Digitalisation - complex for all the wrong reasons

Here's a short article that I wrote in 2011 for Dansk IT about digitalisation. The TL;DR version is "understand your enterprise architecture".

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In my role as a software developer, Iʼm often asked to automate existing business processes and transform them into computer systems. Sometimes this is about replacing systems that are solely manual in nature and sometimes itʼs about replacing manual systems that have a digital core like an Excel spreadsheet. Digitalising these processes can be as simple as creating a way to capture the essential data, implementing some automated processing and ensuring that the resulting data is stored centrally for others to use. Unfortunately though, life is never that simple and digitalisation becomes a complex task for all the wrong reasons.

The goal of most digitalisation efforts is usually related to reducing cost, improving efficiency or simply making somebodyʼs life easier. Achieving this normally requires centralising some aspects of the data and the associated process, ultimately requiring people to work together who are often in different teams and often in different locations. To complicate matters, you need to deal with the data silos that each of those separate teams have built up over the years. Essentially, itʼs *their* data that they have complete control of and itʼs *their* version of the truth. Iʼve seen this everywhere from large investment banks where each business area has their own definition of what should really be common reference data, through to organisations where each department has a different view of their customers. Creating a single consolidated source of truth typically requires teams to relinquish some of their control and likely some of their data too. Reaching agreement on the definition of common concepts is one thing, but getting teams to give up some of their perceived power is another entirely.

Agile might be the hottest thing in software development at the moment, but having an understanding of the enterprise architecture is crucial for any digitalisation effort, particularly if it spans an organisation and crosses internal boundaries. My advice? Focus on the end-goal and donʼt get caught up on the politics, particularly if youʼre an outsider looking in.

About the author

Simon lives in Jersey (the largest of the Channel Islands) and works as an independent consultant, helping teams to build better software. His client list spans over 20 countries and includes organisations ranging from small technology startups through to global household names. Simon is an award-winning speaker and the author of Software Architecture for Developers - a developer-friendly guide to software architecture, technical leadership and the balance with agility. He still codes too. You can tweet Simon at @simonbrown.




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