Digital transformation and enterprise architecture

9 October 2018

Digital transformation and enterprise architecture

Latest survey analyses critical factors to mitigate the risk of technological complexity

Research from Henley Business School and McKinsey has shown that digital transformations increase the technical debt of a company and make it harder to introduce change over time. The findings were unearthed from an enterprise architecture (EA) survey of over 150 respondents from diverse organisations and sectors, which looked at what top digital leaders are doing to mitigate the risk of technological complexity and what sets them apart from the rest of their peer group.

Results indicated that EA is a top management topic, with 60% of digital leaders stating that their EA teams interact more with C-suite and senior business stakeholders than with other stakeholder groups (compared to 24% in the peer group); they also treat digital transformation as a fundamental change to their business model rather than just an IT matter.

The survey revealed that all digital leader respondents model future and target architectures, compared to only 58% in the peer group; this focus on strategic planning activities delivers more sustainable business solutions. In addition, they are more focused on developing their employees than on selecting a specific technology asset, with 90% putting far more effort into educating their staff on EA vs. 44% in the peer group. It is also clear that top talent is more motivated by interesting challenges, recognition, and education opportunities than by traditional aspects such as salary and career advancement.

In regards to solutions and tools that companies are using, no significant differences between digital leaders and their peers were found but digital leaders recognise the need for a more modular, perpetually evolving, architecture and implementing more services; they are also more likely to work with the latest innovations, such as microservices.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Sharm Manwani, Executive Professor of IT Leadership at Henley Business School, says:

“When we teach practitioners in the architecture space, it takes some time for them to absorb that they can and should engage in strategy development. Preparing an architecture target state linked to the strategy is essential. This often requires new capabilities and mindsets.”

Dr Oliver Bossert from McKinsey, adds:

“When we see digital transformations struggling, they are often set up as an IT project but, in order to be successful with the transformation, you have to realise that it’s a fundamental change – with IT only being a part of it.”

The findings are part of an ongoing research project that began in 2015 with the goal of understanding what strategies digital leaders are taking to remain flexible for future transformation.