Why Enterprise Architecture goes hand in hand with Digital Transformation

By Aaron Tan Dani

Any kind of massive change in an organisation can be daunting, especially if it has never been done before.  But sometimes, business transformation is necessary, such as to breathe new life into ailing revenue streams, to change fundamental, legacy organisation-wide processes that are taking up too much resources, or simply do not work, in this Digital Era.

These days, business transformation is a must, if companies wish to remain relevant in their respective industries that are always evolving. New companies that are leaner, meaner and more agile are disrupting industries, thanks to new and emerging technologies. But despite it being technology that is enabling these industry disruptions, it is business that is supposed to drive technology and lead the organisation towards Digital Transformation.

Business transformation

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Change is the only option, and the only constant.

But where do companies that aspire to change, start? And how do they avoid the common pitfalls of enterprise transformation – gaps, redundancy, conflicts, lack of integration and so on.

Despite all the challenges that we face, thanks to the Digital Enterprise Architecture (Digital EA) that can help with this, and it’s key that business is driving this, instead of IT which would have a plethora of tech vendors ready and waiting with quick fix frameworks and solutions.

The adoption of Digital EA will allow companies to identify and adopt any technology that best fits their businesses and that will reap the most outcomes. The alternative is to constantly try to fit their business with the technology and hope that it will somehow work. This will surely fail.

For a transformation to have lasting and organisation-wide business impact, the strategy and objectives have to be formed at a higher-level, and be mapped to technology components, but with enough detail so that it can be diffused to the rest of the organisation for actual digital realisation through various project initiatives.

That’s a job for an Enterprise Architect as technology strategist for the business.

Critical difference – no siloes

Organisations may have the basic ideas right. They may already know that it’s the business that needs to drive change, and that they need to ensure this change is as pervasive as possible across the whole organization. However, there are some million dollar questions to be answered, for example:

  • What are the expected values and outcomes once these changes have been made?
  • What are the existing components in the organisation that will be impacted from the change?
  • How can we minimise these impacts?

As a simple analogy,  let’s take the example of trying to transform and modernise an existing township. Without having access to the township ecosystem information (the demographic of people living in the area, the businesses located there, and the public infrastructure available), it will be difficult for the township to be transformed and modernised efficiently, and without disrupting any of the existing components within the township. Replace the word ‘Township’ with ‘Organisation’, and we can more clearly see that for an organisation to change, it needs to have access to its enterprise ecosystem. Hence, we need to have the digital map of this township.

Through the Digital EA approach, the organisation’s Digital Enterprise Map can be created , and this  will allow business transformation initiatives to be modelled on top of the organisation’s Enterprise Architecture landscape. A proper, thorough traceability between each Architecture domains (Business, Data, Application and Technology), and troubleshooting of the entire enterprise can be made, allowing strategic business decisions to be made in an agile way.

This Digital Enterprise Map is constructed collaboratively with effort from  every department and business unit across the enterprise, enabling  a single view of the connected organisation.

With the Digital Enterprise Map, there is a top-down view of the whole business that spans across the different boundaries of all the different lines-of-business. The key, is that there are no more siloes, and business units will not create their own separate initiatives, which is usually the case.

Instead, we can achieve a digitally connected enterprise as depicted in this diagram:


The thing to keep note of – when architecting solutions, do so from the holistic enterprise perspective, not the individual business units’ views. Always start from the strategic-level view and then drill down to more details, or elements, as we expand the Digital Enterprise Map to cover the entire the organization when it is time to drive strategic initiatives and execution.

The strategic initiatives level

Now, that the organisation has the important elements of business and IT modelled into the Digital Enterprise Map, it will be easier to know what needs to be in place in order for the organisation to achieve its vision and continuously performing transformation.

While going through the exercise of modeling the Digital Enterprise Map, the organisation can gain full understanding of its current capabilities and competencies, as well as what and how improvements can be made, to reach its Ideal Target State as part of the continuous digital transformation journey.

Above are all the recommended methodology, tools, resources and processes, for a successful digital enterprise architecture implementation, taken from ATD Consulting methodology for its Digital EA implementation.

Next, comes scoping and defining the initiatives needed to take you from the present to the future.

Things to note include: Are you able to define these initiatives from a business perspective? Are you able to model the strategy and provide the traceability on its execution? Are you able to map the business strategies, objectives and goals to the different capabilities/elements in the enterprise? If need be, could you tell which capabilities or process is causing the success or failure of a business objective, and how will you be able to make adjustments, and correct your course?

If your Enterprise Architects are able to answer these important questions, you are ready to create your strategic digital transformation roadmaps, and obtain approvals from business sponsors in the organisation.

Initiative Realisation

Now, it’s time to communicate the vision across the organisation. Also important, is the handover of these initiatives to your implementation teams to execute. Your Enterprise Architects come in handy, to translate changes into requirements that will also be documented within the Digital Enterprise Map.

During the execution stage, it is crucial to have regular implementation governance monitoring for continuous architecture compliance, to ensure that the envisioned positive outcomes and business goals are met, with the time and resources that have been allocated to it.

That’s why the presence of an Enterprise Architect is highly critical for any organization to go through a successful digital transformation journey with Digital Enterprise Architecture.


About the Author:

Aaron Tan Dani is a thought-leader in Digital Enterprise Architecture. He is also actively driving Digital EA adoption and is currently the Chairman of EA-SIG, the Singapore Computer Society (aarontan@scs.org.sg), Chairman of Iasa Asia Pacific (aarontan@iasahome.org) and Chief Architect of ATD Solution (aarontan@atdsolution.com).





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