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.
Clarify strategy – Executives and other business leaders are typically responsible for creating strategic direction and goal setting. They may engage a host of internal and external experts to help them understand the pressures, opportunities, and constraints, but it is typically their responsibility to ensure the company is on the right path. Business architects may play a part in helping define the strategy but more often their role is creating a more structured view of the strategy work so that it can easily be communicated to and consumed by others within the organization.
Provide a contextual viewpoint – Once an organization takes on a problem, it becomes highly focused. We have all learned that getting a laser like focus on our problems is critical to solving them and management strongly encourages this view. But as people start narrowing their focus on problem details they often lose sight of important contextual factors that can significantly affect the outcome. These may be as clear as external competitive influences and opportunities to collaborate with others inside the organization or less obvious challenges with culture or politics and conflicts with other activities in other organizations. One of the architect’s roles is to ensure the bigger picture isn’t lost as focus increases.
Assess capabilities and assets – Once organizations have defined their strategies (or potential strategies) the next question is: “Do we have what we need to realize the strategies we have defined?” Answering this requires an in-depth understanding of the current assets and capabilities at the organization’s disposal. Business architects can provide a clear picture of the capability gaps that must be closed in order to realize the organization’s strategy by applying tools such as value stream and capability map analysis.
Create investment models – There is always a limit to discretionary funding and most organizations identify more work than they can afford to fund. Business architects create investment models that articulate which investments best support the organization’s strategic objectives. They help business leaders understand the tradeoffs among proposed projects which enables faster and more productive decision making.
Structure the approach to complex problems – Most problems are relatively straightforward to solve. That doesn’t mean they are easy, just that we understand the process and can create a clear path to the solution. Business architects often get involved with complex or wicked problems. These types of problems require a unique approach that is based on the problem itself. They require a different type of thinking - not a different methodology. Savvy business architects can help their organizations think about these types of problems differently.
Identify opportunities – Much of the modeling business architects do is focused on identifying existing problems and opportunities for improvement. These frequently take the form of cost savings, process improvements, or technology consolidation. Savvy business architects also look for business opportunities such as leveraging capabilities in new ways and strategic outsourcing.
Measure strategic effectiveness – One of the biggest challenges for many organizations is understanding how effective their strategies are in terms of meeting goals. Organizations tend to measure what they have (or understand) as opposed to what really matters. Even if all the projects designed to implement a strategy are successfully implemented, the two most important questions remain: “Did we effectively implement the strategy?” and “Did the strategy produce the expected results?” Though few business architects are at this stage of maturity, this is a goal all should strive for.
The Bottom Line ______________________________________________________________
Business architects have a wide range of options for how they spend their time and energy. There will never be enough time to do everything you want to do so pick your opportunites carefully.