The first question I usually ask my business architect clients is “why do you want to be a business architect?” I think it is particularly telling that almost none of them can tell me. What I am trying to get at here is the motivation for becoming a business architect. As it turns out, this is a difficult question for most people to answer. Not because it takes a lot of data gathering and complex analysis but because it takes serious introspection and self-understanding. Here are some of the reasons people give me that are really bad reasons for becoming a business architect.
A passion for modeling
It is certainly true that models are an essential element of business architecture and that business architects spend a significant amount of their time building models – probably too much time. But, models are a means to an end. They are just tools. Architects frequently become so enamored with their models that they see the model itself as the business architect’s deliverable. This leads to overly complex models that that don’t resonate with business leaders. Good modeling will not make you a successful architect. Successful architects will create good models. A good question for business architects everywhere: Could you get the business architecture results you want without using models? Think about it.
A desire for influence
Many new business architects expect to gain a greater amount of influence through the practice of architecture. They see working with executives and senior leaders on strategic issues as giving them more influence on the direction and outcome of their organization’s strategies. What they quickly come to understand is that it is their lack of personal credibility and influence which holds them back from being a successful architect. Being a business architect gives you zero influence. Creating influence does make you a successful business architect.
Many technical architects, business analysts, project managers, and others see business architecture as a step up the career ladder which I think it is. The problem is that there is no clear next step after business architecture. I interviewed twelve successful senior business architects in Fortune 500 companies. Not one had a clear picture of a logical next career step. Business architecture does get you exposure to a wider group of leaders and experience working closer to your company’s strategic agenda, both of which might lead to new opportunities. But if this is your major driver for becoming a business architect you should give your next step some thought.
Interest in strategy development
Very few business architects play a role in strategy development. The successful ones do play a major role in strategy execution helping to clarify, communicate, and organize strategic activities. There are a very small number of business architects who assist strategists and business leaders with the strategy development process, providing tools, techniques, and facilitation to enable better strategy development. But they rarely influence the actual direction.
The bottom line:
Business architecture is a great profession. People are attracted to it for a variety of reasons. The problem is they have rarely thought about what those reasons are. Some misunderstand the role. Some are driven by ego and control needs. Some are simply naïve. The essential question for you is: “Why do you want to be a business architect?”