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Wilko Visser, ValueBlue: “it’s easy to stick to existing processes and tools, even though they have their limitations”

Moving from traditional IT solutions has become the new normal. Institutions are constantly peeking for the right tools to enable and simplify this process.

In the past, many have counted on standard linear planning tools like Excel or PowerPoint. However, today’s technologies and projects require much more advanced Enterprise Architecture (EA) management tools. It is no longer a question of whether EA is needed, as awareness of possibilities brought by such a tool is rapidly increasing amongst industries.

We were curious: what industries can most benefit from EA tools and what challenges could appear while digitalizing the company? For this reason, Cybernews got in touch with Wilko Visser, CEO of ValueBlue – a company that offers a platform called BlueDolphin for Enterprise Architecture and digital transformation.

How did ValueBlue originate in 2011? What has your journey been like?

ValueBlue started as a consultancy agency, with the mission to help organizations improve their business by giving them insights into their processes, architecture, and data. We provided truthful and current insights to speed up decision-making and time-to-market.

As the customer base and the number of use cases grew, we noticed that there was often a lack of sufficient overview of an organization’s digital infrastructure. Consultants were working just as hard on defining and mapping the customer’s current state as they were on helping them build towards a future state – perhaps even harder. When data and logging were available, it was often in formats such as excel sheets and PowerPoint slides. These quickly became outdated, and it was hard to collaborate and keep a single source of truth at the same time.

That’s when we decided to build the BlueDolphin platform, to tackle these challenges. The platform was born in 2014, and ValueBlue decided to become a product company in 2016, transitioning from consultancy to developing and selling BlueDolphin as a SaaS product. We’ve been growing in that direction since then, expanding our international customer base rapidly to over 200 today, and having opened offices in London, New York, and Hong Kong.

Can you introduce us to your BlueDolphin platform? What are the main issues you help solve?

BlueDolphin empowers organizations to accelerate their business transformation through agile, data-driven, intelligent collaboration. Accelerating business transformation is the core value we want to provide. BlueDolphin helps to define goals, monitor progress, and measure effectiveness throughout the business.

The platform supports teams to work in an agile way, so they can react faster to internal and external changes and innovation. BlueDolphin provides Enterprise Architects with context and the means to evaluate and iterate organizational projects and initiatives.

Access to the right data is vital in making well-informed decisions. BlueDolphin aggregates different sources of information and the connections between the objects within a single repository. Combined with the platform’s reporting features, architects and C-level actors are able to realize data-driven solutions that support the business objectives. Additionally, by providing intelligent analytic functionality, BlueDolphin supports impact analyses and alignment with other projects' goals.

Finally, collaboration is key to working more efficiently. Enterprise architects, solution managers, and similar roles all need visibility and control over different aspects of a (transformation) initiative. This helps to coordinate daily work on an interdisciplinary level and align initiatives with organizational goals throughout the process.

What would you consider to be the most difficult challenges that companies face on their digital transformation journey?

There are three main challenges. Firstly, the ever-increasing need for rapid digitization is hard to keep up with. This encompasses technical innovation, changing customer demands, supply chain dependencies, decentralization hampering easy collaboration, and more.

Second, lacking insights into the current state of digital infrastructure and the ways in which alignment between projects and organizational goals should be managed results in organizations not knowing which initiatives are most beneficial to the business objectives and how to allocate resources accordingly.

Lastly, regulations demand more control and transparency, which is hard to achieve when self-steering teams are working in silos with their own processes, and more of the organization’s digital infrastructure is dependent on applications and services from third parties.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

It has massively accelerated the trends of digitalization. As an example, North America's grocery e-commerce landscape accelerated by three to five years over the course of just a few months during 2020's lockdown (McKinsey, 2021).

What once was a rather static market is now dominated by a digital-first movement, with many of the household name giants of the second and third industrial revolutions being simply outpaced by disruptive and young providers — many of whom didn't even exist a mere few years ago.

Organizations want to quickly adapt and digitize to meet their customers’ expectations. That means we had to help them to move faster. We help customers with constructing a “just-enough” architecture approach so they can keep moving without getting stuck in the overall process at the risk of quickly becoming less relevant in their respective markets.

Why do you think companies often hesitate to try out new and innovative solutions that would enhance their business operations?

Adoption and integration of innovative solutions could challenge a way of working, which takes time. It’s easy to stick to existing processes and tools, even though those have their limitations. We often see organizations using tools such as Excel, Prezi, and PowerPoint to store and manage data. But those tools do not allow for reporting of interconnected dependencies between applications, owners, users, processes, and business impact, for instance. A solution should therefore also focus on providing a good user experience and accessibility, facilitating user adoption on a wider scale, including those without Enterprise Architecture expertise. The more people see the need for a solution and have access to it, the faster it will be implemented on a wider scale – and the faster it will yield results.

As the world gets more connected, what do you think every company should have in place to stay relevant and innovative through digital transformation?

It’s easy to say “BlueDolphin”, of course, but more than any single tool organizations need to have a process in place to keep an overview of all digital transformation initiatives. Most departments are more than willing to innovate and develop new services, but doing so in silos will only result in people having to reinvent the wheel, at the risk that not all initiatives are as beneficial to the organization’s end objectives as others. And there is always a limit on the resources available.

Innovation and taking action to stay relevant require oversight, coordination, and collaboration. And that overview is only as good as the quality of data it is based on. This takes some serious preparation but doing so correctly will massively speed up your ability to assess business impact and prioritize the right initiatives and identify risks early on – thus continuously working towards organizational success.

What aspects of business operations do you hope to see automized or enhanced by technology in the next few years?

Ideally, that would mean providing instant client value by automating supportive tasks in the background. Just like how you can apply for a mortgage online without the need to have a (physical) conversation.

In a world with perfect digital transformation, we might not even need Enterprise Architects anymore, at least not in the role they have today. It would be ideal to improve the process and effectiveness of a complete transformation project by ‘automated’ project validation, risk and impact analysis, goal alignment, and more. We’re not there yet, however.

Share with us, what does the future hold for ValueBlue?

Since 2014, we’ve continued to develop our product to better serve the demands of large organizations globally, and the changing face of their IT and transformation teams. Breaking down the siloes and aligning corporate strategy with execution in initiatives and projects.

ValueBlue has a clear vision of a collaborative, data-driven future of business transformation, and we work to effectively translate this into market-leading product capabilities that enable architects and project teams designing the organizations of tomorrow to achieve more value from their transformation initiatives, faster.

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