Every organisation has an existing Enterprise Architecture, which may be deliberately architected, or de facto the result of projects and initiatives. The highest performing organisations have a target state Enterprise Architecture, and a roadmap specifically designed to transform an organisation from current state to target state.
The model shows the key components of an Enterprise Architecture for the Digital Age. This model is based on TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework), but in addition addresses what have become critical elements for Digital Transformation, namely Leadership, Culture and Talent – underpinned by Principles.
It is vital that Enterprise Architecture uses the Vision, Goals and Strategy of the organisation as its primary building block. These provide the answers to the questions ‘what are we going to do?’, ‘to what effect?’, and ‘how are we going to do it?’, and guide all subsequent decision making. If an action does not support the vision of organisation, it is an inappropriate use of resources and must be stopped.
Anchoring everything within the organisation on the Vision, Goals and Strategy provides a common view, and removes ambiguity where individuals are pursuing different agendas. If an organisation cannot clearly articulate these, this is the place where the gap can be filled, and which will enable a coherent Enterprise Architecture to be delivered.
The Business Architecture includes the products, services, organisational structures and locations which will deliver on the Vision, Goals and Strategy. The Business Architecture relies on the Vision, Goals and Strategy to inform allocation of scarce resources across an organisation.
The Process Architecture is a high level view of the processes within the organisation, and the roles responsible for executing the processes. These will be captured in varying levels of details in Standard Operating Procedures.
Process Architecture increasingly includes both human to machine interactions, and machine to machine to machine interactions. Process Architectures are also increasingly designed along customer journeys, rather than more traditional process designs driven by organisational silos. Processes which expose organisational structure to customers are a sign of silo’d designs.
Every process within an organisation requires data inputs, and produces data outputs. The reality within any large organisation is that there will be multiple data sources – which can number hundreds or even thousands. Architected how and where this data is stored, electing which stores will be authoritative sources of which data, and which roles will be responsible for data governance, is critical to leveraging the opportunity which data holds.
Data silos, coupled with the lack of analytic capabilities, means that the business is ‘flying blind’, whilst at the same time having within it large stores of valuable data. A coherent Data Architecture will unlock this value.
It’s not unusual for Applications to be given prominence within digital programs – and for the programs to end up being very application-centric. If the application is a very good fit for the business, this can be acceptable. Where the application is not a 100% fit, or is just one part of the business, it can lead to very undesirable outcomes – in particular to can lead to the Business Architecture being dictated by the Application Architecture.
During the 1990s and 2000s the MegaVendors dominated the Enterprise Application market, with mixed results. Whilst an extensive feature list looked excellent on an evaluation spreadsheet, in practice selecting a very complex solution significantly restricted the agility of the implementing customers, and their choices.
Abstracting requirements into services is the first step to decoupling the physical implementation from the need it must meet.
The rise of Cloud has fundamentally reshaped the Infrastructure Architecture landscape over the last five years, and will continue to do so going forward. Organisations now have to deal with hybrid architectures which include hosting onsite, private cloud and public cloud. This has both pros and cons. The advantages are straightforward. Cloud offers the ability to access compute resources with no capital cost, and to scale up or down at the touch of a button. The disadvantages are that security models are stretched, and availability increasingly depends on relationships. A well thought out Infrastructure Architecture will address these issues – extracting benefit from the Cloud, without compromising security or availability.
Underpinning the very specific deliverables listed above is a set of principles. These should span projects and years, and change infrequently. Principles are broad statements which say ‘we do this’, and also ‘we don’t do that’. A good set of Principles affords two very distinct advantages:
- Decision-making speed is accelerated. Applying principles to the process typically results in many candidate solutions being rapidly discounted.
- Decision-making is coherent and consistent across and within projects. It is far less likely that two products are bought or built which do the same thing, or that project teams take mutually exclusive paths.
The importance of Leadership in Architecting an Enterprise cannot be overstated. Firstly at a business level to endorse the Enterprise Architecture efforts, and secondly within the effort. The Leadership team is responsible for allocating human and capital resource, and this will directly impact results. Choices made by the Leadership team are rapidly interpreted within the organisation, and accorded relative importance.
Aligned to, but different from Leadership is culture. Every organisation has a culture which dictates the way individuals express new ideas, adapt to change, and are treated during times of both success and failure. Digital success is most likely in organisations which actively seek change, and which celebrate both success and failure. Many of the largest digital age companies aim for failure to success rates of 3 – 5 : 1. Having 3 projects fail for every 1 that succeeds is not something that every company is comfortable with.
Africa is not unlike almost anywhere in the world in terms of digital talent. There is simply not enough to go around. The positive news however is that there is a large pool of human resource which can be trained. Given the rate of change of the digital economy, Syntegra values raw talent over certifications. Products and services will come and go, but ‘flexible intellect’ will provide the DNA for a team which can deliver for the long term.