In the modern world, the journey to digital transformation is both exciting and daunting. Astute businesses are forming smart information technology (IT) strategies to drive better operations and greater customer experience. For PPS, it became clear that a comprehensive IT strategy was required. Upon research the company identified the architectural approach as best suited to its industry and sought assistance in building this plan using best practice architectural principles.
PPS essentially wanted to create a three-year plan; its 2020 Vision. Preparing the strategy was only part of the equation, as it would need to be presented to PPS executives. To do so effectively, a well-defined enterprise architecture (EA) was required. At the time, while the PPS IT team had participated in TOGAF® training, they lacked the practical experience to develop this EA on their own. The goal was to build a plan to empower the application of data within an intelligent architecture, using developed infrastructure to deliver on conceptual, logical and physical levels.
“We were acutely aware of the need to partner with a business that could help us develop an accurate target state architecture to develop this strategy. This need is fueled by the desire to improve,” states Avsharn Bachoo, Chief Technology Officer at PPS.
Established in 1941, the PPS Group is the only mutual financial services company in South Africa focusing exclusively on graduate professionals. The company provides tailor-made insurance, investment and healthcare solutions to its members. As such, PPS is an exclusive organisation of graduate professionals.
“After conducting research on the leading companies in the country, Knotion Consulting stood out in the Enterprise Architecture field,” confirms Bachoo. At the end of the first quarter of 2017, PPS began discussions with Knotion. Once the key deliverables of the contract were clearly defined, the development began. Knotion is a South African-based consulting company specialising in Digital Transformation, ICT Strategy development and Enterprise Architecture consulting and training.
Between July 2017 and September 2017, in under three months, the 2020 Vision was developed, and full EA implemented. The strategy was based on a full understanding of the business and its requirements, and the development process followed an engineering type approach.
“The process began with modelling the current PPS environment,” recalls Marius Snel, Chief Executive Officer and Owner of Knotion. “Information was drawn from existing configuration management systems, providing the data required to create the initial building blocks to show the current, physical state. Reference models were then built to represent the target state both conceptually and logically, based on architectural building blocks.”
With the current environment and the target state effectively represented, Knotion could now map the ‘as is’ to the ‘target’. Using colour coded visual representations, PPS could easily identify what should be re-used, where potential problems were hiding, what needed to be retired or fixed, and what they didn’t have in place but needed. “A gap analysis was put together to close the gaps between the current and the target – and this is the information that was fed into the strategy,” adds Snel.
To achieve this, Knotion used its ‘Smart Strategy’ solution; a customised method based on TOGAF®. While this international framework gives companies insight into what to do, Knotion’s customised framework tells users how to do it.
PPS now has a full understanding of what the entire Group’s IT landscape looks like, presented in a visual and user-friendly way. With an accurate, in depth view of its current state architecture, PPS can easily identify where all its current applications are and how they interact. With a sound vision in place PPS is empowered to focus on tech-transformation with a clear view of the final destination. This singular view of the entire IT infrastructure across the Group’s five companies ensures efficiencies are gained, and duplications eradicated.
“One of the greatest benefits is the visualisation of our data, applications and strategy. This visualisation has led to zero staff resistance – it has made everyone’s lives easier. We now have 160 applications running, with a critical overview of how they connect to each other. We can view the global Group’s conceptual, logical and physical layers, all at different degrees of granularity,” says Bachoo.
With this insight, PPS has greater control of its systems. “For example, we know what the effect of an upgrade to one piece of technology will have on all the others in the business, and we can renew licences before they expire. We now also have a reliable technology repository, listing the different categories of technology implemented across the Group,” he adds.
According to Snel, PPS’ IT strategy has now been developed in a more rigorous way than ever before. “This gives them clear guidance and direction on what to implement when, with a realistic view of the related challenges, costs and benefits.”
The Smart Strategy solution has improved PPS’s technology asset management, it’s eased the process of development and has provided a robust target state. New implementations can now be managed incrementally. “We now know what our IT architecture needs to look like in three-years’ time, and we can illustrate that goal. Using modular building blocks, we can design our IT future so that different pieces of technology can simply snap into place as required and in line with industry trends,” states Bachoo.
Snel offers the following advice to any company considering implementing EA. “The project must follow a formal, repeatable approach. At Knotion we have spent a considerable amount of time formulating the ‘how to’ of TOGAF®, meaning we deliver expertise and customisable models. The result is in-depth strategies, developed in under three months, at a lower cost, based on industry standards and best practices. From the client’s side, as we experienced with PPS, full commitment to support the process must be given.”
He believes it is essential to partner with an organisation that believes in delivering value first using EA, and then expands on the development of the EA capabilities, rather than focusing on the creation of EA capabilities and asking the client to wait for the benefits to appear.
Using Knotion’s Smart Strategy solution, PPS has successfully developed its application architecture. EA is typically made up of four domains: business, application, infrastructure, and data.
“To date, the bulk of our efforts have been focused on application architecture, with some infrastructure architecture development. Moving forward, we will be working with Knotion to expand the infrastructure and data architecture,” confirms Bachoo. “It is important to note that Knotion has trained and empowered our own enterprise architect to proceed with these developments, while they mentor him. The approach has now been adopted by PPS, which is a wonderful achievement – and a testament to value of the Knotion model.”
In a few months, the first year of the three-year 2020 Vision will have been completed. The board will meet with a Knotion representative to discuss the progress, adjust the strategy where necessary and strategise for year four. This will include taking the Group to the cloud, implementing an SD-WAN network, the development of a unified comms strategy, and building a big data analytics platform.
“We are using architecture to drive our IT transformation. What’s the key message? Architecture is the enabler to a successful IT strategy,” concludes Bachoo.