Five enterprise-architecture practices that add value to digital transformations

Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Sven Blumberg, Oliver Bossert, and Jan Sokalski for the McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company. To read the complete article, check out other resources, learn more about the firm, obtain subscription information, and register to receive email alerts, please click here.

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Enterprise-architecture teams can play an integral role in transforming companies with technologies. New survey findings and firsthand experience highlight the practices that matter most.

What does it take for traditional companies to create value with digital technology? McKinsey research suggests that successful digital reinventors—digital natives and digitally transformed incumbents—employ a range of approaches, such as investing boldly and adopting cutting-edge technologies at scale. Efforts like these can run into various difficulties, though. In our experience, a push to launch more digital applications can make a company’s technology landscape increasingly complex and difficult to manage, to the point that it impedes transformation programs.

Things don’t have to be this way. A new survey by McKinsey and Henley Business School highlights the need for enterprise architects to facilitate digital transformations by managing technological complexity and setting a course for the development of their companies’ IT landscape. These responsibilities fall within the typical enterprise-architecture (EA) team’s remit, which is to manage the way that all of the company’s IT systems work together to enable business processes. But not all EA teams carry out their responsibilities in the same manner. Survey respondents who described their companies as “digital leaders” indicated that their EA teams adhere to several best practices (see sidebar, “About the survey”). These teams engage senior executives and boards and spend extra time on long-term planning. They track their accomplishments in terms of how many business capabilities are deployed, while implementing more services. And they attract talent primarily by offering people appealing assignments, ample training opportunities, and well-structured career paths. Below, we take a closer look at these best practices and their benefits.

1. Engage top executives in key decisions

A number of EA teams we know have helped accelerate their companies’ digital transformations by participating in discussions of business strategy, which deal increasingly with technology. When we asked survey respondents about their involvement with various stakeholder groups, 60 percent of those at digital leaders named C-suite executives and strategy departments as the stakeholders they interact with most. By comparison, just 24 percent of respondents from other companies said they interact most with C-suite executives and strategy departments.

Survey respondents who say their companies are not digital leaders indicated that it’s common for their executive teams and boards to discuss enterprise architecture only when significant issues arise, such as spending decisions, while CIOs alone usually oversee the enterprise architecture.

While few if any EA groups would claim not to be focused on the business, effective teams truly invest their time in understanding business needs and convince senior leaders to invest time in enterprise architecture. Our experience suggests that digital transformations are more likely to succeed when board members understand the importance of technology for their business model and commit their time to making decisions that seem technical but ultimately influence the success or failure of the company’s business aims.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Sven Blumberg is a partner in McKinsey’s Düsseldorf office, Oliver Bossert is a senior expert in the Frankfurt office, and Jan Sokalski is a specialist in the Wroclaw office.

The authors wish to thank Sharm Manwani of Henley Business School for his contributions to this article.

 

 

 

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