In a recent blog post, Aligning Strategy to Business Capabilities, we discussed how vital it is for leaders to agree on what the company needs the ABILITY TO DO in order to achieve a set of defined strategic priorities or themes. In this post, we’ll explore that it is equally important for leaders to have a clear understanding of what the organization does TODAY. The ability to view the enterprise with this second lens enables leaders to link strategic objectives to tactical operational demands while continuing to focus on the organization’s operational processes and the existing demand on IT.
Business Architecture is the discipline that makes these links visible by creating a “blueprint” of the enterprise that offers a common understanding of the organization and tees up how the business executes its capabilities. As a result, the most important value proposition of Business Architecture is the ability to build a bridge between strategy and execution and facilitate successful enterprise-wide change.
Creating the Blueprint
In order to facilitate alignment between strategic themes and a shared understating of the current state, a common vocabulary is needed. Too often, misunderstanding and misalignment result from the lack of a shared language and mental model. Business Architecture’s primary focus is to provide that common language and promote a shared understanding of the enterprise. Definitions for words like ‘customer’, ‘order’, ‘product’, ‘vendor’, ‘supplier’, ‘contract’, etc. are frequently assumed. This can cause confusion and disagreement when it comes to organizational and functional scope, operational practices, and technology implementations.
By using a common vocabulary an enterprise blueprint can be originated, and a framework developed, for impact assessment, planning, prioritization, and execution. The common language that is agreed upon is represented in a capability model, which defines ‘what an organization must be able to do to successfully execute its business model’ (as depicted in the graphic below). The capability model expedites a common understanding of the organization and its business model, and allows architectural facts like business data and applications to be gathered and used to facilitate the identification and assessment of business impacts and architectural gaps. The completion of the capability model enables the team to build an enterprise blueprint based on these facts and any business or technology shifts needed to achieve business goals.
The Role of a Business Architect
Business architects take on the role of leading and facilitating this critical cross-enterprise conversation and blueprint/framework creation. By creating a 360-degree view of the enterprise, business architects enable an understanding and analysis of the interconnections, overlaps, and synergies that may exist so that functional silos can be identified and broken down, in order to become a more ‘agile’ business.
Business Architecture is a discipline that falls within the scope of Enterprise Architecture. Just as enterprise architects should possess perspective, leadership skills, and the ability to act, as described in this recent blog post, so too should business architects. The business architect’s role is strategic. It requires both a broad view of the business and its use of technology when interpreting and conceptualizing strategies, and a more detailed view when assessing the impacts of the organization. Business architects work to reconcile the decisions for implementation across business units, and develop artifacts and deliverables to ensure that the gaps in implementations are not only well understood but also well planned for. Effective business architects must be strong communicators, facilitators, negotiators, and collaborators. These skills are required to be a game-changer in today’s dynamic and disruptive business environment.
Standing Up A Practice
To stand up a business architecture practice, an organization can begin by first looking internally at their own existing business analyst or systems/functional analyst communities. The business or functional analyst roles primarily focus on execution, such as requirements management and operational process, or on system impacts supporting day-to-day development team activities. Within these communities are analysts that, with the right support and coaching, can become excellent business architects. The question is, can they make the leap from specific solutions, or business units, to overall reuse and enterprise blueprinting? They already have the in-depth, enterprise-specific knowledge that is invaluable in this role, and are usually well-positioned to grow into a business architect. In order to supplement internal resources, organizations may consider hiring experienced business architects, from outside the organization, as an effective way to round out the business architecture team and practice.
Business Architecture in Practice
Within The Feld Group Institute Transformation Framework, business architects play a critical role in setting the business agenda as defined by business & technical leaders. In fact, you will find a business architect’s DNA in the capture of artifacts that represent the business model, business systems model, and technical systems model.
It is clear that Business Architecture plays a significant role in achieving cross-functional alignment and can set the stage for business agility and transformation. Creating an integrated business agenda, a common vocabulary, and an enterprise blueprint, allows business and IT leaders access to the facts that matter, and provides them with the transparency necessary to make complex decisions with confidence. An effective Business Architecture practice enables leaders to not only increase their speed to market but also increases their potential to improve profitability. Finding the right individuals to take on this work, and supporting them with the resources they need to be effective, is not only critical in linking strategic themes to tactical demand but crucial to enterprise-wide success.
Author: Mary Contreras, Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute, and President of Contreras Consulting, LLC.
If you would like to learn more about Business Architecture for Enterprise Architecture, The Feld Group Institute offers Operationalizing Business Architecture. In addition, we’ve included four links below which we hope you will find helpful.
- Business Architecture Guild
- Cutter Consortium
- How to Move from Business Analyst to Business Architect