Business Architecture — Who Cares?

Business Architecture illustration

In my previous post Distilling 58 million Search Results on Business Transformation!? I coined the term ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ of business transformation to illustrate what is involved.

The ‘hardware’ of business transformation relate to the structural aspects of change such as program management structure, governance, systems and tools, to name a few.

In contrast, the ‘software’ of business transformation relate to the aspects that influence behaviors and attitudes. They help embed and sustain the change.

Business Architecture is the lesser known of the means to organize, prioritize and deliver the work of change across a company. In this post I will expand on Business Architecture.

Who Cares?

Imagine many wheels within wheels within wheels. Imagine some of those wheels being connected to each other. Imagine some of those wheels within wheels connected to other wheels within other wheels. Imagine multiple connection points.

Imagine that the best outcome is for wheels to be in sync so the whole structure moves forward in the same direction.

Imagine if they are not in sync. Or, if just a few are not. A confusing, messy picture, isn’t it? At worst, gridlock, breakdowns. At best, deceleration or stop-starts.

What is happening in some large and diverse companies today when it comes to how multiple business change projects are delivered?

Many concurrent projects, delivering changes to the business in different speeds at different times on multiple impact points — all happening, of course, to achieve goals that are critical to the business strategy.

  • How do you know that the right set of projects is being prioritized?
  • How do you prioritize so the best combinations of projects deliver the most value together, not as the sum of individual project value?
  • How are changes implemented so they are in sync and building on each other’s benefits, not negating, diluting or stopping the other?
  • How do you organize the business implementation so the people can absorb the resultant changes to their activities, the impact to productivity is minimized and the new way is sustained?

Imagine if you have these questions not just for one portfolio of projects but for multiple portfolios across geographies, divisions or business units in a large Enterprise?

Imagine if your questions involve not just major systems implementations but projects on process re-engineering, incremental process improvements, strategic re-alignment, merger and acquisition scenarios, and divestitures in the same company?

How would you get these answers in such a complex scenario?

If you care enough to read this far, then read on.

What Is Business Architecture?

The Oxford Dictionary defines architecture as follows:

  • The art or practice of designing and constructing buildings;
  • The complex or carefully designed structure of something;
  • The conceptual structure and logical organization of a computer or computer-based system.

 

Architecture3 w copyright

 

Business Architecture refers to the coherent, conceptual and logical representation of the building blocks of how a business operates, where such building blocks are expressed as process, information, people and technology and, together, how these components relate to business strategy and execution.

It is art and science combined. Logical and analytical thinking is used as much as intuition and visualization. Applications-based methodologies and techniques are balanced with understanding of the business context, strategy, needs and goals.

Similar to how an architect designs a building for form, beauty and function, the Business Architect articulates the ‘blueprint’ of the business structure in ways that show the link to business outcomes and value, alignment to vision and strategy, and utility views according to functional or stakeholder interest.

Many businesses are exposed to globalization, the shrinking of the world by travel and digitization of information, the lowering of barriers to entry because of the ever-increasing speed of change, not just in technology but also in social interactions and growth of (human and machine) ecosystems.

In this complex and fast-changing environment, the usual (paper-based) ways of understanding how a large Enterprise operates and how it can change are no longer adequate. Recall the wheels inside wheels analogy — and imagine how a paper-based method can cope with such complexity and the pace of change that is required today.

(Mind-maps, sketches, diagrams, lists, process flows on Visio, Powerpoint or Word — they continue to be useful. But in the above context, they are not the right tools.)

It is in this rapidly evolving environment that Business Architecture has gained advocates.

What Is It For?

Business Architects build visual representations of the business structure — process, information, people and technology — in layers that can be dis-assembled (the closest analogy often used is that of a Lego set, but beware the limits of such an analogy!) to aid in the understanding of current state that spans across the company. These views can be tailored for a specific set of stakeholders, so the parts are seen in context of the whole. This understanding helps with and informs business decisions — for example, functional needs are seen in context of Enterprise needs.

Business Architecture has greater value when it is used to inform strategy and provides the logical inputs to business scenarios that drive strategic priorities. For example, if the business strategy specifies an ultra-agile and highly networked supply chain capability, Business Architecture can pinpoint where the capability is likely to be stretched across the Enterprise process (not just specific to the supply chain function itself) or points where it will fail.

There are other uses for Business Architecture than what I have described here. But this is a good start. (Other Uses of Business Architecture — that sounds like another post!)

Imagine when an Enterprise strategy includes the coherent view on what changes are required in its Business Architecture — process, information, people and technology  and prioritizes investment of its human and monetary capital in a more effective manner because of this information.

Do you have examples you can share about how Business Architecture is used in your organization?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

What do you think about this? I would like to hear from you.

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