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Think of your website as a living organism that’s constantly evolving and changing. By adopting that mindset, you are able to keep your website up to the standards of a modern web-user experience. Determining the cadence for updates falls into the solution architecture segment of our digital transformation guidance. Read further to learn more about solution architecture planning and the benefits of sticking with an agile approach when maintaining your website.

Defining Solution Architecture

At Adage, we think of solution architecture as riding the line between technology, business, and user experience. Solution architecture combines strategy with technical design and technology planning. While solution architecture planning is an old concept digital transformation provides a point of view on this concept.

In other words, digital transformation is not only about technology. As one client partner often says “there’s no such thing as a ‘tech problem’. There’s a business problem with a technology aspect”. Above all, digital transformation is about enabling the people and the business to deliver great user experiences.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘technology problem’. There’s a business problem with a technology aspect.”

CIO at a large association

The digital transformation vision for solution architecture.

Digital transformation means establishing technology and digital capabilities that will empower the business to create new digital business models. These digital capabilities are the foundation of solution architecture.

Complete solution architecture means:

  • Data flow is Omni-directional across a digital platform ecosystem
  • Data is governed and used in decision making
  • Analytics inform audience understanding
  • Business and IT are integrated
  • Digital services are shared across the enterprise
  • Technology is empowering staff to work from anywhere, and share knowledge

Achieving this vision requires re-thinking how technology decisions are made.

The Agile Evolution of Solutions Architecture

Digital transformation proposes updating how solution architecture planning has always been done. First, agile. The implications of an agile approach are wide-reaching. A few quick points.

What is different about an agile approach.

  • User and people-focused
  • Increases speed to delivery
  • Incremental releases are valued and seen to create more value than “big bang” releases
  • Feedback loops are an essential component to successful products
  • Proposes cross-functional team approach
  • Moves the organization to consider “specifications” and “requirements” a living document rather than set in stone
  • Allows organizations to re-prioritize roadmaps more frequently
  • Backlogs and portfolios

User Experience is front and center with the business.

First on the list is the shift to user-focus, people-focus, audience-focus. For many organizations, this is a change in mindset. Consider how IT projects are initiated in your organization. Do work requests come with a specific user need described? Many organizations are trained to manage IT work as a collection of “requirements” and “specifications”. In general, this prioritizes “the business” while end-users are secondary or not consulted. In our experience “requirements-first” approaches miss a key opportunity to gain insight into end-user needs. The result is falling back on a “how we’ve always done it” approach instead of asking, first, what are the needs and wants of our audience. Subsequently, approaching specifications first will treat “the spec” or requirements as the end-all, be-all. This pattern frequently closes the door on reprioritization or pivoting.

Keeping the needs of your audience top of mind, here are two questions to guide your thinking:

  • Are we prioritizing the user experience (UX) needs or are we deciding the technology decision first?
  • Is the UX the best it can be or are we still falling into old business patterns?

Incremental releases and continuous feedback loops.

For many associations, the larger adjustments contained in this agile mindest are the “lean” or “just in time” aspects of agile. For example, incremental release or continuous integration (CI), and continuous deployment(CD) may be a larger change for organizations that are accustomed to monolithic releases. Agile proposes Minimum Viable Product (MVP) releases get working software out there sooner. Smaller releases are less risky and allow for more feedback loops from actual end-users. For organizations programmed to expect “big bang” releases, an agile way of working will be harder. A key focus of digital transformation is to start to see technology and digital as a journey and not a project. From the business point of view, this is a shift from CapEx to OpEx.

For digital transformation expect a journey, not a project.

  • Continuously making improvements
  • Always willing to take feedback
  • Always considering future iterations 
  • If not improving move toward entropy

Cross-functional means technology moving out of silos.

So much of solution architecture as with much of digital transformation comes down to culture. The way we do things. The way we think about digital and technology. Many organizations think about technology as a department or functional area. To be successful in digital transformation, technology and the business must shift to a cross-functional silo-busting mindset. This may require teams to include representatives from memberships, marketing, sales, customer service, education, finance, and subject matter experts. Bringing in Customer Service or Customer Experience representatives who are on the front line of great UX will help in sharing the vision, and sharing the responsibility of creating great user experiences.

A digital transformation solution architecture planning is cross-functional.

  • Cross department stakeholders and real audience inputs and feedback
  • Data-driven decision making for features and functionality and not just an opinion, or the loudest voice
  • Technology and digital is governed in partnership with the business
  • Technology decisions are not siloed
  • Technology partners are seen as partners and not just “implementors” or “order takers”

Solution architecture for digital transformation is more about people and process than about technology. Achieving digital transformation requires re-thinking how technology decisions are made. In other words, putting users first and technology second is a key to successful transformations.

Download our Digital Transformation Workbook

Our Digital Transformation Workbook simplifies what digital transformation means for your organization. You’ll be able to assess your organization’s preparedness for change with our readiness checklist. We have an overview of the ABCs of Digital Transformation. There’s also a set of questions to help you identify internal weaknesses and strengths as you face a Digital Transformation. Don’t wait to improve your digital presence and your audience’s online experience.