However, when you ask these organisations what they are doing to change their internal systems and technical architecture design to facilitate this change, many either go quiet or simply utter something such as “it’s not about technology, it’s mainly about people”… Which I have worked out to actually mean “that technology stuff isn’t as interesting as building something nice & glossy I can show to the board”.
But let’s flip this around for a minute…
Digitally enabling your business usually means taking control of the data in your organisation and enabling it via online technologies. Yes, it does therefore mean the creation of some sort of new database or cloud-based big data lake that can then have modern web services integrated to it, so that some or all of this can be presented within a browser interface.
Implementing customer self-service channels, typically boils down to pretty much the same thing. Web services and functionality are (securely - obviously) exposed to external customers via web and mobile App channels, so that contact centres or telesales operations can be scaled back or redeployed to different tasks. This also usually comes with a more onerous set of performance & availability criteria, so that a (near) 24/7 service can be offered to customers. However, presenting these services to real users also means that the systems behind-the-scenes need to be able to scale and adapt to changing user demands. Just plugging a rich user interface into a legacy system and hoping for the best is not digital architecture, it is digital anarchy.
Putting the customer at the centre of a business is an easy thing to say and a much harder objective to implement. Most organisations have been created to make money and therefore have lines-of-business designed to perpetuate this purpose. Consequently, technology systems are developed to support these structures and maintain the status-quo, rather than re-orientate things to make sense to the customer or help facilitate their engagement. It might be the ideal, but very few companies actually have end-to-end integrated systems that enable a single customer to be consistently tracked throughout their entire lifecycle. In short, creating technology to enable a customer to be in the middle of a business isn't always as easy as the sales PDF brochure states, especially if you don’t have a decent vision of how these systems need to work together.
So what can a decent technical architecture do for your company’s digital transformation?
It can provide a stable backbone that can support your technical & process change objectives. It can facilitate agile incremental delivery based upon re-usable components. It can help your business grow by supporting integration of other online services, API’s and data sources.
If you’re planning any of this, can you afford to NOT have the right digital architecture?