Suppose you are the CEO of a thriving enterprise. You have heard a great deal about “going digital” and believe that such a move could benefit your company. After meeting with your CMO, CFO and sales manager, you make a list of everything you want to implement. You then call a meeting with your CIO and present him with the list and the vague instruction, “Handle it.” A few months pass, and you have yet to see any tangible benefit from your digital initiative although you have seen a dramatic increase in spending.
You begin to wonder who is to blame for this fiasco. However, you really need look no further than the nearest mirror. You created the disaster — and you set your digital team members up for failure.
Jump in your time machine and go back to when you first realized that your organization needed a digital initiative for some tips on how you should have handled the matter. First on the list — and most critical — is to engage the services of an enterprise architect.
Understanding Enterprise Architecture
To understand enterprise architecture, we must first understand the role of an enterprise architect. If you Google the title, you will get numerous hits, all of which seem to place a slightly different spin on the definition. To put it in simple terms, an enterprise architect is someone who understands how all the pieces of a business fit together, what is required to be a successful enterprise and who also understands the benefits and limitations of technology. In other words, this is someone who can see the “big picture” as well as the pixels.
Because “enterprise architect” does little to describe the actual role this individual plays, you might consider assigning a different title. Some organizations hire an enterprise architect as a chief digital officer, digital initiative manager, director of enterprise digital architecture or another title that more accurately reflects the individual’s responsibilities and talents.
Why is Enterprise Architecture Important?
A digital initiative is supposed to benefit the entire enterprise. It is not a marketing initiative, an IT project or a means of addressing the needs of the business user. Instead, it is a combination of all three — and more. It is a broad-based plan to improve every aspect of the organization, from enhancing the customer experience to providing sales projections and from increasing revenue to reducing costs. (If these goals do not sound like what you need — if you are launching a digital initiative as a stop-gap way to modernize your IT or just because “everyone is doing it,” perhaps you need to re-evaluate your plans.)
Without proper enterprise architecture, your digital efforts can be a disorganized conglomeration of “solutions” that do not really solve much of anything. In fact, some of your implementations may actually be at cross-purposes to the goals or efforts of another department. An enterprise architect who can see how every piece relates to every other piece can create a viable strategy to help everyone achieve more.
Organizing a Digital Initiative Team
A digital initiative requires people who are flexible as well as talented. It will require a collaborative effort involving business users, technical staff, sales, and marketing — in short, every department with a stake in the success of the enterprise. You need people who can work as part of a team, adapt to changing priorities, commit to delivering quality results — and who can check their egos at the door and focus on the greater good.
The team needs the unwavering support of management, but they do not need unnecessary interference. If you select the right team members, they understand what needs to be done and how to do it. Give your enterprise architect the freedom to set timelines and schedules, knowing that he or she understands the business priorities as well as the technical requirements.
A digital initiative needs enterprise architecture at the heart of everything digital that is related to the business. IT and business priorities must both be addressed, requiring a close collaborative effort. Done correctly, however, “going digital” can pay off handsomely.