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January 10, 2017

Enterprise architects are key to connecting the boardroom with the engine room when it comes to digital transformation

Digital transformation is mission critical to any organisation large or small.

By James Nunns

Businesses are operating in markets that are competitive like never before. This is largely thanks to digital transformation and the monumental changes it has brought to enterprises across the globe – particularly when it comes to customer services.

Gunnar Menzel, Vice President and Chief Architect Officer at Capgemini.

All modern enterprises need to be able to operate across many devices and platforms, while making innovative use of data. What’s more, technology has created an increasingly level playing field where smaller outfits can now take on the so-called ‘big boys’ in any given sector.

With this in mind, digital transformation is mission critical to any organisation large or small.

However, entering ‘Industry 4.0’ is no easy task and needs the multidisciplinary skills, insight and expertise of enterprise architects. With digital technologies now at the top of boardroom agendas, enterprise architects are key to connecting the boardroom with the engine room (or operational and technical aspects) of any digital transformation.

But “connecting” is not the only aspect of an Architect – an Architect can directly and positively impact project delivery related areas. Statistics show that businesses with architects in place can decrease project budget overrun by 19%, time overrun by 40% and can lead to an average saving of €140,000. Given these statistics alone, businesses need to ensure they have an architect in place when looking to digitise and transform their offering.


The role of the architect – from the technical to the strategic

‘Architect’ is a loose term that can be applied to a whole subset of different roles – from solution architects, technical architects, to enterprise architects – but these skilled professionals essentially navigate a sea of complex technologies to create digital infrastructures.

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In previous years, architects have mostly covered an “IT only” scope. However, as organisations increasingly digitise their products, services and offerings, the role of the architect has to cover strategy to operation from a business and a technical perspective.

What’s more, in a fast paced digital world there are a whole raft of technologies that architects are required to master, understand and seek to apply to various business models.

For instance, open source, cloud, everything as software and microservices are but a small number of examples that architects in the last few years have had to get to grips with. There have also been new devices such as tablets, smartphones, wearables, and platforms such as social media, analytics and cloud that have come to play a key role in the lives of consumers and businesses.

In short, an architect’s role is to understand all of these technologies, and seek to apply them in their business and market sector. As a result, successful architects are those that are agile – responding to the constant shifts in technology and being early adopters of it.

They also have to understand what is best for the business, and work together with key stakeholders to develop those solutions that will have the biggest net impacts. Trust is also key as they need to be allowed to take ownership of an end-to-end solution – from a basic idea to something that actually benefits the business.


Innovation: a foot in both camps

What’s unique about architects is that they have a skills set that is multidisciplinary.  They not only have technological expertise, they also have market sector knowledge, and consultative proficiencies. It’s this ability to have a 360-degree view that enables them to connect the strategic with the technical and apply it across a business.

Take the shop floor, for example – architects have been responsible for the digitised retail experiences that is now an almost ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. While the journey to online shopping on a smartphone, desktop or a tablet might seem like a seamless transition, you can be sure that an architect has sat in the background, analysed consumer use of technology and set about developing an optimised consumer experience. The same applies to the rise in virtual reality, which has resulted in retailers offering ‘try before you buy’ outfits and ‘know before you go’ holidays – again, architects have been key in these types of development.

Similarly, look at the ways in which social media has had an impact on customer service. Noticing that consumers take to these platforms to air their concerns, architects have helped to drive a huge change in businesses across the globe in which value is created by analysing social feeds. Social media strategies and technologies are now in place so that businesses can interact with customers in this way. This is all thanks to the work of architects.

In essence, architects notice the ways that technology can be adapted and recommend innovative infrastructures that drive change – these can have an impact on business strategy and customer satisfaction in the process.


Future proofing your organisation

 Every interaction we have with businesses, brands, our colleagues and our friends is now shaped by the technologies available to us. Digital infrastructures are quite literally transforming the world around us, and they’re seamlessly shapeshifting by the second, innovating in the process.

In this world where every company is becoming a technology company, it’s widely acknowledged that digital transformation is a necessity to the majority of businesses that want to compete. But to really be in with a chance of winning, and to deliver these projects on time and on budget, having an enterprise architect on-board right from the start is essential.

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