How OpEx & EA Fit in Your Digital Transformation Journey

Posted by Dan Miklovic on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 @ 10:30 AM

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dan_blog.png2015 has been the year that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Big Data and Predictive Analytics, Mobility and Cloud technology have dominated the manufacturing technology discussion. Whether talking about Industrie 4.0, Smart Manufacturing, the Digital Twin, or LNS Research concepts of Smart Connected Operations and Assets, what we are really talking about is the digital transformation of manufacturing and other allied industries. Click here to speak with Dan

These include utilities, transportation and natural resource processing. AT LNS Research we believe Digital Transformation is the strategy that business must adopt to remain viable going forward. Businesses need to reimagine their processes and look at services as part of their solution, not just the selling of products. Of course, the challenge with seeing to the success of a strategic initiative is in the tactics and the execution.

One Person’s Strategy Can Be Another’s Tactics

Strategy and tactics are concepts that have derived from military operations. It is often said that war is conducted at a strategic level, while battles are tactical. This is not really the way it works from a practical perspective. While a general might see a battle as a tactical element that supports the strategic war, for the officer conducting a specific battle they have a strategy and see the tactics as related to squads and platoons. Likewise, the lieutenant that leads a platoon might have a strategy for the execution of their objective, and see individual movements and actions as the tactics. The same holds true in business. Another element of strategy that has carried over from the military to business is the concept of schwerpunkt or “main focus”, described by German military author Clausewitz. If the strategy of a business is engage in a digital transformation the main focus of that strategy, should in our belief, be focused on Operational Excellence (OpEx). Executing these two strategic elements requires a set of tactics which by themselves may have certain strategic and tactical perspectives.

Enterprise Architecture Provides the Platform for an OpEx Strategy

We have built the LNS Research methodology around the concept that there must be the combination of people, process, and technology whenever a business engages in the execution of one of the pillars of operational excellence. The pillars of operational excellence serve as the practice areas around which we focus much of our research:

Since each of these “pillars” rely on processes being executed by people using technology all elements are critical to the execution of the strategy & tactics associated with operational excellence. Understanding how they fit together is the realm of Enterprise Architecture (EA).

Getting the EA Right is Critical Before Business Case Development

As LNS Research has engaged with clients, the two areas we most frequently get sought out for assistance are in business case development and solution selection. Research community members invariably read research related to either of these topics and solicit our advice on how to best accomplish them. Unfortunately, in many cases we quickly discover that these companies have not aligned their activity with any of the companies’ strategic initiatives, although in most cases they are part of a specific tactical project.

In some cases the query might be related to “how to get started with IIoT” while in others it might be “help us justify the selection of a particular provider” or develop a business case for “XYZ”. The problem with jumping straight to these tactical issues, although they may seem or even be strategic to the responsible principal, they don’t align with the overall operational excellence strategy. In fact, in some cases these projects, viewed as strategic to the business by those involved have no readily discernable “line-of-sight” back to the businesses strategy at all. In the worst-case scenario the projects may even be counter to operational excellence in that they lead to silos of information or activity that, while improving their specific are of focus, degrade from the ultimate business strategy.

This is where an Enterprise Architecture effort can help. By mapping the people, processes and technology against the overall strategy of the business, the tactics needed to execute that strategy begin to unfold. Then at the project level the elements of business case development and solution selection can unfold and be in support of, depending on the perspective of those involved, either the tactical or strategic activities associated with the overall digital transformation and operational excellence initiatives.

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Tags: Operational Excellence, Smart Connected Assets, Enterprise Architecture, IIoT