By 2020, cloud computing is expected to reach $162 billion in revenue. And as operations increasingly become commodified in the cloud, leaders are better equipped to keep up with technological changes.
But the best organizations aren’t interested in just keeping up; they want to provide unique value for their communities and maintain a strong competitive edge. As a CMO, I know having that competitive edge is important to keep communities connected to a business.
However, integrating new tech can be challenging for enterprise businesses. Changing the technology stack at one level often creates a butterfly effect throughout the organization, so a new piece of software must be exceptional to warrant the time and manpower it takes to implement it successfully.
Then, of course, there’s human inertia. Employees may drag their feet on learning the new system, especially if they don’t believe it will make their lives easier. Business leaders have to decide whether this battle is worth fighting and whether the potential returns on the new tech make it a better option than their legacy systems.
Given these considerations, it’s difficult for leaders to move quickly on new technology even when they think it holds promise. Fortunately, enterprise cloud technology helps ease and speed up the process.
Capabilities vs. Enterprise Architecture
There are two main types of business architecture: capabilities and cloud-based enterprise. In the capabilities model, users adapt their processes to a system’s functionality. It’s reactive — what they have is what you get. That’s the experience that gets passed on to customers as well. Services are limited to what the company can offer within its hierarchical constraints.
Providers of capabilities software can tweak their offerings based on user feedback, and they provide integration support to help it play nice with users’ other systems. But capabilities architecture tends to create more departmentalized organizations because the business’s processes must be mapped onto it rather than the other way around.
In a cloud-based enterprise setup, on the other hand, everything coexists. Implementation is easier because it naturally fits with the organization’s existing processes.
Here’s a simple way to differentiate the two:
Capabilities systems resemble a T. The horizontal line represents opportunities for using the cloud across the organization, but everything ultimately falls under a traditional hierarchy.
Enterprise systems are Pi-shaped. Everyone must be on board with the domain and the technology, but once they are, they can integrate and grow exponentially. They create new opportunities to enhance their offerings. Leaders looking to offer competitive experiences will find that enterprise technology enables them to do this best. Enterprise architecture is integrative by design and, therefore, allows for different service providers to connect by sharing data.
This style of business architecture is built to accommodate magnitude increases in complexity and to do so at a fast rate of change. This allows leaders to act on new opportunities without having to worry about the consequences mentioned earlier in this piece. Enterprise systems are designed to be used by everyone in the company and to be cost-effective. If you choose to implement an enterprise cloud platform, you’ll be able to tailor it to your workflows, compliance standards, and other key areas of your business.
Embracing the Enterprise Cloud
Companies that use enterprise architecture build stronger partnerships among their teams and better relationships with their customers. Collaboration becomes easier for employees, which enables them to create higher-quality products and services. The flatter structure of enterprise architecture removes the stumbling blocks of capabilities systems, in which innovation can get hung up on the operational ladder.
Microsoft, for instance, embodies the enterprise model. It started as a basic computer company and has grown to offer business applications and gaming systems, and it has even expanded into the artificial intelligence space. Microsoft achieved its growth by creating a structure that allowed it to take advantage of new market opportunities.
But leaders in any enterprise can implement cloud-based business architecture. To get started, use the following strategies:
1. Don't pigeon-hole employees.
Agile companies enjoy the greatest benefits from enterprise architecture, so assess your team’s ability to pivot. Are you encouraging employees to cultivate multiple skills? You don’t want to build an army of workers; you want to build an organization of Navy SEALS. They should be able to shift between tasks based on the company’s needs and changes in the market, so make sure they are given the opportunities to learn to do so.
Cross-functional teams allow employees to complement one another’s strengths. Pfizer Consumer demonstrated this by creating multi faceted teams who combined their skill sets to advocate for different ideas and best practices. Enterprise architecture facilitates such collaboration through its holistic nature, but you can only take advantage of that if your team is already accustomed to working across departments.
2. Make your product accessible to employees.
Ford has long been successful because it makes cars its employees can afford. People are more engaged in their work if they feel a personal connection to the product, and that’s something that gets lost in capabilities-focused companies. Inefficiencies, high costs, and bureaucracy create gaps between employees and the products they develop. If you want to recruit and retain top talent, you must foster an intimate connection between their work and themselves.
Enterprise architecture democratizes a business's tools, which then allows motivated employees to see how their efforts support the overall organization and work smarter. It also opens new opportunities for developing new services in faster and more efficient ways.
Capital One’s chief information officer, Robert Alexander, explained that his company uses digital technology to improve its online services. That innovation was driven by the company’s own developers, who are leveraging new technology to support better products. For Capital One employees, the connection between the work they’re doing and its real-world applications is clear. They may even use the technology themselves, so there’s an incentive to go deep on their projects.
3. Establish an innovation factory within the company.
Google reportedly allowed employees to spend 20 percent of their time at work pursuing ideas outside their regular responsibilities. Although the program had its ups and downs, the company turned some employee-generated concepts into major products. Most importantly, it fostered a culture of innovation and initiative.
My marketing department has a special projects team devoted to our most unique initiatives. That team's job is to find ways to engage our customers that fall outside the tried-and-true methods. How can we create different, more meaningful content? What questions have gone unanswered? What’s the pain point everyone else is missing?
Innovation can only happen when teams are given the freedom to think differently and pursue new ideas, and you are in the position to grant that. Enterprise architecture gives them the tools to act once they’ve struck concept gold.
Technology is changing the business landscape more rapidly all the time, giving businesses plenty of opportunity to transform their operations for the better. Companies that don’t keep up, however, will fall by the wayside. Cloud-based enterprise architecture offers a means to not only keep pace with new technology, but also pull ahead of the competition through truly valuable products and offerings — and that's something any company can appreciate.