When it comes to technology, the evolutionary process never sleeps. Just look at Enterprise Architecture (EA). What started in corporate IT departments as a cutting-edge approach to managing an increasingly large and complex computing environment is now a prerequisite to success. Any organization serious about its future invests time and money in developing, implementing and actively managing their EA framework. Why? Because EA is the great translator. It allows all of a company’s various departments – from marketing and finance to the supply chain and risk management – to make sense of each other. It ensures that everybody is on the same page, speaking the same language. And that makes EA a critical part of any company’s strategy.
But due to competitive pressures and technological innovation, the pace of change in the global marketplace is constant, and EA must adapt and innovate accordingly. Thanks to the recent advancements in Cloud Computing, new technology form factors (think mobile), and the explosion of virtual lives online (think Social Media), technology isn’t just automating prior manual processes, it is becoming the business process. That’s where the next generation of EA comes in. Rather than relying strictly on IT to develop the architecture, business-oriented EA promotes the concept of blending business and IT to drive business goals and strategies, which enables a company to interact with its customers, employees, suppliers and commerce partners in real time across all channels with complete transparency and through numerous technology solutions. Only then can an enterprise can claim to be truly digitized.
At LiquidHub, we have built a comprehensive toolkit for business-oriented Next-Generation EA. Through our experience working in verticals, we have developed expertise across industries and business domains, with specialists who can codify business strategies. For example, a leading North American retail bank client, who was about to spend millions on sound technology strategies for its branch network, asked us to look at a subset of applications to determine if they made sense from a business strategy perspective. Were these apps well suited to the three- to five-year vision of the bank? Were the vendors who supported these apps developing the next-generation banking software? Did the cost of the apps make sense with regard to ROI and NPV for the ‘value’ provided?
The LiquidHub team applied business-oriented EA principles, visiting the vendors and creating capability reference models to show coverage of the apps and whether or not they were in synch with the emerging business strategies. What we discovered was that one app – the biggest one – was outdated technology and wouldn’t support the company’s strategic needs; the second app was supported by a vendor considered highly risky due to size and small customer base so the recommendation was for just an application upgrade; and the third didn’t make financial or strategic sense, as it was a short-term solution soon to be replaced by more comprehensive multi-channel needs facing all banks. In all three cases, we recommended that the client spend a fraction of the original amount to safeguard its current operation and instead invest the money in more long-term goals, such as effective customer engagement, multi-channel interaction technologies and innovative new-model technologies. From an IT perspective, the apps were great; from a business perspective, they were roadblocks to the company’s objectives. That’s how the business-oriented approach works.
Of course, technology is critical. We live in a technology-enabled – and increasingly dependent – world. But as business and technology evolve hand-in-hand, it’s important that companies rethink how to maximize their use of technology through a business lens. Business-oriented EA. That’s the operating model of the future.