The high-level goal of the digital architecture is to provide an exceptional experience. This in turn supports conversions, satisfaction, loyalty, repeat purchases and referrals. The winning business is the one who has the most exceptional experience at the right place, the right time with the most relevant message.
Defining and developing a digital architecture creates a lot of questions because most businesses have a different view of what it means to be digital. There is the enterprise definition, the line of business definition, the functional definition and the technology definition. Seems complex but if you ask enough of the right questions from all the stakeholders you can define a digital architecture vision that supports multiple digital strategies and operating models.
So who does this? It takes a technically savvy Digital Officer or a business savvy Digital Architect. In my previous article Digital Delivery: Closing the Business-IT Gap, I talked about understanding all digital activity from the enterprise view. As a starting point this is needed in order to plan and develop an efficient, agile digital architecture.
What is a digital architecture? This depends on who you ask and their view on digital maturity. For example, the view of a digital architecture is going to be different for a business using legacy technology infrastructure but has in part a digital operating model, versus a business that has a digital technology infrastructure and a digital operating model.
How does digital maturity affect the architecture? One way to classify digital maturity is a simple framework of Technology Infrastructure versus Operating model and whether these are in the legacy or digital phases. The use of legacy technology infrastructure with digital operating models suggests a patchwork effort, quick fixes versus a digital technology infrastructure with legacy operating model, that is poised for advancing its digital transformation. Today, 19% of North America falls into Advanced versus 76% of the EU, and NA 4% and EU 5% for Non-existent.
Whether a business is starting from scratch or building on top of legacy solutions, the process of piecing together a patchwork of disparate technologies is time consuming, complicated and costly. The result is an architecture that, by its nature, lacks full integration between the applications provided by the various vendors and may only be as good as its weakest component.
- An advanced digital architecture would have or at least be striving for the following:
- Omni-Channel Platform. The architecture would enable the different divisions, marketers or brands to sell, service and engage across different sales channels, including web, tablet, mobile, social media, and offline tactics.
- Simplified Experience across UIs. The architecture would enable the different divisions, marketers or brands to engineer an intuitive user experience that requires no significant up-front training to implement and use.
- Latest Technologies, Seamlessly Integrated. The architecture must be designed to integrate the latest technologies needed to sell products and operate an omni-channel business from any device. High-availability, continuously deployed, multi-tenant architecture are core requirements.
- Enterprise-Level Security, Scalability and Reliability. The architecture must offer security, scalability and reliability, while at the same time being easy to use and affordable.
- Open Architecture with a Thriving API Ecosystem connectivity. The architecture must be able to integrate with a rich ecosystem of app developers, theme designers and other partners (xTech). This requires the architecture functionality to be highly extensible.
In order to move to support a digital architecture, a two-speed architecture might be needed. A fast-speed, customer-centric front end running alongside a slow-speed, transaction-focused legacy back end. Depending on system of record needs this might be the ongoing architecture, which can be supported with integration and services.
From a development perspective businesses need/should incorporate agile methodology along with DevOps. Businesses should transform processes and value-chains to shed weight and embrace the benefits offered by new digital technologies. User-centered design is another approach to getting the right experience in place. In addition to a consistent and exceptional user experience goal, a well design digital architecture will provide a speed to market competitive advantage. Development tools like agile, devops and user-centered design collectively support the ability for a business to quickly test and roll new features, products, services and even new ventures.
It is important to note that an open architecture API ecosystem connectivity design supports 3rd party platform integration like marketing stacks, xTech partners and their services. Cloud services can be integrated with a hybrid model for example. Possibly premise based legacy system integrated to cloud based platforms and applications.
Developing a digital architecture to provide a consistent and exceptional experience is a journey, though starting with the right foundational basics is critical. Supporting advanced digital maturity means having an omni-channel capability, seamless experience across UIs, being able to incorporate the latest technologies, enterprise-level security and an open architecture. Adaptability is key because what is considered a good experience today might not necessarily be considered a good experience tomorrow.