In this episode of UpSw!ng I am joined by Rob Sang, an award-winning Digital Architecture Strategist, to talk about the importance of architecture and what leaders and boards should be thinking about from this perspective of their business transformation.

The first question we hear a lot is, do we need enterprise architecture?

Yes, you do.

In the same way a CEO or board member understands how the current physical business operates, any organisation embarking on a digital business transformation should garner some executive understanding of the need and value of Enterprise Architecture.

Why?

Simply put, enterprise architecture converts the business strategy into the technology strategy.

The role of the Enterprise Architect (EA) is crucial for any successful digital business transformation, however not from the silo of an IT team.  Enterprise architecture must be part of the activation of your digital business transformation strategy, and EA’s should be spending their time with executives and strategy teams initially.

The EA should be part of the co-design of the business strategy, not to steer the conversation to a technology first approach, but to influence and build on the new opportunities inspired by the capabilities of digital technologies.

Often the EA role is referred to as ‘Business Technology Strategist’.  This is probably more appropriate as beyond the influencing of the strategy the EA is the custodian of the technology strategy. They ensure the safe, secure, and sustainable technology foundations, balancing that with rapid time to value based on business priorities.

Adaptability is required when delivering in agile as the continuous learning of the customers’ needs may pivot strategy or business models, as such the implementation of technology must be lead from the business perspective, and steer away from laying down all the technology first.  If we take a technology first approach we end up with overlapping functionality, quick fixes to today’s problems, which all equals technology debt.

The rise of the platform

As we move to platform-based business models that enable the interaction and transaction of many producers and consumers, rather than the traditional straight-line interaction, enterprise architecture is never more crucial and difficult.   In every exchange on a platform, we must architect the interaction of these players to exchange information, product/services, and currency.

Platforms can transform and disrupt business models and if your business transformation is taking a platform play you need to learn how to monetize, govern, measure, and ensure you have the right policies.

CEOs and directors need an understanding of platform value creation, and how to govern these intangible assets. CEOs should ensure they have an Enterprise Architect in their strategy team to ensure this is in place at the start of the digital business transformation journey.

What enterprise architecture is not

Enterprise Architecture is not – strictly speaking – about technology. It is about the structure and organisation of the whole enterprise. It encompasses the people, the processes, the technology, and the data that make up the business.

However, it is a function that is made necessary by technology.

The digitalisation of business in the twenty first century has led to extraordinary gains in productivity, efficiency, and customer experience. However, it comes with a corresponding increase in complexity. The average corporation utilises hundreds of IT applications supporting many thousands of processes and storing an untold abundance of data.

Enterprise Architecture is the process of making sense of it all.

It’s not the role of the business leaders to select technology

All too often executives or senior business representatives feel the need to tell the technology teams the solution they ‘want’ to solve their problem, rather than engage with these teams around the problem to solve.    Ever hear a leader say, ‘I know what I want, IT you can just implement it for me’?

Not only are you treating your IT/Digital team with dis-respect and undermining their abilities, but you are also doing a disservice to the organisation that you are a leader of.  You cannot make decisions around solutions in isolation of the business strategy, and the enterprise architecture.  When this happens, it creates a cycle of dis-trust and delivery of underperforming solutions which IT are then usually blamed for.  Do not be mistaken for thinking when this happens it is the fault of your technology teams – this is a mindset and leadership issue.

Instead, as a leader, you should be empowering an environment where business and technology teams come together to solve a problem, and these teams co-develop a mutual understanding of the business needs.  If this cross functional team has equal accountability for delivering the successful outcome, (meaning every member has a voice whether they are a manager in the business, a developer, or the customer), I guarantee it will deliver a better result (probably quicker), and most importantly future fit.

Your leadership should be around enabling the process, setting the vision of the WHAT, and empowering your teams to sort out the HOW.

 

What do CEO’s and Boards need to know about enterprise architecture?

CEOs and boards need to appreciate the distance between executive leadership and technical delivery.

This is one of the great strengths of a large organisation. Enormous amounts of resource can be brought to bear on a problem, once a course of action has been set. Consequently, decisions made relatively efficiently in the boardroom can generate much larger impact than is possible for smaller organisations.

However, it is also a weakness. At that distance, executive leaders cannot fully understand the complexity involved in implementing their desired changes.

We understand this more intuitively with the physical business. The CEO of a civil engineering firm is unlikely to expect to make detailed decisions about the design of specific roading projects. The roles of site engineers, design engineers and construction managers are well understood, and their necessity is acknowledged.

But with technology the distance is harder to comprehend. The presence of software is so immediate – on our desks, in our pockets – that we feel an innate understanding and control of it that can be misleading.

An Enterprise Architect should be able to effectively translate the complexity of the organisational and technology landscape into a model that is useful to business leadership. CEOs should consult with their Enterprise Architect to ensure they understand the likely impact and cost of a potential course of action.

Armed with that understanding, an Enterprise Architect can help guide strategic decision making to ensure the best possible outcomes for the organisation and its leaders.

Getting started with Enterprise Architecture

We realise that scaling up to have Enterprise Architects on the strategy team, and then building a team of architects to activate the strategy can be cost prohibitive in the early stages of a digital business transformation.

It is important to have an enterprise architect strategic advisor in place to start, so engage with an external advisor, or bring in a contractor that has plenty of experience to support you quickly and efficiently in the strategy and activation phases:

  1. Strategy: participate in the business strategy design as part of the strategy team, design the technology strategy and linkages for ongoing management.
  2. Activation: embed new processes, rituals, and policies as a foundation, ensuring governance and strategic alignment.

As you move to execution, you will need to consider a small architecture practice, led by your Enterprise Architect.  Whether you build your own capability or engage in an architecture as a service model with a key partner may depend on the scale up timing of the strategy, or the size of your transformation.

For more information or advise, please contact RobSang, or reach out to Lauren Salisbury | LinkedIn

About UpSw!ng

The content in this series is my perspective, open to discussion and healthy challenge, and welcomes ideas and collaboration should you wish to get involved.

It is my objective to represent diverse thinking and inspirational leadership towards a fundamental shift in the way technology and innovation can grow profitable NZ organisations, whilst making positive impacts on society.

What may feel dramatic now, will be considered visionary in the future!

Ready to take action?

I would be delighted to help you with your digital growth, get in touch at to start taking action, not just promoting a vision!

#globalmindkiwiheart

About UpSw!ng

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

The content in this series is my perspective, open to discussion and healthy challenge, and welcomes ideas and collaboration should you wish to get involved.

It is my objective to represent diverse thinking and inspirational leadership towards a fundamental shift in the way technology and innovation can grow profitable NZ organisations, whilst making positive impacts on society.

What may feel dramatic now, will be considered visionary in the future!

Ready to take action?

I would be delighted to help you with your digital growth, get in touch at to start taking action, not just promoting a vision!

#globalmindkiwiheart

About UpSw!ng

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

The content in this series is my perspective, open to discussion and healthy challenge, and welcomes ideas and collaboration should you wish to get involved.

It is my objective to represent diverse thinking and inspirational leadership towards a fundamental shift in the way technology and innovation can grow profitable NZ organisations, whilst making positive impacts on society.

What may feel dramatic now, will be considered visionary in the future!

Ready to take action?

I would be delighted to help you with your digital growth, get in touch at to start taking action, not just promoting a vision!

#globalmindkiwiheart