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How Virgin Australia Made An 'Enterprise Architecture Brain'

Posted by Neil Sheppard on May 13, 2024
How Virgin Australia Made An 'Enterprise Architecture Brain'

Virgin Australia credits LeanIX with enabling their successful enterprise architecture practice. Discover how the airline leveraged our software to build an "enterprise architecture brain" in just 68 days.

Building an enterprise architecture team was top of the priorities when Virgin Australia appointed Emma Taylor as their new Head of Technology. She was set the goal of building an EA team fast to support an urgent transformation initiative.

Emma chose LeanIX as the perfect tool to drive the rapid creation of a Virgin Australia enterprise architecture function. Leveraging LeanIX, her team was able to derive value from enterprise architecture in just 68 days.

Emma calls LeanIX Virgin's "enterprise architecture brain". Our automated solutions make Virgin's enterprise architecture function almost think for itself.

We'll explore how LeanIX supported Virgin Australia in their transformation efforts below. On the other hand, to immediately find out what LeanIX can do for you, book a demo:

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Building An Enterprise Architecture Brain

In January, 2021, Virgin Australia was facing a substantial business transformation. The airline set out on a multi-million dollar relaunch.

At the time, 40% of Virgin Australia's software applications were in end-of-life, with a further 40% needing attention within the next 18 months. There were three vital IT goals Virgin needed to achieve to upgrade their tech stack and enable this transformation:

  1. reduce the tech debt that had accumulated
  2. deliver translation solutions to expand their customer base
  3. build key technology capabilities for the future

These goals could only be achieved by a mature enterprise architecture function, but Emma found their capabilities weren't yet up to the task. Virgin had just one enterprise architect, minimal documentation, and everything was done manually and subjectively.

Emma found herself needing to build a large enterprise architecture team and "churn out" artifacts to support more than 50 ongoing projects that all had the same deadline. Hiring enterprise architects wasn't that difficult, but getting them all up to speed on Virgin's architecture was going to take more time than Emma had.

Emma knew that doing things manually wasn't going to unlock the architecture information that was locked away within the minds of Virgin employees. That's why Emma put a business case forward to leverage LeanIX technology.

Leveraging LeanIX

Emma likes to think of LeanIX as Virgin Australia's humming, pulsing enterprise architecture brain. It does all of the monotonous remembering and thinking for Virgin's enterprise architects so they can concentrate on the creative ideation that brings about true innovation.

Emma's team quickly began leveraging LeanIX as a repository in which to store all their enterprise architecture information. This meant that the data was no longer siloed in the memories of a diverse group of employees.

The team began by adding their software information into application fact sheets within the LeanIX Application Portfolio Management solution. Impressed with their success, they quickly moved on to uploading their IT component information into our Technology Risk and Compliance product.

Our Technology Risk and Compliance solution contains a Lifecycle Catalog that will automatically pull in information about the application directly from the vendor. Emma says that means her team no longer has to spend time Googling when components enter end-of-life as the information is already at their fingertips.

Combining our Application Portfolio Management and Technology Risk and Compliance solutions, you can gain a full-stack view of what operating system each application runs on or which kind of cloud it's living in. Leveraging this information with the LeanIX Architecture and Road Map Planning tool, they can even build a project plan for their transformations.

Moving From Subjective To Automated

Emma-Taylor (1)"[LeanIX] really has made things faster and easier for us. When we have new people starting there's no more... spending six weeks doing archaeology."

Emma Taylor, Head of Technology, Virgin Australia

Using LeanIX, Emma's team had immediate access to visual representations of their IT landscape, target state, and transformation plan. This means that newly onboarded enterprise architects can get started immediately with fresh eyes, rather than digging through outdated information.

In the past, Virgin's enterprise architecture documentation used a red-amber-green traffic-light system, with unstable or end-of-life applications in red and amber items worth keeping an eye on. Yet, this scale was based entirely on the subjective judgment of a single enterprise architect.

Using LeanIX, Emma has established objective criteria for each level of risk, with each application that meets the criteria being automatically flagged. This means that Virgin's new enterprise architecture documentation can offer stakeholders a real view of their application portfolio, so everyone can be on the same page.

There are no more arguments over the risk-level of applications as this isn't a matter of opinion. One person's high-risk application that needs immediate attention is no longer another person's low priority.

Neither do enterprise architects at Virgin have to spend their time designing PowerPoint presentations. Information can simply be copy-pasted from LeanIX onto a slide.

This gives a solid foundation for Emma to report to Virgin's board. She's even developed a format for doing so.

Three Artifacts To Present To Stakeholders

Leveraging LeanIX, Emma created three slide templates they can present to the Virgin board on a regular basis. This brings the board along through a story.

Slide 1: The Tip Of The Iceberg

Emma refers to her first set of data as the "tip of the iceberg". These are the mission-critical applications that keep Virgin's planes in the air and are immediately visible as priority items.

Reporting back on these essential business functions surfaces urgent actions. This keeps the discussion focused on the important applications first, before they go on to discuss background topics and future priorities.

Slide 2: Where We Came From

Next, Emma's team presents a slide recapping the state Virgin's application landscape was in before their transformation. Showcasing the 80% of their application landscape that was in or approaching end-of-support at the time highlights the importance of their ongoing work.

This recap also serves to bring anyone new to the meetings up to speed. By keeping your information within a repository that's an objective source of truth, anyone can get involved in enterprise architecture with or without experience of Virgin's infrastructure.

Slide 3: Where We're Headed

With a view of where they started in mind, Emma's team can then offer a view of where their plans are headed. Using the LeanIX Architecture and Road Map Planning tool, they can present a project plan for their transformation with a slider to show how their plan will progress.

This allows all their stakeholders to see how projects are going to impact their IT landscape. Any applications that are still showing red in two years' time will need attention and plans can be put in place to turn them green.

The Real Benefits Of LeanIX

One of the proudest moments of Emma's career, showcasing the results of all her hard work with Virgin and LeanIX happened during an IT steering committee meeting. Virgin's CFO and chief customer and digital officer were in attendance, among others.

Someone presented a business case that didn't have an attractive return on investment or offer a huge cost reduction. Based on the case, the project was unlikely to be approved.

However, Virgin's chief customer and digital officer referred to their road map within LeanIX and saw that, without the investment, the application in question was likely to become a 'red' risk application in the future. As such, the business case was approved based on the evidence provided by LeanIX.

What made the moment so memorable for Emma is that she didn't have to say a word about it. Using the toolset she'd created, the IT steering committee was empowered to make the right decision themselves, without further support from the enterprise architecture team.

Virgin Loves LeanIX

Emma says that her team loves using LeanIX. It makes all of their lives easier by surfacing the information they need, so they don't need to dig through 10 different Word documents to find the right diagram.

Virgin Australia now has 1,500 application fact sheets in LeanIX and our software has a net promoter score (NPS) of 9.2 among Virgin employees. Since taking up our toolset, the company has seen a 40% improvement in the tech health of their business-critical systems, due to 10 of their business critical systems having been migrated, upgraded, or replaced within the first two years.

To find out more about how LeanIX can support you in your enterprise architecture journey as we did Virgin Australia, book a demo: 

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