Key challenges for designing the Solution Architecture

Key challenges for designing the Solution Architecture

One of the results from our Drivers for Growth in Service research has shown that companies are struggling to design and implement an integrated digital platform to support their services business.

In this series of ‘Digitalisation of Service‘ blog posts we will discuss the challenges that service organisations may have to get started with the design of such a digital service platform, and suggestions how to address those challenges.

In this blog René Boverhuis, Senior #SolutionArchitect at #Noventum, shares the challenges companies often face when designing the solution architecture for a digital service platform.

In addition to reading this blog, we also encourage you to listed to the related podcast in which we also discuss this topic.

So, what do we consider to be a Digital Service Platform? In our definition, this is a software solution that enables a service organisation to market, sell and deliver different types of services to their customers in an integrated, efficient and customer focussed manner.

Before starting to think about the solution architecture for a digital service platform, we see that organisations are not well prepared. it is important to first:

  1. Understand the service business objectives, strategy and roadmap
  2. Understand the characteristics of services provided and what is needed to sell and deliver these services. These characteristics greatly impact the key functions that are needed.
  3. Have a common operating model for selling and delivering services, preferably using a best practice model. This way of working and how service is organised should be the basis for defining the functional requirement.
  4. Based on the operating model, identify the functional requirements that are needed to support the common operating model, for example by using the Functional Reference Architecture for Service as a framework
  5. Understand the IT strategy, current IT architecture and roadmap and define the non-functional requirements and constraints as these have a big impact on the design of the solution and the to what extend the solution will be able to provide what is required.

Designing the solution architecture for a digital service platform, we have notices that many companies face several challenges.For example, The IT strategy, enterprise architecture and the existing IT architecture needs to be taken into account. Most of the time there are existing ERP and CRM applications are already deployed and which need to be integrated with the service solution. In addition, often certain platform decisions have been made which limit the choice for new technology.

In relation to this, existing and related IT initiatives that already running or are on the roadmap could be competing for resources or are impacting the scope, functional or technical aspects of the solution.

Many companies are looking to utilize new technologies such as AI, IoT, blockchain and Augmented Reality that will enable them to deliver digital and data driven services, further improve efficiency and reduce the cost of delivering services. These technologies should be included in the digital service platform to enable future growth. This also impacts the design.

Some of the existing applications (ERP, CRM, HR, finance) may already be capable of fulfilling part of functional requirements that service needs, but together they can’t support everything. As such there will be a gap and it needs to be decided which functionality will be provided by which application. To select the technology that can fill in the gaps to create an integrated solution requires knowledge of both the best practices in the service business and the service software market.

Service requires a lot of data that resides in several existing applications; however, we often notice that robust, flexible and scalable integration architecture and approach is missing. Without a strong integration capability introducing additional interfaces or adapting the existing interfaces is a lot of work and this often becomes the bottleneck and limiting factor in implementing a digital service platform.

Within product design or manufacturing departments of the company, IoT initiatives may already be on the way to make their products connectable. However, often without involving the service department or without serviceability in mind. Usually they look at it from a technical perspective, rather than a service business perspective. We have seen examples that in the same company several such initiatives have been taken independently from each other but without alignment, creating several connected solutions and even using different platforms. This then makes it difficult to integrate all different solutions into the digital service platform.

Because of all these different challenges, many companies don’t realise the complexity of an integrated digital service platform and underestimate what needs to be done to manage this complexity.

What’s next?

In the upcoming blog post about the ‘Digitalisation of Service‘ we go into more detail about how companies can manage this complexity.

Other blog posts in this series

Podcasts in this series

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