Making your biggest threat your biggest ally - aligning your architecture and business strategy. Takeaways from the X-change of 26 March 2019


How can we underpin our IT architecture with a solid strategy?  This topic was at the very top of our members’ priorities in our 2018 annual survey.


But there are so many, diverse elements that come together into the IT architecture: legacy systems, cloud services, on-premise infrastructure, apps, and more. Putting the pieces together to complete the puzzle is not always an easy task. So in this session, we looked into some of the questions:

  • How can a company build a solid (yet versatile) IT architecture strategy?
  • Is cloud-only the best choice, or not?
  • And what to do about security?


Our speakers shared their insights and best practices, and we also learned from the real-life experiences of KBC, Nokia and Kinepolis. Presentations are available for our members, after log-in:




The role of the enterprise architecture in scaling agile


How can organisations balance the pace of change with a solid strategy, autonomy and alignment? How can the architecture support such a balance? These are the questions Bart Du Bois, Partner at XPLUS Consulting, raised at the start of the session. Market evolutions are accelerating, and the customer experience is essential in these developments. As experience thus drives customers’ decisions, organisations are forced to address the application economy.


One mechanism to increase the speed of delivery is the concept of agile, with:

  • delivery rhythm – up to every 2 weeks
  • focus – a team focusing on a set of features
  • prioritisation – backlog management at product and sprint level
  • stability – within the sprint
  • feedback – daily and through demo after each sprint.


Align with your business strategy, Bart emphasised. You want teams to shine and to be autonomous, yet remain in line with the rest of the company [see slide 8].  Achieving the sweet-spot of high autonomy and high alignment calls for reshaping IT and architecture support. This needs to be addressed at multiple levels [see slide 10]. And investigate the architecture deliverables you can associate with that [slide 11].


In a nutshell, these are your 3 main actions [slide 12 has a detailed schema]:


  • Map customer journeys and epics/features to building blocks
  • Cluster the efforts of concerned teams in Release Trains
  • Safeguard architectural runways as foundational IT epics.



Case: Building an evolving IT strategy in a legacy world


Walter Adriaens, Department head, Lead Infrastructure Architects at KBC, then took the floor to share his experience from KBC.  The 'why' of building an IT strategy was the first question Walter broached.  There are numerous reasons, he explained [slide 2 lists a few].


'Big, hairy audacious goals' (an important part of KBC’s 'Think Differently' IT strategy) were translated into six 'move to's' [slide 10], which give the strategy tangibility. Based on these 'move to's', an architectural roadmap was created for KBC's technology.


KBC began building this strategy 4 years ago.  At the start they asked themselves: “Keeping in mind that we work for a business:


  • What’s the ambition of the business?
  • And what’s the position of ICT towards the business?”


The IT department needs to make choices on whether it sees itself as a utility or transformational, and on whether it wants to be a market follower or market leader [Gartner quadrant, slide 15].


To wrap up, Walter emphasised: think and dream big! The gap between a top-down and bottom-up approach to building your strategy, is filled by those 'big hairy goals’, Walter mentioned [see slide 20 for an overview]. Don't forget: strategy is great, but culture eats strategy for breakfast.  Make sure to take your company's culture into account to make it work.



The human factor in the cloudification journey


Antoine KerrinckxGroup Senior Vice President, CEO Belgium & Luxembourg, Atos, promised to toss a bit of emotion into the proceedings, adding in the human factor in the journey towards cloud. There are many ways to lay out the path to cloud, but he recommended one that journeys together with people, in an agile, well thought-out and secure way.


Cloudification is a transformation, with many elements, he explained, including:

  • agility
  • standardisation
  • cost efficiency
  • security
  • business focus

Security in particular is a typical inhibitor to this cloudification journey.


Antoine described 2 scenarios with 2 potential human dynamics:

  • re-platforming a mainframe, with or without extra budget [slides 6 and 7]
  • migrating a mainframe [slide 8].


The second option requires new people to develop things, while your mainframe run rate goes down until, in the end, you have moved everything to the cloud.  Until that moment, you also need the existing people to support the existing mainframe.


If we compare these ‘pull’ and ‘push’ methods: with the 'pull' method, resources can be freed up to generate new capabilities, while with the 'push' method, new-generation resources reduce the room for the mainframe experts.


In both cases, you need a mix of people; however, the dynamics between them are completely different.  So keep your company culture firmly in mind when building your strategy.



Case: How to position, optimise and unlock new capabilities via the cloud


Alain Wauters, Head of IT Infrastructure and Digital Workplace, Nokia, guided the audience to a method for positioning, optimising and unlocking cloud capabilities.


Nokia offers a variety of products and services, operating in a world that is changing constantly. Nokia's digital strategy is supported by a number of processes, in all kinds of levels [see slides 7 and 8 for an overview].


Building a strategy means making choices; you need to investigate what capabilities you have within the company and what you lack to reach your goals.


At the start of the cloud journey at Nokia, the various cloud environments available were mapped, creating an eco-system of clouds without too much overlap between the systems. IT staff members supporting the business, were moved to the business.


So how can all this be assessed, and what are the drivers? Nokia carried out this process for both the public and the private infrastructures [slides 14 and 15], in order to set and align target scenarios.


As a result, Nokia has 3 scenarios to proceed with [slide 18]:

  • Cloudification through normal development
  • ‘Flying your own jet’
  • Public cloud.


These scenarios create an implementation roadmap for Nokia's digital transformation.


Alain wrapped up with his key learnings from Nokia’s exercise:

  • Deciding which type of cloud to use must be aligned with the overall corporate strategy and expected contribution of each unit.
  • It is fundamental to understand the processes and their dynamics across the company.
  • The selected set of applications must be supported with an underlying infrastructure and a correct mode of operating.
  • It is important to determine the value-add of doing things internally versus using suppliers.
  • Re-education on security, change management and exception handling are key.



Case: Strategic IT architecture – the foundation of a digital cinema experience


Our final speaker was Bjorn Van Reet, CIO, Kinepolis, who gave us a quick introduction on the film and cinema industry, then shared that, as with other industries, the digital transformation of the cinema industry is moving quickly [slide 5].


Kinepolis has a variety of core businesses, from the classical box office and catering, to a B2B pillar and real estate, through to film distribution and Brightfish (a Belgian advertising agency).


Bjorn summarised Kinepolis’s IT strategy in 4 blocks:

  • Fixing the basics
  • Simplifying the ICT landscape, to drive efficiency
  • Getting ready for tomorrow
  • Starting innovation (day after tomorrow).


When zooming in on the question 'cloud vs. on-premise', there is no single answer, Bjorn stated. He looks on a case-by-case basis. The real question, he finds, is 'core vs. non-core': what is our core business (and how do we handle that business), and what is not?


67.44% of Kinepolis tickets are sold without any human interaction. This means that the web revenue, from the fully automated website, accounts for the majority of ticket income. And that is the way Kinepolis will proceed, a ‘minimal-collar’ workforce.


To the IT department, Bjorn emphasised: don't talk about alignment, be the business. [Slide 16 shows Kinepolis’s architecture].


Finally, said Bjorn: from a security angle, make your biggest threat into your biggest ally.


























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