effort, and the team must come from across the organization. With the right tools and visibility, change experts can show such teams the way to successful digital transformation.
Copyright © Intellyx LLC. BiZZdesign is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this article.
Jason Bloomberg is the leading industry analyst and globally recognized expert on agile digital transformation. He writes and speaks on how today’s disruptive enterprise technology trends support the digital professional’s business transformation goals.