Skip to main content

Enterprise Architecture and Digital Transformation

Yesterday I attended a rather good workshop on the topic of enterprise architecture and digital transformation, which was organised by the architecture group of EDUCAUSE, the American society for IT in higher education. This topic is of obvious interest to me because we are running several digital transformation initiatives at the University of Edinburgh.  The workshop was a good opportunity for the participants to learn what other universities are doing and to reflect on how we, as architects, can position our work to help these initiatives succeed.

The presenters didn’t let us sit back and relax; there was a lot of group work and few presentations.  We began by compiling a list of the external factors driving digital transformation, both technical and cultural.  We produced a long list!  Then we divided into groups, each of which chose one value chain which would be affected – e.g. recruitment of international students – and discussed the drivers and blockers affecting that activity.

For example, factors driving an increase in international students include: the business drivers of more income and enhancing the student experience; the students’ interest in studying abroad and improving their employability; and the technical capabilities of hyper-personalisation and relationship management.  These technologies can be used to make students feel welcomed from a distance and to reassure them that the university will look after them when they arrive.  For the university, these systems can demonstrate which marketing campaigns work for which students, and help the university understand what motivates their potential students, so that the university can adapt what it offers them.

After lunch, we looked more at how far our own institutions have progressed along the road to digital transformation and where the enterprise architecture teams fit in that journey.  This part of the meeting included a very interesting presentation about how social transformations progress, which I don’t have space here to do justice to.  

The day concluded with personal reflections on how we may improve the alignment of our teams with the business transformations that either are happening or which need to happen.  We considered what we may need to do differently, or to start or stop doing.

I took several points from the workshop.  Some are general, such as more ideas for the university to transform the services we offer.  Others were more about how to communicate the benefits that my team can offer: I was particularly taken with the idea of training other people in specific architecture tasks, so that we can scale up our work without running out of resource.  I also realised that I have to spend more time learning about predictive analytics, as we will need to use this much more in the not too distant future.


Popular posts from this blog

Why the UCISA Capability Model is useful

What do Universities do?

This may seem a strange question to ask and the answer may seem obvious.  Universities educate students and undertake research.  And perhaps they work with industrial partners and create spin-off companies of their worn.  And they may work with local communities, and affiliation bodies for certain degress, and they definitely report on their activities to government bodies such as HEFCE.  They provide student services and support.  The longeryou think about it, the more things you can think of that a University does.

In business, the things that an organisation does are called "capabilities", which is a slightly strange term.  I think it is linked to the HR idea of a combination of the CAPacity and ABILITY to do a task.  Whatever the name, it is a useful concept.  A capability is more basic than a process: a University may change the way it educates students but as long as it remains a University it will educate them one way or another.

A capability …

"No more us & them"

WonkHE recently posted an interesting opinion piece with the title Academics and Administrators: No more ‘us and them’. In that post, Paul Greatrix rebutted criticisms of professional services (administrative) staff in Universites from some academics. To illustrate his point, he quoted recent articles in which administrators were portrayed as a useless overhead on the key tasks at hand (teaching and research).

This flows both ways, as Greatrix himself points out. As Enterprise Architect, I work with Professional Services colleagues and I have heard some of them express opinions that clearly fail to understand the nature of academic work. Academics cannot be treated as if they were factory workers, churning out lectures on a treadmill.

I think these comments reveal a fundamental clash of ideas about how a University should work. Some people who come into management positions for other sectors tend to frame the University as a business, with students and research funders as customers t…

Changing Principles

In EA, architecture principles set a framework for making architectural decisions.  They help to establish a common understanding across different groups of stakeholders, and provide guidance for portfolios and projects.  Michael Durso of the LSE gave a good introduction to the idea in a webinar last week for the UCISA EA community.

Many organisations take the TOGAF architecture principles as a starting point.  These are based on the four architectural domains of TOGAF: business, information/data, applications, technology/infrastructure.  These principles tend to describe what should be done, e.g. re-use applications, buy in software rather than build it, keep data secure.  See for example the principles adopted at Plymouth University and the University of Birmingham.

Recently though, I encountered a different way of looking at principles.  The user experience design community tend to focus more on how we should do things.  E.g. we should start with user needs, use iterative developm…