What does it mean to Transform
The phrase digital transformation is used ubiquitously throughout the technology industry. But the meaning is often extremely unclear and the objectives hard to understand. Transformation of all types is continuous, even such things as a single employee can cause major or minor transformation. Digital transformation is often even more elusive. However, at the core of all transformation is change. And the core of understanding transformation is change management.
The BTABoK uses the term transformation to describe changes in the Outcome Model. These changes result from technology becoming a primary and direct driver, influencer and, in some cases, controller of change which impacts the success measures of the organization. The BTABoK is different from common industry usage of the phrase in that it does not see transformation as a goal. Digital transformation is about achieving Digital Advantage .
Continuous Transformation as Internal and External
Transformation is happening all around and at all levels inside and outside of organizaitons. A great example of this is a management change in a customer of a company that leads to the selection of a vendor the new management used in previous companies. Primary change elements include the same basic elements of capabilities; people, process and technology. These changes are both planned and un-planned and create a significant amount of variance between one time period and the next. Global examples include the invention of the internet or the Covid pandemic. These events precipitated massive change in most organizations and individuals around the world.
The goal then of seeing transformation as continuous as well as seeing it as both an internal and external event is that it consistently reminds the organizations to take unplanned change into account when creating strategy. This could not be more important than in dealing with technology strategy as the industry itself is constantly innovating. However, it should be noted that the rate of research, change and innovation in other industries (such as medicine, energy, law, etc) is equally high. However, those industries regulate the release of innovation and change based on a much deeper impact analysis. For example, medicine averages around 14 years for the release of new medicines and techniques. While the goal is obviously to speed innovations to market (such as the Covid vaccine), that goal does not override the primary safety mechanisms for lay-people that society, government, professions, education, and associations put in place for their release. Currently the technology industry does not have these protections in place, thus transformation often resembles what Greghor Hophe refers to as “inmates running the asylum[PP2] ”.
Why is Transformation Important to Architects
Transformation is the crucible of great architecture. It lies between having an idea and receiving benefit from the idea. It brings together Value, Structure and Feature/Function combined with stakeholders, business models, customers, quality attributes, technical knowledge and all of the exciting elements of “the art and science of delivering business technology strategy” (see what is Business Technology Architecture). There is a reason transformation is the focus of so many architects. It is natural as it is where real architecture experience, competencies and decisions come into play. However natural it is, it is still the place where money is spent and not the place where value is achieved.
There are numerous articles in the BTABoK related to planning, designing, and executing transformation as well as critical, models, views and techniques in aiding transformation.
Transformation Throughout the Whole Process
What does it mean to design and deliver valuable business technology strategy. BTS was in use before by Iasa before digital transformation. However, in common usage they mean roughly the same the same thing, creating business value from technology. This is not done just as strategy, design or delivery, but all three. This creates demand for architects throughout the entire process from innovation to measurements.
But why are architects needed? Isn’t a business unit alone capable of this kind of innovation? The short answer is no. The longer answer is, that business units hardly ever work alone on a strategy or objective. Most objectives touch multiple business units on the value stream which have to coordinate on the outcome, execution and value creation.In addition, no other role quite covers the competencies of an architect in this particular area. For example, on of an organizations objectives is to increase sales in a certain demographic by 10% in the year. This would be measured by number of items sold, margin per item, and returning customers with some time boxed and measurable change. There are many many ways to accomplish this. Marketing might discuss new advertising targeted at the group. Product management might want to change the color or create a branded product. Operations might indicate they could save the same amount resulting in the same outcome. Where in this process is technology? Social media, online advertising, unique IoT features, it is everywhere. And yet, which of these groups has competencies in both business and technology? Which of them knows the exact impact of decisions on the technology supporting or touching that customer persona? Most IT staff are too technical and most business staff are not technical enough. Thus the architect is the perfect partner in these kinds of objectives and in fact place a strong product owner role as technology owner according to Disciplined Agile from the PMI.
Using the BTABoK for transformation it is best to understand the lifecycles of the organizaiton. These lifecycles define where money is spent and who approves it. How ideas become projects/products, most often through the use of lean business cases. These lifecycle stages, stakeholders and artifacts are the clearest opportunity for transformation opportunities.
Society Itself is Transforming
The real issue with transformation is that it is not really about the company and change, it is about customers, partners and employees. Society is changing due to technology influence. Expectations about how products are sold and supported, how taxes are filed, how to order dinner are drastically altering and there is no end in site. Within this digital landscape there needs to be a class of professional that understands the ‘art and science’ of technology impact with a head for structure and safety but also for outcome and innovation.
If customers stakeholders and and employees are changing, the architects can use the stakeholder and customer canvases to better understand their needs, customer journeys to understand how they work and what value means to them. In addition the value methods and objectives article provides details on how to describe value and measure it. This will provide direct opportunities for applying innovation and sensing change.
Digital Tranformation is an Organization DNA Change
The architecture practice article describe how an architecture practice works and the coverage article describes how to create coverage of key technology decisions throughout the organization. It is essential to think of BTS and digital advantage as a DNA level change, not a mission or an objective. As described on the mindset article, transformation happens in the minds of the stakeholders of the organization both at executive and operational levels. In fact it is at the operational level that many digital transformations have failed, because they didn’t take into account the sheer number of interactions required at all levels for it to succeed.
Architects are able to ‘touch’ a significant portion of the organization especially as they mature the practice model. For example, software and solutions architects are often directly in contact with operational or line employees and mid-level management. The same is true of business and other architects. As a group an architecture practice may influence senior executives as well as line employees. This level of impact can have a critical factor on the culture of the company and the mindset of its digital employees.
Transformation Cannot Be Controlled only Guided
The current advertising market for vendors is filled with information on implementing the best transformation. Managers want to harness it and put it to work. But it should be understood that change is chaotic at best, even the smallest changes can have extreme consequences in a complex environment. Cognitive biases tend to allow people to believe that the future can be foreseen. This is simply not true and the lack of this self-honesty causes many transformations to result in many failures before they figure out that transformation is a people process that happens daily throughout the employee, customer and partner ecosystem.
Again the BTABoK describes techniques and requires architects to master concepts related to transformation and rigor in decision making. It also provides for a stable base of professionals able to envision outcomes, fascilitate stakeholder understanding and guide delivery. While nothing can prepare a company for the truly unexpected, having real professionals around when things start to go wrong can mean the difference between success and failure to achieve objectives.
Architects, Engineers, and Business Owners
Quality outcomes are directly related to clear decision making. This can be linked to successfully describing key responsibilities and roles, making decisions and authority visible.