In my business architecture research, I have discovered three fundamental types of practices: struggling, succeeding, and sustaining. Struggling practices are typically early in their development – less than two years old – and are attempting to influence the organization to recognize business architecture’s value at some level, even if it is small in the beginning. This is by far the largest group of business architects.
Succeeding practices have been in place for three to five years and are having moderate to significant impact to some segment of the organization. They are rarely working organization wide and have yet to establish themselves as an integral part of the planning and strategy process. After a rapid rise from struggling to succeeding (for those who eventually make it) business architecture practices begin a slow expansion process rarely growing very far from their modeling roots.
Sustaining business architecture practices are very rare. They are differentiated from succeeding practices by the broad support the enjoy from senior management and their integration into the organization’s strategy and planning processes. Sustaining business architecture practices have almost always moved beyond their modeling roots, expanding their product set to include tools and processes typically used by management consultants.
Moving from successful to sustaining is a challenging process as most of what made architects successful in the beginning will not carry them into a sustaining practice. The tools, skills, and processes they need for success are quite different. The biggest challenge may be the need to shift from a “technical expert” to a leader of change.
To evolve from successful to sustaining, business architects need to:
Create a bold vision – I find it interesting (and just a little depressing) that few successful business architects have a vision that takes them much beyond where they are. If you want a widely recognized, impactful, and long-term sustainable business architecture practice, you need a bold vision of the future. You must think beyond traditional business architecture boundaries as well as your own team’s current abilities. If you don’t have a compelling vision of the future – you have no future.
Build a plan – A vision compels you to have a plan to realize it. The plans I create start out as a series of three-year or more roadmaps. I typically have separate roadmaps for product development, team development, partner engagement, and influence/impact growth. You might have others. I then block out the work in year stages and block out year one work into quarters. I then build a 90-day action plan that lays out exactly what the team will accomplish toward their vision in the next 90 days and specifically what each team member will do.
Deal with culture and politics – Research shows that culture and politics present the biggest obstacles for business architects, yet architects largely ignore them. If you want to have broad impact then you MUST deal with culture and politics. Yes, you may not be able to change your culture but you can definitely overcome its negative impact on your initiatives. The same goes for politics. The first step is recognizing that you can do something about it and add culture and political mitigation to your influence and growth plans.
Measure results – Like every meaningful endeavor, you need to measure your results, adjust accordingly, and keep moving ahead.
The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Business architecture is a tough business. Everyone struggles, most fail, a few succeed, and a very few sustain for the long run. If you want to win at business architecture, you need a vision, a plan, and a lot of persistence. Think big, act boldly, move fast.