Does a Common Business Architecture Definition Matter?

by Jeff Scott, on Jun 21, 2017 3:32:37 PM

gear head.pngI’ve been thinking about the business architecture profession – where we are and where we want to go. We have been at this for at least ten years with a lot of struggle and a little success. I think it is time we reflect on where we’ve been, where we are currently headed, and where we might like to go. This is the fourth post in the series, “Reimagining Business Architecture”. The ideas expressed here are meant to stir thought in the community and I would definitely like to hear yours.

Business architects have yet to settle on a common definition

Have you heard this one?

Three business architects walk into a bar. They order drinks and begin arguing various approaches of pursuing business architecture in their respective companies. Overhearing their discussion, the bartender asks them, “What is this business architecture stuff?” Three hours later the architects are drunk and the bartender is confused.

Three factors drive the variation in business architecture definitions:

1. The business architect’s experience.

Each business architect comes to the discipline with a different background and set of experiences. Enterprise architects look at business architecture as an extension of enterprise architecture with its blueprints and standards. Process management professionals see business architecture as a composite of the organization’s processes. Architects with business backgrounds see it as a problem solving and decision making approach. Perhaps even more importantly, since business architecture is very likely new to their organization (and to the architect herself) they bring a lot of who they are into the practice design. The more introverted, analytical business architects might focus more on modeling or process analysis while the more extroverted and people centric business architect might focus more on solutioning through consulting.

2. Each organization is unique.

The organization’s culture, design context, and political climate influence the approach to business architecture more than other roles. At the end of the day, succeeding at business architecture requires a wide collection of people at all levels of the organization coming to consensus on a direction and having the willingness to take action, often toward goals that might be good for the organization at large but not for them individually. Culture and politics are the most challenging aspects of practicing business architecture so it shouldn’t be surprising that business architects adapt their approaches to fit the reality on the ground.

3. The business architect’s perspective grows over time.

When you look at successful business architecture practices over time you see significant shifts in the architect’s perspective on of what business architecture is about. Most business architecture initiatives begin by looking for quick wins – often cost savings in IT. They are very analytical and operations focused. As they mature, business architecture teams focus more on decision making, investments, and strategy execution. The most mature business architecture practices focus on strategy realization and organizational transformation. Where the architect is on this journey significantly influences his perspective of what business architecture is.

The bottom line:

Business architects have yet to settle on an agreed upon common definition of their profession despite efforts from multiple professional organizations. Just how important is this?


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