Reinventing IT: How Strategic Enterprise Design Leads Digital Transformation

by Milan Guenther, Partner, eda.c. Originally published in IRM Connects

Enterprise IT is broken. Ask any person in “the business” — and to IT that means anyone else — what they think about IT, and you get a blank stare at best. It’s synonymous with complex legacy tools and rigid procedures. This is often paired with a general attitude of defending what exists, and preventing change.

Business Analysts, Enterprise Architects and other professionals have been trying to close the perceived business-IT divide for years, attempting to make them work towards a common goal, mapping, explaining and documenting the complexity of today’s enterprises. Yet today, there are the same disgruntled users, unhappy customers, disengaged stakeholders. In a more and more digital world, how can the relevance of IT be in decline? In reality, the digital revolution is happening without them.

“Consumer IT spend has grown five times in a decade. Companies’ IT spend in that time frame is flat — and 82% of their spend is on maintenance; only 18% on innovation. Consumers are innovating. Companies are not. Companies have to keep up.” Mark Hurd, Oracle CEO

We are used to enterprises behaving in a rather awkward fashion. They make us switch between arbitrary channels and silos, forget who we are, keep us in an insane loop of nonsense messaging called “customer service”. They fail to give us the information we need as customers, or even the tools we need for our work as employees. They promise the world in their advertising, but fail to deliver.

With the advent of digital, the power has shifted. We have access to relevant information whenever we need it, and we are connected, empowered and confident towards companies and organizations. We can search, compare, try and switch at ease, and we trust our network of friends and peers much more than any marketing message. And regardless whether as customers or employees, we expect enterprises to play a useful part in our lives, or we will simply switch.

IT professionals are the experts in digital in the enterprise space. So why are they struggling to catch up instead of being at the forefront of this shift? How do they help enterprises innovate, transform and adapt to the new reality, instead of protecting what is already lost?

At eda.c, we spent the last 6 years bringing strategic design thinking and practice to the enterprise. This includes a relentless focus on the customer, the users of products and services, and designing what is useful, valuable and empowering to them. Beyond optimizing what exists, or realizing capabilities according to some strategy from “the business”, it means becoming an essential partner and facilitator driving the digital transformation. It also means working with people who want the enterprise to change, to achieve significantly better customer and employee experiences.

When shifting from reengineering operations to designing for the future of their enterprise, we see leading organizations adopt three essential actions:

1. Create Scope
Successful Enterprise Designers look at everything that matters to their design challenge. With everything being digital, everything is potentially in scope: this might include your brand, your services, your operating model, your communications or your products. What aspects to focus on becomes a key question when dealing with any challenge, and determines who to involve, what metrics to track, what approach to choose, and what outcomes to aim for.

2. Sprint Small
Big shifts can take months or years to happen. To make progress quickly we need a rigorous focus on key challenges relevant to the customer. Rather than spending weeks on long term plans and roadmaps out of touch with the dynamics of a complex enterprise environment, we see successful Enterprise Design happen in small Design Sprints with clear priorities and scope. The sprint outcomes add to the bigger picture of projects and initiatives, and validate tangible prototypes of future options.

3. Share Future Scenarios
Beyond optimizing operations or following technology trends, successful Enterprise Designers shift to informing strategic decisions. They create actionable models based on an understandable design and architecture language, to co-create and communicate design options with different stakeholders. They openly share models adapted to their audiences, telling stories rather than exposing complexity.

At our last Intersection’16 conference in Copenhagen, Louise Downe from the UK Government Digital Service delivered the closing keynote. Her unit is responsible for the website GOV.UK, a site that will regroup all digitally enabled public services in the UK. Starting from the idea of designing public services that are useful to citizens, the group is transforming Government services, processes, systems and entities. Their work has impact on the way the way services work, their structure and even policy.

Digital transformation doesn’t stop at IT infrastructure, a website, or any team or silo. What it transforms is the enterprise, so it is also the enterprise we have to redesign.

Join our seminar Nov 22–23 in London, and have a look at the framework to learn more about Enterprise Design! Thanks to Benjamin Falke and Gerry McGovern for their valuable input on this piece.