Author: Jim Doss, Managing Director, IT Management & Governance, LLC

Finally – A Body of Knowledge and Standard for Digital Practitioners!  No, I’m not talking about practitioners of Digital Marketing; “Digital Experts,” “Digital Directors,” “Digital Marketing Managers”, “Digital Brand Managers,” etc. have been around for a couple of decades now…

I am talking about the Practitioners of Digital Innovation and Transformation ala George Westerman, et al, defined as:

“The use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises…using technical advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart embedded devices as well as improving use of traditional technologies such as ERP to change customer relationships, internal processes and value propositions.”


Don’t Confuse Digital with Digitization

I’m also not talking about digitization, or more accurately, just digitization.  Many business, IT, and technology leaders are still confusing digital with digitization.  As Jeanne Ross writes:

“Digitization involves standardizing business processes and is associated with cost cutting and operational excellence…it imposes discipline on business processes that, over the years, were executed by individual heroes in a variety of creative (but not always optimal) ways. SAP, PeopleSoft, and other integrated software packages that burst onto the scene in the 1990s helped lead the way into more digitizing, but it remains a painful process.

Today, companies are confronting something new and different: digital. Digital, of course, is an adjective. It refers to a host of powerful, accessible, and potentially game-changing technologies like social, mobile, cloud, analytics, internet of things, cognitive computing, and biometrics. It also refers to the transformation that companies must undergo to take advantage of the opportunities these technologies create. A digital transformation involves rethinking the company’s value proposition, not just its operations. A digital company innovates to deliver enhanced products, services, and customer engagement. Digital is exciting, thrilling — and a bit unnerving!

The problem is this: We have found that many business leaders are thinking of digital as advanced digitization, such as enhancing the customer experience with mobile technologies or implementing internet of things capabilities to improve operations. But “becoming digital” is a totally different exercise from digitizing. Companies today must become digital to compete in a world in which both end consumers and business customers expect products and services to meet their needs on demand across channels. In most industries, digital is already a business imperative. Digitization is an important enabler of digital, but all the digitization in the world won’t, on its own, make a business a digital company. I would argue, in fact, that failing to distinguish increased digitization (even radically increased digitization) from a digital transformation could be a fatal mistake.

Multiple Innovation Accelerators = You Don’t Own Your Roadmap Anymore!

Let’s pull on this thread a bit more—if you’re in business today, I put to you that you don’t own your roadmap anymore! The app economy, the start-up innovation frenzy, and other digital drivers means that almost anybody can quickly introduce innovation into your market space today and gobble up your market share before you can have time to react properly.

There were many accelerators which combined to bring about this swift shift; chief among them: smartphone and tablet and their simplified app developer ecosystems (aka “mobility”) and cloud-based computing infrastructure and services which drastically lowered barriers to entry for start-ups.

Many boards have also been blindsided by this since a lot of board members brought expertise honed in earlier phases of the web and/or other business or technological revolutions.  But they struggled to comprehend the speed and velocity at which this latest digital revolution had been striking.

Today, almost 70% of companies created before the year 2000 have still not mastered the basics of mobility, and “disrupt-or-be-disrupted” realities mean that companies of any size must: 1) lead disruptive innovation internally, 2) match outside innovation, and/or 3) acquire innovation to keep pace or grow their market share.


Sensing that most legacy enterprise IT Books of Knowledge (BoKs), frameworks, and standards were not keeping pace either. In 2017, The Open Group began the Digital Practitioners Work Group (DPWG), and in 2018 published the book Managing Digital: Concepts and Practices—a 600-page compendium of digital practices—written by The Open Group Member, Charles Betz.

The DPWG used this book for much of the source text for the working draft of the Digital Practitioner Body of KnowledgeTM Standard, also known as the DPBoKTM Standard. Over the last few months, the DPWG has chopped-down, edited, and added the necessary components to make the DPBoKTM Standard into the first body of knowledge and standard for Digital Practitioners. Naturally, The Open Group also subjected it to its ‘Company Review Process’ which also incorporates review and feedback from organizations and individuals from across different industries.

These changes have been incorporated and, at The Open Group event in Denver on July 22nd, we’ll introduce the first version of the draft Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge Standard, a standard of The Open Group.

So, What’s New? Why the DPBoK Standard Rocks!

Both its main source text and the DPBoK Standard were designed and built as new, from the ground up, and weren’t older “best practices” which were merely touched up to try to serve these newer digital realities.

Designed to serve new students, mid-career practitioners, and C-level executives and consultants equally well, the DPBoK Standard uses the scale-centric emergence model to introduce and then layer in the learning material and standard conformance criteria. This means that students aren’t thrown in at the deep end of strategy like most lifecycle-based BoKs do, but rather eases them into business growth stage-appropriate topic areas.

It is no secret that processes, architectures, approaches, frameworks, BOKs, etc. which are more linear, lifecycle-rigid, stage gate-governed, reductionist, waterfall-centric, are under increasing pressure from those—statistically more successful ones—which have adapted to be more agile, non-linear/semi-linear, iterative in providing solutions for today’s complex business realities.

Such new digital methods have been successfully applied in virtually every context, as Jez Humble writes:

“Agile methods and continuous delivery have been successfully applied to everything from mainframe systems in large financial services companies to embedded systems in consumer electronics, consistently delivering higher quality, faster delivery, greater business responsiveness, and reduced costs over the product lifecycle.

Any company that hopes to survive in the digital age must move beyond zero sum thinking. The recipe is easy to understand, but hard to implement; leaders must set and communicate clear business goals in terms of time to market, quality, and cost. They must then invest the necessary resources for everyone in the organization to collaborate so they can solve the problems that prevent them from achieving these goals. Nothing should be out of scope—enterprise architecture, process, budgeting, and governance, risk and compliance.”

The DPBoK Standard – An Architecturally Sound, Capability-Based Standard and Body of Knowledge

The DPBoK Standard’s four main context areas also map as subsets of The Open Group IT4ITTM Reference Architecture. The IT4IT Reference Architecture is elaborate enough to support the largest digital delivery organizations and includes components that are critical from the earliest days of an organization’s evolution. A proposed implementation order for IT4IT functional components is mapped onto the DPBoK Standard at the end of each context.


The DPBoK Standard’s 4 main context areas map to the IT4IT Reference Architecture

The DPBoK Training and Certification Ecosystem

The Digital Practitioner Work Group has also spawned a DPBoK Training and Certification Ecosystem initiative, and we are also excited to announce that The Open Group and its ecosystem partners will soon be offering DPBoK Foundation-level training and certification as of The Open Group event in Amsterdam this November.

Furthermore, The Open Group will likely be adding more advanced levels to the DPBoK training and certification soon after the successful launch of the Foundation level training and certification.

The DPBoK Standard Drinks its Own Champagne

A distinguishing feature of the DPBoK Standard is that it “drinks its own champagne” in terms of adhering to Agile and DevOps principles. The standard was written using a standard lightweight markup language (Eclipse Asciidoc). The resulting text files are hosted on a collaborative git-based platform (currently GitLab). The document is then “built” on demand through using the AsciiDoctor open source rendering engine. Changes to the standard take the form of pull requests. Standards documents present notorious collaboration challenges, and to date, the DPWG has been very pleased with the power and results of this new approach.


We in the Digital Practitioner Work Group are very excited to be on the cusp of releasing the DPBoK Standard, a standard of The Open Group. And I have to say, so far the industry reception to the DPBoK snapshot drafts has been fantastic!  We’ll keep you updated on all DPBoK news, so watch this space!