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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.


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