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7 November 2019

The new challenges to achieve a successful Digital Factory

Digital Factory

Enjeux Digital Factory Tranformation Digitale SERIAL Suisse

According to Forbes [1], 84% of organizations fail to achieve their digital transformation. This figure may seem significant, even disproportionate, and yet the majority of organizations systematically face the same pitfalls during their transformation.

The obligation to reinvent oneself

First, the weight of the existing situation weighs on the company’s ability to reinvent itself. The transition from a monolithic architecture, which was built organically through technological and functional shortcuts, generated a technical debt such that it became uncontrollable. The implementation of a simpler architecture is complicated by a dogmatic approach consisting in orienting oneself automatically towards micro service while one’s design patterns are not mastered. Poor assessment of the technological and functional challenge of migration drives up costs and exposes the lack of team training.

Moreover, the transition from a silo to a collaborative operation mode remains complicated. While the benefits of agility are no longer to be proven in development teams, the company is not yet ready to focus on true organizational agility. Developers find themselves caught between an infrastructure that runs in a “siloed” mode, aging ITIL processes, and a management that has difficulty understanding the new challenges of a product-centric, even customer-centric approach in favour of a more rearguard project-oriented approach.

The need for a product team

The use of software factories and integrated development chains have been beneficial in moving towards more qualitative developments and have helped to contain technical debt. Nevertheless, the complexity of the digital transformation requires the implementation of a real “Digital Factory” which is characterized by:

  • A product-centric approach supported by multidisciplinary teams and transversal skills;
  • A culture of continuous improvement;
  • Discipline and respect, an obvious fact that is not always respected;
  • An integrated development chain is governed by metrics and KPIs;
  • Going beyond the simple training of teams, but really making employees grow and involve them in the company’s strategy.
  • In practice, in a Digital Factory, development management becomes holistic and collaborative and all actors must work together within the same multidisciplinary product team. In the field, it is no longer possible to address DevOps issues without mentioning the quality of functional, security or architectural specifications.

The convergence of DevOps and Architecture

As a result, the need for architecture has never been greater. The complexity of the refactoring task, necessary to meet new user needs, requires a 360-degree view of its IS. The multiple ramifications of the different modules require transversality in the teams and it is essential to understand the impacts of each decision in a global IS, which extends beyond the company’s perimeters. However, architecture, as it has been defined so far, is not well suited to this new challenge. Relegated to its ivory tower or in intensive research and development mode and creating more problems than it solves, it is not well suited to a product-centred iterative approach.

Having different times coexist in the same product backlog is one of the major challenges of a Digital Factory. The solution architect, who is the true relay of the architecture vision and the guarantor of its completeness and implementation, must be fully integrated into the development teams and work at the same time as the product teams.

The latter must abandon conceptual models that create little value – with the exception of data, which is a different subject – and focus on defining physical models that illustrate integration issues and require addressing non-functional constraints. Topics such as security, authentication and access controls between components, or performance and availability, give rise to a global architecture, often event-driven and asynchronous, that puts security at the heart of architecture and design principles. The tools are no longer diagram editors and other drawings but scripting languages such as Terraform, AWS Cloud Formation or Docker files that are executed with each deployment and that make the infrastructure idempotent, responsive and perfectly aligned with functional needs.

By bringing together several business lines within the same team and forcing them to deliver together in the same pipeline, the Digital Factory embodies a modern and demanding DevOps that goes beyond the simple implementation of automation tools and is the real driving force behind a successful digital transformation.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucerogers/2016/01/07/why-84-of-companies-fail-at-digital-transformation/

Par Eric Bianchi

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