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Adrian Grigoriu

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Prepare the Enterprise for the Digital transformation

Digital evolution needs an enterprise architecture and emerging technology function

Many argue that technology has been increasingly and successfully adopted in the enterprise. So what is new with the Digital fuss we make now?

Yes, we did adopt many digital technologies so far but the issue is that the current technology change pace overwhelms the enterprise now. And we can see little prospect of it slackening. Today we need so many months if not years to merely upgrade an application suite during which time things could change dramatically in the digital arena. What happens if a company like Apple makes a move in our space as it did in the music and mobile phones field? Do we surrender as some did?

The dark cloud that threatens our enterprise is the Digital progress pace and amount of change that gives us less and less time to breath. And it's getting faster by the day. The tsunami of Digital change is hitting us. We have to adopt many technologies at virtually the same time. We did not have this problem so acute til now. Sure, we did space them out, implemented them one by one rather than boiled the ocean. But we have this luxury no more.

On the other hand, you have to do business, your enterprise reason to be, rather than change the underlying technology all the time. What can you do though? There are ways.

Fight technology with technology, for one.

- apply SOA, once declared dead, was reborn as microservices and "API economy". Since services and APIs do hide their implementation, technology matters less.

- do Virtualisation that helps divide and conquer the complexity of the enterprise by separating concerns. The units of computing, storage and networking are working today over an abstraction layer that separates them from the OS and hardware platforms.The user GUI (HTML) is independent of application, development language and OS...

- employ Cloud services. In the Cloud era we do own the enterprise technology no longer. We rent it. We leave the technology companies do the technology part. We just mind our own business. We buy services from specialised Business Services and Cloud companies. In fact, airlines have rented flights booking for a long time now, in SaaS form. Hence, the technology, of little interest to the enterprise in itself, moves into the Cloud, hidden behind services. The Cloud services are inherently SOA, services accessed through APIs. They come ready-made with auto-scaling, redundancy, reporting... capabilities.  The combined Service and Cloud approach is optimum. Also, it is anachronic today to build and operate own data centre when there are firms out there that do it better and cheaper because they have the top expertise and the economy of scale. They are building today extra compact and green data centres in containers that operates underwater for cooling.

To sum up, the enterprise IT has to be Virtualised and  move to the microservices,  APIs and the Cloud (IaaS, SaaS..) paradigms. Therefore, you should no longer be concerned with the Digital technology in the enterprise because you no longer have to implement and integrate technology but business services with interfaces, abstract units of computing, storage... Savvy business people can do that now.

But, since the transition to Services and Cloud may take some time we have to mitigate the Digital evolution in other ways to make for the Hybrid Cloud most enterprise comprise of today.

The Digital threat mitigation begins with the preparation of our enterprise for the now continuous and increasingly rapid change. We have to render the enterprise agile. But while it sounds good, DevOps, it is mainly about own software development in the enterprise, which, in the Cloud era, makes less sense.

 

Hence, to prepare the enterprise for the Digital evolution

- 1 -  adapt Capability development, Change and Release Management processes to this age of light speed change.

For instance, in some cases your change process may need approval for modification of a single word in your release. This kind of control  may block your transformation indeed.

- 2 -  deploy an Emerging Technology function to evaluate the whole Digital technology landscape.

Setting you up to understand the Digital technology landscape is key to determine what technologies would impact the enterprise most. Because you cannot adopt them all. The Emerging Technology team  has to inventory and evaluate the various Digital technologies to establish their degree of relevance to your enterprise.

Gartner's hype cycle for emerging technologies is as good a starting point as any.

Watch also the capabilities and the roadmap of the suppliers' next generation IT applications and infrastructure because most of them had already done, like you, a technology landscape evaluation.

You need to construct a new technology knowledge database, or at least a taxonomy that records definitions, descriptions, maturity, predicted impacts, dependencies, endorsements and proposed further actions for the participating enterprise stakeholders, state of evaluation and recommendations (rejected,  tracking, under analysis, pilot...  ). If it's not an enterprise wide effort, it will fail since technology change would be wildly opposed

 

- 3 -  deploy an Enterprise Architecture function, that covers both business and IT

Because you cannot change the enterprise if you have not properly documented what is going to be changed. Analyse impacts on EA to avoid ending up with multiple, rather ad hoc, transformations.

Currently each of us have a different and only partial understanding of how the enterprise works and what it consists of. To implement Digital technologies in concert, while replacing and evolving the existing enterprise landscape at the same time, you need an Enterprise Architecture. The Big Issue is that a technology alone may not realise much taken in isolation. You have to analyse other technologies that it has to work with and the technology that has to be replaced. There are other issues that EA would help with, such as Digital technology overlapping in functionality. Take for instance a new application suite that comes with a functionality your own already has in good order. The integration of legacy is another factor conducing to EA. EA documents the existing landscape and creates the target enterprise architecture to illustrate how does the enterprise looks when all technologies of interest are factored in.

Start with the business blueprint. Sketch scenarios of integrating  new technologies with the existing. There may be quite a few alternatives. For each scenario evaluate roughly the resources needed, costs, end benefits, risks, transition period... that is, do the scenarios value proposition. Quantify the risk of giving up an option, that is the cost of the opportunity lost.

 

Think of new business models. Consider existing strategies. Employ SOA, APIs, and the Cloud First paradigms.

- 4 -  agree option and plan Digital transformation and re-iterate periodically the emerging technologies assessment, the strategy,  target enterprise picture and consequently, update planning

To sum up, to mitigate the Digital technology pace threat, the enterprise must create own enterprise wide Enterprise Architecture and Emerging Technology functions, adopt technology virtualisation and a services/API architecture styles, outsource the enterprise IT to the Cloud when advantageous and adopt agile Capability development, Change and Release Management processes.

More Stories By Adrian Grigoriu

Adrian is an executive consultant in enterprise architecture, former Head of enterprise architecture at Ofcom, the spectrum and broadcasting U.K. regulatory agency and Chief Architect at TM Forum, an organization providing a reference integrated business architecture framework, best practices and standards for the telecommunications and digital media industries. He also was a high technology, enterprise architecture and strategy Senior Manager at Accenture and Vodafone, and a principal consultant and lead architect at Qantas, Logica, Lucent Bell Labs and Nokia. He is the author of a few books on enterprise architecture development available on Kindle and published articles with BPTrends,the Microsoft Architecture Journal and the EI magazine. Shortlisted by Computer Weekly for the IT Industry blogger of the year 2011. Publications: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adrian-Grigoriu/e/B007NGB1XY