What is business architecture able to do for your business?
Business architecture is defined as “a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.” – BIZBOK® Guide
Over the last few years, the buzz and visibility of business architecture have been climbing steadily to the upper echelons of senior management offices. Frankly, like the proverbial elephant in the room, business architecture cannot be ignored forever. As a member of the Business Architecture Guild, or the “Guild” for short, I have seen the Guild as a major force behind the standardization of the business architecture practice. The Guild’s Business Architecture Book of Knowledge, or BIZBOK® Guide, is THE source of best practices for individuals all over the world that specialize in the study of business architecture. These individuals are known as “business architects”; perhaps you are one of them.
For many executives and business leaders, the idea of having a business architecture practice is still a fuzzy concept when compared to long-established groups like technical architecture and enterprise architecture. Some of their questions are: how can a business architect help my organization? What concrete value may I realize by funding a business architecture practice? It should be noted that the progressively elaborate expertise that business architecture brings to the table is valuable and essential to any organization, small or large.
Business Architecture as a Connector
Business architecture is the connecting link between the business model and the actual business’ operational functions. It is used to interpret, communicate, and coordinate the strategic and operational requirements. Business architecture provides a clear idea for the design of business transformation, including the development of information systems and associated infrastructure. If you ever wondered why it is that some enterprises achieve high levels of performance and strategy execution, and others do not, then I encourage you to gain an understanding of the “what and why” about business architecture and how it could fit into your own organization.
Over the next postings, we will look at some of the specific value propositions of business architecture. For now, the general consensus is that business architecture offers:
- a way to describe and visualize all of the key elements of a company.
- the establishment of a common vocabulary, shared vision, and a degree of transparency.
- fast situation analysis and exposes the root cause of critical issues and presents clear solutions.
- a formalized participation across the organization to better understand and manage opportunities, dependencies, and risks.
For example, one key source of value is that business architects enhance the enterprise’s ability to translate strategy into execution. A recent survey showed that chief executives are so concerned about strategy execution that they rated it as both their number one and number two most challenging issues. It’s estimated that more than half of corporate strategies are not successfully implemented! Business architecture links strategy to execution and offers the unique ability to visualize interconnections, overlaps, and synergies. Modern businesses must be flexible, adaptable, and agile to gain competitive advantage. Many businesses suffer from strategy-to-execution gaps, and this is one particular field where business architecture brings the most value.
Business Architecture as a Change Agent
Another interesting value proposition is that business architects themselves are agents of change by using business architecture principles and best practices to agitate and initiate action. In some ways, a business architect is to a company what a general practice doctor is to a patient. Doctors have the expertise and skills to understand the essential capabilities of the human body, assess current performance against benchmarks, identify pain points, diagnose problems, or identify anything that needs attention from a general perspective. I am oversimplifying here, but general practice doctors must be masters of the “what and why,” along with enhancing that coveted trusted adviser relationship with the patients. They also know when and where to refer a patient to the appropriate specialist when niche expertise is required (the “how, when, and where” side of the equation). This is a simple example, but I hope it provides some understanding of the business architect’s role.
What are the dynamics in your organization when it comes to business architecture? Is business architecture understood and implemented as a valuable contributor to the enterprise? Or, is business architecture still fuzzy in the mind of executives? How much support is your organization providing to the progressive elaboration of a well-established business architecture practice?
Regardless of your current role, business architecture cannot be ignored for long. Like ignoring a regular medical checkup may be okay in the short-term, a sudden visit to the emergency room is not the most pleasant way to realize that an “ounce of prevention” goes a long way.