As a starting point, I’d like to redefine “borderless enterprise” in the context of the digital foundation:
The digital foundation of IT – mobile, social, cloud, and big data – is no longer what a company is striving for. It is now the expectation which strategy, capabilities, risk management, and innovation is built upon. Traditionally, these components are managed where they compete for attention and resources. It’s important to consider them working in tandem to support one another. Looking at this assumption from the perspective of the new borderless enterprise, let’s consider the “social” component.
Typically, organizations use the digital foundation to enhance the customer experience. What about supporting the internal customer experience (the business users)? This new digital world we live in can benefit employees just as much as it benefits customers. But, just like businesses need appropriate channels to gather customer feedback to better understand needs and expectations, if an organization is going to transform its culture and infrastructure to meet the needs of the employees and improve processes, they’ll need channels to gather the necessary information. Enterprise architects can create a map of where the business is now and where it wants to go, but they’ll need data to populate the map. Leveraging connections to communities of mutual interests – meaning inter- and intra-departmental networks – gives IT (and the architecture team) access to organic, raw information about the business – whether it’s products, services, or ideas.
How? Crowd sourcing.
Instead of some people (the architects) doing all the work, all the people do some. It makes for an efficient process that can “take the temperature of the room” far more quickly than sending out a few architects to understand the needs of each department. IT can collect information through user-friendly surveys and questionnaires sent out to business users. The information that is crowd sourced must be organized in a central location that intelligently incorporates it into the overall architecture. To make this possible, it’s important to have end-to-end governance of this process. Guidelines need to be provided and rules need to be enforced. Once this information is collected through crowd-sourcing with surveys and questionnaires, and a system of governance is put in place, you can report against compliance regulations, business risks, resource efficiency, and more. Agility and governance are often seen as opposing forces. When adding more agility, we often sacrifice governance, and vice versa. The key to success for businesses in the digital age will be to find a way to increase both without sacrificing the other.
It’s important to point out that the basis of successful IT strategy delivery and improved business capabilities is a unified ecosystem that has comprehensive and accurate information about the organization. IT and business operations have been revolutionized by technologies that connect employees, customers, partners, and sales channels – which, in turn, creates feedback channels to share ideas and information. Enterprise architecture helps companies easily gather and evaluate data to create a central source of truth. CIOs can use this information to more easily lead business and digital transformation, and it also helps them predict the results of change before it occurs.
Great customer service starts with reliable customer feedback. That applies to both external and internal customers (employees.) The only way to improve processes and the operating model is to gather reliable feedback. Now, what constitutes crowd sourcing as an activity related to the concept of the “borderless enterprise”? I would say it’s the ability to leverage feedback channels within the new ecosystem to transform the business and deliver results: security, scalability, capability, accountability, and profitability. Once all of the enterprise data is collected, you have a stronger and more accurate picture of the operating model. The picture is not permanent, but rather, it’s dynamic … and changing every day. Armed with this picture, the interconnected ecosystem can adjust even to the smallest or most sensitive change – the result being fluidity. The more inviting to change that your architecture is, the more informed your decisions are.
Sometimes, there are cases between the IT side of the business and operations where operations will make a request and IT must tell them it can’t be done. By leveraging communication channels between communities of mutual interests in this new borderless ecosystem, architects can create a complete picture of the capabilities and strategy of your organization, and the answer no longer has to be “it can’t be done.” Details of the business’ ecosystem allow you to understand the objective of the request – see if the capability already exists – and find a solution to meet the need. Now you have a cultural transition from “no.” to “what will it take?” – something that promotes collaboration and partnership between lines of business.
What do you think about the evolution of the borderless enterprise from being a security term, to an architecture term? How can the definition be expanded?
To learn more about the borderless enterprise, watch this 20-minute MEGA Byte.