Semper Paratus (Always Ready): Digital Readiness and How Business Architecture Can Accelerate Preparedness

Digital transformation. Digital strategy.  Digital economy. Digital technology. Everything digital. But what does it really mean and how do we get ready for such a thing? Can we ever be ready?

This installment of StraightTalk explores the topic of digital readiness: what it is, how we measure it, how we get there – and how business architecture can accelerate that journey. We had the honor of interviewing guest star, Dr. Frank Granito, one of the Managing Partners and Chief Scientist at the Institute for Digital Transformation, who clearly outlines what digital readiness really means and how business architecture can help. This post is based on our recent interview with him as well as a recent article, The Keystone for Digital Readiness.

Disclaimer: we’ve made some tiny adjustments for our typical StraightTalk-style: the gray headings represent StraightTalk asking the questions and our guest, Frank, responds in turn.

Do not miss the full StraightTalk podcast 15-Minutes With Dr. Frank Granito: Digital Readiness and How Business Architecture Can Accelerate Preparedness. It’s a must-listen as this StraightTalk installment has been intentionally adapted and abbreviated.

First things first. What is digital transformation?

Frank: The hype cycle around this is absolutely enormous. If you ask 10 people, you may get 11 different answers. So, let me tell you how we define it at the Institute.

Digital transformation is the process of becoming a digital enterprise. A digital enterprise is one in which digital technology is at the center of how the organization operates, produces products and services (even if they are non-digital), generates revenue, seizes competitive advantage, and produces value. 

Digital transformation is not about simply implementing a digital technology or process, like cloud or agile. A digital enterprise is also about the way people interact with and leverage technology to engage with their customers, employees and partners. Thus, a digital enterprise is also defined by its culture and the attitudes, values and beliefs of its people.

Got it. What then is digital readiness?

Frank: This is a concept that a lot of organizations forget or avoid. Think about it this way: a military unit doesn’t go into battle without proper training. More simply, a professional sports team doesn’t just assemble and play the game. There’s preparation. There’s practice. There are team building and comradery. In fact, the motto of the United States Coast Guard is Semper Paratus, which is Latin for Always Ready. Their doctrine is “The Service has built its reputation on being ‘Always Ready’ to meet any maritime challenge by successfully and repeatedly adapting to the situation at hand.” I found it incredibly profound that they talk about the ability to adapt and that’s about being ready, and that’s about being a digital enterprise – being able to continually adapt to the digital environment. So why would you approach a transformation effort without the same mindset of readiness?

Digital readiness is about having the right processes, agility and culture to compete and continually adapt in the lightning-quick digital economy. Digital readiness actually focuses on the organization, not the technology

How does an organization measure its digital readiness?

Frank: Those organizations that are successfully making this digital transformation transition are doing so by developing four specific cultural capabilities that we call the Digital Enterprise Readiness Framework.

First, we look at Operational Sustainability, and that asks the rhetorical question: Does your organization have a stable base to operate from? Unlike typical maturity assessments, we are looking for just enough process to get the job done as opposed to shooting for a number like CMMI Level 4. 

Next is Organizational Agility: How quickly can your organization react to change in the environment? There should be just enough organizational communication and evidence-based decision making to pivot when needed.

Third, we measure Strategic Agility: How well does your organization anticipate change? Organizational Agility is adapting to change while Strategic Agility is anticipating change. Organizations should have proper internal and external scanning in place to recognize when things could change and then get out in front of it – or even create it. 

And finally, we talk about a Disruptive Culture that surrounds the other three: How receptive is your organization and its people to implementing change? There should be collaboration, agile values like taking reasonable risk or embracing failure as a learning exercise. This is the disruptive culture of an organization that is a digital enterprise. There also needs to be a certain amount of vulnerability, or the ability to hold yourself up to a certain amount of what I call scorn and ridicule and for your colleagues and leaders to give constructive criticism. 

How would you characterize the state of digital readiness across organizations globally? 

Frank: That’s a really great question because we really do not have scientific data to back it up. We have some ancillary data, but in my opinion, I would say not so well. There’s a good deal of information collected by others, and for example, both Gartner and McKinsey report a high transformation failure rate. While that doesn’t seem directly correlated to readiness, that same McKinsey study reports that culture is the most significant self-reported barrier to digital effectiveness. McKinsey also reports that cultural obstacles are preventing transformation and they clearly relate with negative economic performance. So, we can make a bit of a hypothesis that culture and readiness go together, and that lack of good culture is preventing successful transformations. And, since readiness is based on cultural factors across all four dimensions of our readiness framework, we can hypothesize that readiness is clearly a factor.

So, how can business architecture help an organization to achieve digital readiness?

Frank: Here’s the $64,000 question. We say that being digital ready starts at the operational level – having just enough process to do the job and having a sound base of organizational discipline. The first foundational characteristic of digital readiness is a stable and sustainable business process and technology operational model. So now we get into the business architecture side of this. If an organization’s business processes and technology operations are not running in an efficient and sustainable manner, there is a limited likelihood that they will successfully endure a transformational effort. 

So, business architecture then is a keystone for digital readiness. It is a business framework and discipline that not only contributes its own unique value, but it enables many of the other enablers. From a business architecture standpoint, it is a feeder or an enabler to the organizational discipline which is the foundation of digital readiness. This makes business architecture a logical starting point for increasing an organization’s digital readiness. It provides the foundation that accelerates and locks together all of the other teams, disciplines and approaches.

P.S. If you’re new to business architecture, StraightTalk has you covered. Start with Posts No. 1 (what) and No. 2 (why).

Exactly how does business architecture do that?

StraightTalk: At a high level, here are a few specific ways in which an organization that leverages business architecture can increase its digital readiness, across the four digital readiness dimensions.

  • Business architecture provides a mental image and framework for grasping the complexity of change. For example, use the business architecture knowledgebase as a fact-based, enterprise-wide impact analysis tool for proactive what-if analysis to help select viable strategic options and to identify the impacts of transformation.
  • Business architecture gives structure to and scales strategy formulation and innovation. For example, leverage business models, value networks, value streams and capabilities to organize strategy and business model innovation conversations that uncover new opportunities. Also find new ways to leverage an innovation idea across business units, capabilities and products.
  • Business architecture creates agility. For example, leverage business information concepts as a shared enterprise vocabulary for simpler and clearer communication. Use business architecture as a business lens to identify simplification opportunities (e.g. redundant technology) as well as design smarter in the future with reusable capabilities, value streams and technology assets. Leverage business architecture throughout the strategy execution life cycle to create end-to-end organizational agility. (More on that here in Post No. 3 and No. 50.)
  • Business architecture facilitates cross-team communication, coordination and collaboration. Super important in our agile world, right? Use value streams and capabilities to identify key intersections, dependencies and collaboration points across teams so they can work autonomously and design together where applicable. Drive alignment with strategic priorities (e.g. continuous improvement, investments, etc.) using value streams and capabilities which reflect ties to strategies and objectives as well as effectiveness metrics. Use value streams, capabilities and target architectures to help people understand how they contribute to value delivery and the big picture.
  • Business architecture shifts an organization’s mindset. Use value streams, capabilities and other aspects of business architecture to orient people around value delivery and customer focus, and help create a mission-driven organization by reframing within the bigger picture and what is best for the enterprise, not just an individual business unit or silo.

Check out the handy diagram below for a summary of this.

Using Business Architecture To Build Cognitive Enterprise

How does an organization increase its digital readiness? Where should they start?

Frank: Two things: Be wary of vendors who will try to sell you on a technology as a digital transformation solution. At the Institute we stress that digital transformation is not about mere technology, but rather technology as an enabler of business and cultural transformation. 

And second is your culture. Just like Pavlov, you get what you reward. So, senior leadership should exhibit and reward the behavior they want from their teams. If a leader comes in late, so will others. If a leader does not take digital transformation seriously, neither will others. Leaders should empathize with their staff, sweat with their staff, and listen to their staff because they are the ultimate resource.

So, in closing, as we’ve learned from Dr. Granito, our organizations still have a ways to go to get where they need to be to successfully compete and continually adapt in the digital economy. This also means that as business architects, we are called to action to help our organizations become digital ready. Business architecture is the starting point, the enabler to the organizational discipline which is the foundation of digital readiness – the keystone for digital readiness. Positioning business architecture as an enabler for digital readiness is yet another way we can demonstrate and advocate for the value of this powerful discipline.

More Good Stuff…

15-Minutes With Dr. Frank Granito: Digital Readiness and How Business Architecture Can Accelerate Preparedness (StraightTalk podcast): Just in case you missed the link in the beginning, here it is again. Do not miss the podcast with Dr. Granito on digital readiness, which was the basis for this post. It’s pure gold.

What is a Digital Enterprise? (Dr. Frank Granito): An Institute article by our guest star which introduces the digital readiness dimensions.

Assessing Readiness to be a Digital Enterprise – Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four (Dr. Frank Granito): Four must-read Institute articles by our Guest Star on each of the digital readiness dimensions.

A Keystone for Digital Readiness (Whynde Kuehn): An Institute article that expands on the topic of how business architecture enables digital readiness, which was also a basis for this post.

The Institute for Digital Transformation: A wealth of knowledge and resources on digital transformation and readiness, including articles, training, assessments and more.  Dr. Granito has also generously offered to continue the conversation with anyone who is interested in learning more. (Make sure to listen to his podcast first.) You may reach him via our contact page (please mention “Digital Readiness – Dr. Granito” in the body of your message) or schedule an appointment.

Digital Transformation Is Not About the Technology (HBR): Digital technology provides possibilities, but if people lack the right mindset to change and the current organizational practices are flawed, digital transformation will simply magnify those flows. This article outlines five lessons from digital transformations that have succeeded.

Digital Leadership vs Digital Transformation (TED Talk): A TED talk by Nelson Phillips on what kind of leaders we need as our organizations are transformed, as our economies transform and as we as individuals are transformed.

Envisioning The Future Organization: How Business Architecture Can Help Organizations To Become A Cognitive Enterprise

Going digital: It’s on everyone’s mind. And business architecture can help. So, in this installment of StraightTalk, we’ll explore the concept of a cognitive enterprise: what it means, a vision of what can be, how to get there, and the important role business architecture plays to make it real.

And we brought in a guest star to help. We spoke with industry guru William Ulrich, President of TSG, Inc., Partner at Business Architecture Associates, and President and Co-Founder of the Business Architecture Guild.® This post is based on our recent interview with him.

Disclaimer: we’ve made some tiny adjustments for our typical StraightTalk-style: the headings represent StraightTalk asking the questions and our guest, Bill, responds in turn.

Make sure to check out the StraightTalk podcast 10-Minutes With William Ulrich: How Business Architecture Can Help Organizations to Become A Cognitive Enterprise.

Here goes.

What is a cognitive enterprise?

Bill: A cognitive enterprise is an organization that learns, adapts and scales on an evolutionary basis. It is based on a deep and expansive understanding of the business ecosystem in which that organization operates. This means it has a good understanding of what the organization does, how it delivers value to customers and stakeholders, the information it uses, the products it delivers, the policies it has and so forth.

A cognitive enterprise is built on a dual foundation of a business knowledgebase + cognitive computing technology.

P.S. This business knowledgebase of which we are speaking is the business architecture knowledgebase, which underscores the criticality of the business architecture discipline in making a cognitive enterprise a reality. If you’re new to business architecture, check out Posts No. 1, No. 17 and No. 18 for an overview.

Cognitive computing technology incorporates a cross-section of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technologies. It’s not one thing but a number of things that allow an organization to work in an adaptive learning mode, which includes machine learning, deep learning, machine based-rules and so forth.     

Tell us more about the benefits of a cognitive enterprise.

Bill: A cognitive enterprise is highly efficient, highly effective and this increases over time based on its experiences. It also maintains an excellent level of customer satisfaction for its customers across the board.

Efficiencies are gained through dramatically increased levels of stakeholder and capability automation, so over time you’ll see stakeholders moving from people-led to machine-led, but there is a whole spectrum where it moves through machine-assisted, to machine-led, to machine-controlled. Correspondingly, the capabilities that stakeholders engage in become more and more automated.

Effectiveness is delivered through dramatically improved strategy execution and enhanced learning and adaptability. For example, when an organization sets an objective, there is a rapid assessment across the organization that is supported by these types of technologies and the knowledgebase. It would tell us what the impacts are of that objective and some of the pathways to deliver it including the framing of programs and projects. (Yes, we are talking about automating architecture impact assessments and translation into initiatives here!)

Collectively, as we improve efficiency and effectiveness, those will lead to increased customer satisfaction.

Give us some examples.

Bill: Let’s say you are rolling out a new product to market in a large enterprise across multiple divisions, a virtual product manager could help you design and construct a good product more quickly and eliminate bad ideas more quickly.

Similarly, a virtual program manager could assist or take over the role of framing initiatives, aligning them, reducing redundancies, reducing conflicts and so forth.

What are some of the challenges you’ve seen organizations having – or that you anticipate they will have – as they transform to become a cognitive enterprise?

Bill: There are two key challenges.

  • A Cohesive Long-Term Vision – The first challenge for organizations is putting together a cohesive long-term vision that can stand up to shifting political winds. One of the challenges in many organizations today, partially dependent upon their specific economic and geographic climate, is the inability to manage a long-term vision past quarterly or annual returns. The vision must be sustained because becoming a cognitive enterprise does not happen overnight, it evolves gradually and over time.
  • Lack of Buy-In to the Business Knowledgebase Concept – We can imagine that a lot of organizations will jump to the cognitive computing technologies and plug them in piecemeal without any sort of coordinated or cohesive understanding of the organization. The pushback on the knowledgebase itself is probably going to be a second obstacle.

What role does business architecture play in enabling a cognitive enterprise?

Bill: As mentioned earlier, a cognitive enterprise is based on the dual foundation of a business knowledgebase and cognitive computing technologies. And, the business knowledgebase itself is framed on a business architecture framework – a formal perspective as defined by the Business Architecture Guild.® The knowledgebase needs to have a very defined understanding of an organization, and to do that a very rigorously defined and enforced set of principles are necessary to define things like capabilities, value streams, stakeholders, information, organizational structure and so forth. If an organization veers widely from these principles and creates a haphazard, highly redundant, inconsistent, poorly aligned perspective, it will no longer serve as a baseline for a cognitive enterprise, but rather will become a hindrance.

Business architecture plays the role of allowing organizations to establish a representation of their business ecosystem in a formal and rigorous way, that is non-redundant and highly rationalized, and can be connected to cognitive computing technologies. This ensures that technology is leveraged based on the connection with the knowledgebase. Business architecture is critical in that it provides the structure for the business knowledgebase.

So, where should an organization start?

Bill: There are a few key steps an organization should follow to become a cognitive enterprise.

  1. Establish a vision. Everyone needs to be working towards the same end-state understanding. Remember that benefits are accrued over time though, so we need to sell the value proposition as well as the fact that value is accrued early and over time.
  2. Establish and evolve the business knowledgebase. It can take some time to create a rationalized perspective of what the organization does, how it delivers stakeholder value, how it engages stakeholders across business units and so forth. This requires some commitment to a formal business architecture framework.
  3. Explore and invest in cognitive computing technologies. Many of these technologies are evolving, but there are some very good ones out there today which can be leveraged.
  4. Chart a roadmap towards the vision. Create a benefits-based, milestone-oriented roadmap with clear KPIs. For example, if a business knowledgebase is established in phase 1, the KPIs associated with it should be defined, even if the knowledgebase is not yet connected to the cognitive computing technologies. Each year the organization should become more cognitive.

Check out the handy diagram below for a summary of all that.

Using Business Architecture To Build Cognitive Enterprise

Anything else?

Bill: The big idea here is that cognitive enterprise benefits accrue early and scale over time. So, establish portions of the business knowledgebase that allow planning and execution teams to begin reaping benefits, at least manually, although you’ll use some tooling, as you go through the automation of those same benefits. This allows you to build expertise and apply scenarios manually (like scenarios related to the virtual product manager and virtual project manager mentioned earlier), and then you’ll teach the cognitive tools and technologies those same methods.

While a roadmap to full maturity for a cognitive enterprise is a longer-term proposition, the journey delivers increasing value along the way. As you evolve you will begin obtaining benefits and as you build further, you will obtain more and more.

Finally, keep in mind that if your competitors are doing this and you start two years from now, you will be two years behind – there are no magic catch up points.    

So, here is yet another selling point you can use to help build buy-in and adoption for business architecture. If your organization wants to become a cognitive enterprise, it requires a principled, business object-based business architecture knowledgebase as described in the BIZBOK®Guide. This is the foundation. It’s not optional and the time to start is now. (More on business objects here in Post No. 52.)

More Good Stuff…

10-Minutes With William Ulrich: How Business Architecture Can Help Organizations to Become A Cognitive Enterprise (StraightTalk podcast): Just in case you missed that link in the beginning, here it is again. You can listen to the podcast with William Ulrich on how business architecture can help organizations become a cognitive enterprise, which was the basis for this post.

5-Minutes With William Ulrich: How Business Architecture Drives IT Architecture Alignment and Transformation (StraightTalk podcast): Make sure to check out Bill’s other podcast on business architecture and IT architecture alignment.

P.S. Remember that our StraightTalk podcasts are now also available on your favorite audio platform like Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and more. Hooray!

The Cognitive Enterprise: Envisioning the Business of the Future (William Ulrich): A white paper by our guest star introducing the concept of the cognitive enterprise, the important role of business architecture, and steps for cognitive enterprise transformation.

Envisioning the Organization of the Future: The Cognitive Enterprise (William Ulrich/Cutter Consortium): A webinar by our guest star on the same.

Cognitive Computing: A Brief Guide for Game Changers (Peter Fingar): A comprehensive synthesis of cognitive computing in one concise book.

The Future of Expertise (TED Talk): A TED talk by Dario Gil which discusses whether purely logical cognitive computers could avoid some of the blind spots made by human decision-makers. He also explores the future of cognitive computers as well as the uneasy question: could technology ever replace humans?