Vodafone: Digital X program transforms and future-proofs its architecture
Vodafone UK Digital IT faced a stark contrast between the capabilities of its digital estate and what was needed to truly serve its customers. To have complete control over every aspect of the customer interaction, it needed the capability to change or create content in minutes—and it had to be able to provide a new look and feel in hours, modules in a day, journeys in a few days, APIs in two weeks, and entirely new digital channels in a few sprints.
So Vodafone UK Digital IT pursued a wholesale architecture transformation—called the Digital X program—by obtaining board approval and sponsorship to transition to a digital architecture that was microservices-based, with completely reinvented digital channels. It also adopted the SAFe Framework for scaled agile and embraced cloud computing.
Enterprise architects began by producing a solution blueprint that they used as the basis for an RFP with targeted suppliers. Vodafone UK Digital IT also embarked on an extensive SAFe training program. As it implemented agile processes, it adopted changes to the digital architecture practice to accommodate the emergent architecture.
It recognized that emergent architecture a necessary consequence of the desire to be agile and that it sometimes would lead to technical debt and sometimes it would be adopted and used to update the intentional architecture. Vodafone UK Digital IT resolved this by keeping the digital architecture team close to the development teams, to encourage innovation and to firmly guide where appropriate. The architecture team localized API standards from the Vodafone Group systems architecture. The team created its own microservice standards.
Staying agile, the group went through two significant pivots after development began. The first was a change to the web presentation technology due to friction among the UX team, front-end developers, and service developers. The second pivot involved a caching component that didn’t play well with Amazon Web Services that affected stability. Vodafone UK Digital IT replaced the problem technologies with managed-service equivalents.
Today, Vodafone has four channels using its microservices platform. The fourth, serving the firm’s youth segment, was not on the plan when it began the Digital X program. Being able to expand to an unplanned channel successfully validated the architecture’s ability to serve future channels.
Coen de Bruijn, head of business architecture at ABN AMRO, said, “Apart from the good stuff they are doing, I really like the fact that they practice what they preach. Not only does the EA team support the agile implementation at Vodafone, it also acknowledges hurdles and tackles them accordingly. Not only does the organization now fail fast, learn fast, and fix fast, so does the EA function itself.”
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