Solid as a rock in the digital transformation

Clear communication and cooperation: At BENTELER, this principle forms the basis for a common understanding of enterprise architecture (EA) throughout the company. BENTELER’s team of architects has adapted established EAM methods to the company’s specific circumstances and explained relevant concepts to the workforce. In this manner, it has created a consistent model that is “solid as a rock” in the midst of the turbulence of the digital transformation.

In the following interview, Olaf Reimann, who is responsible for Enterprise Architecture Management in the Corporate IT department at BENTELER, explains his company’s approach.

BENTELER is looking to establish a common understanding of enterprise architecture. How exactly are you going about this?

Reimann: Ultimately, establishing a common understanding of architecture holds the key to creating groundbreaking EA and IT management systems for the BENTELER Group. To this end, we decided to develop a cooperative EAM model for the entire company. We have established an extensive and continuous stakeholder management structure and analyzed in detail the issues that are important to the various groups of people involved. Beyond that, we try to always use the same terms and concepts to describe enterprise architecture structures. In the beginning, the concepts of “process,” “system,” “application,” “function,” “business capability,” and “IT capability” tended to be bunched together and this confused people. Now, however, we have established a common standardized basis of understanding between operational decision makers and architects. In the past, the lack of such a common understanding often led to decisions that were not optimal for the company. The increasing utilization of enterprise architecture and information technology approaches has noticeably changed this situation in a way that benefits the BENTELER Group as a whole.

What role do architects play at your company?

Reimann: As architects, we view ourselves as strategic business partners. Our job is to work to achieve a common understanding of EA throughout our company, manage the complexity of the IT landscape, and navigate the BENTELER Group through the digital transformation. In this manner, we also put our stakeholders in a position that enables them to make targeted decisions that help ensure the future viability of our company.

How does membership in CBA Lab help you here?

Reimann: The most important aspect for me is the exchange of ideas and information with other CBA Lab member companies. This is what generates decisive added value, and this is especially true of our participation in relevant CBA Lab workstreams. There’s also an enormous pool of knowledge at CBA Lab that we can tap into for our EAM work and the further development of our EAM approaches. In other words, we are able to fall back on existing knowledge, build upon it, and share experiences with experts from other companies. CAB Lab also provides us with a solid network in which we can discuss and address relevant topics with other member companies – and that helps ensure that our EA mission can have a major impact throughout our Group. 

Which workstream topics are important for you?

Reimann: Data and information architecture is an important topic for us. More specifically, we would like to work with CBA Lab members to draw up a data and information architecture blueprint especially for manufacturing companies. Another important topic is the cloud and integration, whereby this also includes the integration of security architectures. Then of course there’s Industry 4.0 / IoT as well.

How does EAM need to be structured at the BENTELER Group if it is to lead to long-term benefits?

Reimann: The collaborative model I mentioned earlier is a very good example of an approach that generates long-term benefits. Decisions should not be made in an ivory tower, which is why we worked to achieve a common understanding of EAM methods in a project that was conducted with our most important stakeholders. We now need to build on this and ensure that as many people as possible understand EAM in the same way and apply it using the same methods, no matter where they work at the Group. IT management has also now been aligned with this standardized EAM structure. We have thus been able to establish a consistent model and a holistic understanding of EAM. The systematic implementation of EAM methods is important to us because it’s the only way to guarantee that decisions which ensure the future viability of the BENTELER Group can be made on a permanent basis. Ultimately, what we are doing now will have a positive impact at our company over the next few years, and beyond that.

How is the common understanding you speak of communicated throughout the company?

Reimann: In a manner appropriate for each individual target group. EAM has proved itself to be an effective IT management approach ever since the 1980s and has produced numerous best practices. We initially aligned established lean EAM methods with the specific circumstances at BENTELER. We weren’t interested here in taking into account all of the individual internal opinions on this subject. Instead, our goal was to ensure that EAM would be able to offer sustained benefits to the entire BENTELER Group and that it would be possible to permanently establish the use of EAM systems throughout the company. This approach has enabled us to continuously improve EAM in line with the needs of key stakeholders – and in close cooperation with them. The approaches and instruments we developed enable these stakeholders to use EAM in a manner that leads to new benefits. This in turn is making it possible for us to firmly establish EAM step-by-step throughout the entire BENTELER Group.

What implications does this have in the fast-paced VUCA world?

Reimann: Business requirements and architecture patterns are constantly changing of course. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a method that provides structure the way EAM does is subject to permanent change as well. EAM is like the German language, or any language: It is being exposed to a certain type of transformation, but this transformation is not radically occurring from one day to the next; instead it is taking place over an extensive and manageable period of time. For us, EAM is a stable and reliable navigation aid – it’s an approach that’s solid as a rock in the midst of the turbulence of the digital transformation.

What types of IT challenges is BENTELER currently facing, and how can EAM be of help here?

Reimann: We’re dealing with two challenges at the moment:

1. We absolutely need to make sure that our use of EAM will make our processes more modular and standardized than before, and at all the sites in all the regions where we operate. The fact is that the level of complexity at our company is similar to that of a major automaker – the big difference being that we have a much smaller workforce.

2. Our IT footprint needs to be structured and operationalized, and this too has to be done on a global scale. For this to happen, our employees need to be trained to use the EAM approaches and instruments in a manner that leads to new benefits for the BENTELER Group.

Most companies are interested in becoming faster organizations. What are you doing to speed things up?

Reimann: We’ve already increased our basic speed, mainly through the targeted use of selected cloud platforms. This is allowing us to standardize and consolidate existing technologies on the one hand and make new technologies available on the other. Our speed has also increased because we examined all of our IT processes in detail and then optimized those that needed improvement. The important thing for us is that we do the important things right – and experience has shown that to succeed in this regard, you need to take whatever time you need.

What does the digital transformation mean for BENTELER specifically?

Reimann: The digital transformation is without a doubt one of the really big issues occupying the automotive industry at the moment, whereby this obviously has to do with the transformation of mobility. The digital transformation gives us the opportunity to optimize our organization and processes in such a manner as to enable us to respond ever more flexibly to our customers’ needs and requirements. It is also helping us continuously improve the quality of our products and services – and making it possible for us to supply both more reliably and quickly. For us, the digital transformation is a process that keeps moving forward. We therefore don’t focus on major programs but instead on lean projects that enable continuous improvement. If the transformation should speed up, which we can assume it will, we will have already done our homework and will be prepared to meet any new requirements that our business model might face.

Olaf Reimann, BENTELER

CAB Lab also provides us with a solid network in which we can discuss and address relevant topics with other member companies – and that helps ensure that our EA mission can have a major impact throughout our Group.