The Digital Business Architect: Lessons from the Field

The other day I was contemplating what business capabilities were enabled by connecting a toaster to the Internet of Things. (Yes, this really exists. And no, I didn’t come up with an answer.) Clearly technology is having an impact on every aspect of our lives and many business architects now find themselves in a strange place: after years of trying to distance themselves from IT and technology and be seen as part of the business, now the business is trying to embrace technology and understand what a digital transformation could mean to their business model. So what is a business architect to do? Adapt!


Paradigm Shift
Years ago the mission of many IT shops was to “serve the business”. Corporate strategists would build grand strategies, business architects would develop a robust strategy execution plan, and then IT would bend-over-backward trying to deliver on what was asked. Then along comes companies like Amazon, Google, Uber, and Netflix, and entire industries are being disrupted and CEO’s are taking note. Digital is no longer an option: transform or disappear. Companies are pouring investments into understanding how technology can be used to enable new capabilities, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and move into new markets. And whenever a business needs to make a big change, it is prime time for business architects to open their toolboxes and get to work.

Architecting Digital
The foundation of business architecture is the use of business capabilities, and understanding what is needed before defining how to deliver it. Emerging technologies and digital opportunities certainly bring new technology into the equation, but there is also a material impact on people, process and data. Business capability modeling remains an excellent tool for gaining consensus on what the priorities are and the potential impacts before diving into how they will be delivered. Framing up digital opportunities for the business is an important first step. McKinsey provides an articulate framework on how digital can reshape every aspect of the modern enterprise:

This framework demonstrates that digital opportunities extend beyond well-known areas such as big data and process automation. What digital products could you offer? How could you improve integration with partners? Help your business teams think more broadly. If this leads to a desire to change the business model and move into new areas, new capabilities may be required and traditional business architecture techniques can facilitate this.

“Doing digital” may require changes to your capability model that you may not expect. For example, the ability to deliver software iteratively and quickly is crucial in the digital age. Managing partnerships with numerous niche product and service providers in a fragmented market of suppliers can be challenging. Obtaining and retaining talent in such a hot area is also difficult. These are just some examples of areas where your business may need to adapt.

Digital Skills
Since digital programs are top priorities at most major companies, get ready to skill-up. Here are some of the most critical skills to focus on:

•Business Acumen: As a business architect, hopefully this one is not too much of a challenge for you. As business and technology continue to become even more intertwined, having a deep understanding of the business model, strategy, key capabilities, and value streams is critical.
•Digital Consumer Trends: Stay current on how consumers are reacting to marketplace shifts and emerging technologies.
•Collaboration: The ability to drive alignment and collaboration with business and IT stakeholders across the enterprise has never been as important. In the digital world, new and different stakeholders may appear, such as data scientists, customer experience designers, and digital marketing managers. Getting all of them to work together is the challenge.
•Data and Analytics: Data is at the heart of most digital transformations and part of your job now is to harness the power of your data. You need to know ways to monetize your data, develop deep insights into customer behaviors, leverage the Internet of Things, and improve decision making at all levels.
•Emerging Technologies: The pace of technology advancement is not slowing down, so be sure to devote time to staying on top of what is coming, what is already here, and how it can help your company. How do you do this? Read, listen, and experiment!
•New Ways of Working: The focus on speed and agility isn’t going away, so you need to understand new ways of working, such as bimodal, agile, and scrum.

In summary, adapt, and do it quickly. There is no better time than now to build up these skills and provide your leadership something they are looking for: someone they can trust to successfully guide them through identifying what is needed to enable a digital transformation.



3 Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2017

Assuming by now you have read an overwhelming number of “marketing predictions” and “industry trends” and have been disappointed – as I have – by the obviousness of those, we have separated the old from the new for you.

Because “content will rule” is not the hottest prophecy of the century anymore at seoplus+, we put together only the three most noteworthy developments based on industry stats, our own insight, and a little bit of gut feeling.

1. Condensed content will be the key to your mobile audience.
With Google’s search algorithm updates keeping us on our toes, the mobile first indexing shift, and the unstoppable rise of AMP, content marketers need to minimize stuffy word counts and channel their messaging into clear and compact storytelling. In the coming year, if your website is already a responsive one, there’s no need to be concerned. However, if your website’s mobile version has significantly less content than the desktop site or is incomplete, you can expect this to negatively affect your search rankings.

“The volume and richness of content that visitors want to see when first exploring a topic on desktop is very different than what they need to see when they’re on their smartphone ready and willing to make a purchase,” says our Content Marketing Specialist Amanda Murray. “Think of condensed content like your ‘elevator pitch’ that cuts directly to your core advantages. Know what your customer wants and needs to hear and eliminate anything that confuses or distracts from that.”

People consuming content on their mobile device versus a desktop need to be offered information in bite-sizes or you’ll lose their attention. It’s a matter of accessibility and to-the-point content for your on-the-go visitors. By switching to condensed content you’ll ultimately be more concise without sacrificing any meaning or intended impact of your message.


2. Visual content dominates on all platforms.
In 2016, over 50% of marketers used visuals (images, GIFs, videos, graphics) in between 91 and 100 percent of their published content. Compared to 2015, that’s an increase of over 100 percent and we can expect that trend to continue in 2017.

Due to the increase of mobile usage, which overtook web last year for the first time ever, visuals are not just a nice-to-have anymore. They’re a must marketers should give their audience if they want to keep them. With Facebook taking steps towards live streaming and a new “mid-roll” ad format, video marketing will experience a strong push in 2017.

Zuckerberg’s latest project allows publishers to insert ads into their clips after their audience has watched at least 20 seconds. By offering video producers 55 percent of the ads profits, companies who previously have been investing substantial amounts of money to grow their brand presence, will now get actual revenue out of it.

“When you’re browsing Facebook, be honest – you don’t always take the time to click away to an article, no matter how much the title draws you in. But you’ll always stop to watch a Tasty video, right? We’re all willing to cut a little more time for video, as long as it captures us right away,” says our COO Brock Murray.

“Businesses can learn a lesson from this. It’s all about presenting content in a way that makes the most sense for the audience in that moment. That might mean reading an in-depth case study on your work desktop, listening to a podcast on your commute home, or watching an explainer video on your phone. That’s just one reason video content is going to be huge in 2017.”
3. Buying influencers will overtake partnerships.
Influencer marketing was huge in 2016. With everyone wanting to jump on that train at the moment, we’ll see a movement from making the effort of establishing true partnerships with influencers to just flat-out buying them.
“People don’t buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”
Seth Godin

However, marketers, don’t be fooled. It’s very easy to look like an influencer online – paying for fake followers can boost any user to the top of its game. When choosing an influencer in 2017, it will get increasingly difficult to distinguish the valuable ones from the fake. Our SEO expert, Lindsay Kavanagh, says “I always check followers and engagement of users before I even consider hiring them. Moving forward I foresee better tracking and metrics on social accounts so brands can determine who the authentic, successful influencers are. Once advanced metrics are available to see if an influencers followers are legitimate, I expect tracking becoming more advanced – and better options to shop directly from posts.”

For instance – wouldn’t it be great for users to shop directly from social posts? Then influencer campaigns can be tracked better. When influencers pitch themselves, they’ll be able to show past ROI or conversion rate. You can see the success of a landing page or ad campaign, influencers will be able to display metrics. This will separate the real deal from the rest.

Even though we clearly can’t guarantee that any of our marketing predictions are spot on, the one tip that always works for digital marketers is: no matter what specific change is headed your way, the better you become at adapting quickly and effectively the better you’ll be able to leverage those changes as opportunities.