NOTE: When I refer to “Business Architects” here, I am referring to anyone playing the role of the business architect. This could be business managers, enterprise architects, business analysts, strategists, etc. We don’t need the title of business architect to be one. When we do “business architecture things” we are acting as business architects.
There are many ways to define business architecture but most current definitions are not very helpful. I think we can arrive at a better definition by spending more time looking at the attributes of both the architecture and the architects that produce it. Here are six things business architects do – though not every business architect does them all.
I was struck by the juxtaposition of two articles on the front cover of the Sept-Oct issue of Harvard Business Review. At the top of the cover is GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s article on leading transformation – by all accounts a daunting and messy business, often with mixed results. The feature article below it is about the “overcommitted organization.” It overwhelms the page.
When business models change, as they do in many industries, a lot must happen to reinvent the business. Without a clear, compelling and consistent strategic focus, leaders can overload the organization with unnecessary projects and burn out its “precious resources”— the key talent in the organization.
The business architect’s core role is to help his or her organization change. We might do this in a variety of ways from analyzing the application portfolio to designing and managing the strategy-to-execution process and a lot of things in between. However we approach facilitating change, there are three core elements we have to get right.
Change is the core ingredient to organizational success. To put it bluntly, if you can’t change, and change rapidly, you can’t exist. At least not for long. In today’s world, the ability to change is a requirement for success, both business success and personal success. As business architects, it is essential that we identify and nurture the specific capabilities necessary for change. But do we?
More and more of today’s business transactions require customer involvement in the product or service. Customers now print and scan their own airline and movie tickets, perform banking transactions, and order just about anything online. The result is more touch points with the customer, an increase in self-service options, and a heavier reliance on peer ratings.
Bottom line: It is imperative to give customers a great and effortless experience.
Similar to how companies apply rigor in their lean/six sigma work, here are some tools for ensuring a great customer experience.
In my last post, I laid out the first three steps in creating a people centric architecture: 1. creating a rationalized organizational chart, 2. Creating a function model, and 3. Mapping the function model to the capability model (and the value stream model, if you have one). What you have at this point is a strong connection between people, the functions they perform, and the capabilities they need to perform them. Unfortunately, this is the easy part.
My previous two posts focused on why a people centric architectural view is important and what a people centric business architecture might include. Since I have never actually seen a people centric business architecture, nor created one, I decided to challenge myself by digging a little deeper into how one would go about actually creating one. This will be a multi-step process.
In business, as with life, you can’t do everything and of the things you decide to do, you can’t be the “best” in every facet. Resource constraints lead to competency trade-offs which require businesses to make tough decisions regarding the expenditure of time, money, and human capital. When weighing such opportunities, a business should first understand its capabilities. Truly understanding a businesses’ capabilities means much more than the identification of said capabilities. Mapping out the future-state of a business will allow an organization to categorize capabilities into three buckets: Strategic, Core, and Enabling.
Business architects are largely on the wrong track. They are focused on how to create a well-structured business architecture instead of how to create well-architected organizations. What is our mission, our goal? It isn’t to build a blueprint of the organization and it isn’t to describe our organization’s operating model in terms of capabilities and processes. Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to architect organizations for long-term success and sustainability. That requires much more than capability maps and value streams. At a minimum, it requires an engaged and motivated workforce.
In my last blog I talked about how an amazing non-profit, called the Wonderfund, used contemporary business tools to completely reinvent itself. As a result, there were 3 key takeaways that I believe all non-profit organizations could benefit from knowing.
Which is more important to your organization’s success: people, process, technology, or information? Yes, I know, they are ALL important but the question is which is most important. Hopefully your answer is “people”, but do you really believe it? I see process centric architectures, technology centric architectures, and capability centric architectures. What I don’t see however are people centric architectures. The question is why? If people are our most valuable resource, if they are the most important element in business success, then why aren’t we placing them at the core of our architectural efforts?
An enterprise organizational chart of the entire management team. I assume most of you have this or at least can get a view from your HR department. Organizational charts are easy to create but don’t offer much value from an architectural perspective.
A function model. Similar to an organizational chart but listing the functions performed by each team. Once you have this, it is fairly easy to map to your capability and value stream models.
A competency model. While a function model describes what people do to fulfill the mission, the competency model describes what people are capable of doing. This seems essential to me when designing change initiatives but we seem to totally ignore potential in all of our models.
A network diagram. A network diagram describes how people (or functions) in the organization communicate outside of the formal process structure. You might also think of this as a relationship diagram depicting the informal relationships among individuals and teams.
A context model. A context model describes the way the organization is designed to work and might include such items as values, management style, incentive systems, motivation efforts, and the external and internal pressures currently being exerted on the organization.
A culture model. A culture model describes how the organization really does work. Sometimes it is working as designed but most often it is not. Everyone knows how powerful culture can be but almost no one has a model that helps them understand what their culture means to change initiatives.
The bottom line:_________________________________________________________________
Building a people centric architecture, or at least having a strong people centric view within your architecture, will be the defining element of business architecture success in the future.
Perhaps one of the toughest jobs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is being a Child Welfare Social Worker for the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Servicing over 50,000 children at any point during the year (a number which is sadly growing) this organization is responsible for looking after our state’s most vulnerable children.