Lean Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) for digital transformation – Real-life case studies

Posted by Ruth Reinicke on March 24, 2016
In a series of blog posts we will be looking at how Enterprise Architects can support business leaders by forming the backbone of the digital transformation. In this first post, we look at three examples of companies that have been using a lean, collaborative Enterprise Architecture approach to base their digitization process on a solid foundation.

Case 1: Modern SW development beyond plan-build-run gives competitive advantage.

Agile teams and DevOps as pillars of modern softwarte engineering

Agile teams, DevOps and Microservices are the pillars of modern software development. Combined, they allow companies to break the error-prone, tedious plan-build-run process of classical software development into small flexible parts that enable quick time-to-market, high quality and high levels of innovation. These factors are essential for succeeding in the digital world.
Establishing software development based on these pillars has both organizational and technical prerequisites. As a high level of personal interaction is one key point, teams must be small. In order to operate successfully, the boundaries to other teams must be clearly defined and any required information must be made available to the team, with the business context being part of the key information.

Successful companies establish a platform to capture both the business and the technological context. They understand that for their teams to be successful, they must provide them with modern Enterprise 2.0 collaboration facilities that fit their particular working styles. Furthermore, they understand that to leverage the knowledge of the individual teams to advance their company in one direction, they need to include sharing of data into their daily work routines. 

Case 2: Transformation while juggling legacy systems.

Legacy IT systems shape how entire companies work. Companies need to prevent these systems from inhibiting digital transformation. The research firm Gartner coined the notion of pace-layered IT to describe a strategy blueprint to deal with this situation.

Pace-layered IT refers to the insight that companies should break with the concept of one central speed, consisting of release process, quality requirements and so on for all applications, but rather have a three level approach:

System of record - the “slow” IT consisting of all the large monolithic systems that companies either do not want to change or are not able to change frequently. Typical examples are large ERP systems or backbones of banking or insurance companies.

System of innovation - the “fast” IT consisting of apps, web-sites or prototypes that are changed frequently, and whose only purpose is either to react to a current trend within hours, or to conduct experiments that give companies more insights, e.g. about a certain market segment.
System of differentiation - the IT systems and capabilities to connect both worlds that bring critical business data from the system of records to the system of innovation while respecting all the important requirements like security, data privacy, compliance, etc.

The system of differentiation provides the means to integrate slow and fast IT. For teams working at the boundaries, it is crucial to speak the same language and have access to the same information. Only then, the required transparency is provided to answer questions like:

  • Which innovative systems do we need and which conclusion can we draw from the included experiments?
  • Are certain systems really systems of records, in a way that the company can afford slow release cycles? If not, is there a way to move part of the functionality to the system of differentiation?
  • How do we reconcile conflicting requirements like time-to-market and IT security
System of Innovation, Differentiation and Records

Case 3: IT advances the entire business model, e.g. in publishing.

The publishing industry was hit early on by the implications of digitization, as their customers quickly turned from passive consumers to active prosumers. How to make digital content profitable is still challenging the entire industry and demands high levels of creativity.

To overcome those challenges, media companies have switched more and more to a culture of experimentation. Their willingness to learn - and also to fail from time to time - is among the key tenets for digital transformation. Small, cross-functional teams form the basis to tackle the digital journey.

Major publishing houses over Europe are working on better utilizing the enormous amount of customer data they sit on. This is a prerequisite to truly switch to digital business models. While they still have a way to go, chances are good that they will serve as role models for other companies in mindset and organizational setup to truly master digitization.Other prominent cases include Vorwerk’s “Thermomix” or Braun’s smart toothbrush. Adding software to a formerly analogue product allows these companies not only to charge premium prices, but to raise the bar for their entire industry. And not even to mention the most prominent disruptions that are in the news at regular basis, e.g. the case of Uber changing the entire urban transportation.

All three cases examined share the need of collaborative knowledge sharing in order to allow agile teams to pursue digital excellence. We will be exploring the ingredients of a modern, lean EAM in more blog posts to come.

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