What does it take to start a business architecture practice?

by Jeff Scott, on Jan 10, 2017 10:19:02 AM

gear head.pngI’ve been thinking about the business architecture profession – where we are and where we want to go. Though the concept of business architecture arose in the late 1990s it was really just ten years ago that we started to see practices start up and the initial ideas for the profession get defined. After a decade of progress (and struggle) it is a good time for some taking stock and reflecting on what we have accomplished and where we go from here. Here is my take on one reason business architecture is moving so slowly.

There is a vast gap between business architecting and starting a business architecture practice.

Business architecture has generated a lot of interest. Enterprise architects, business analysts, management consultants, process engineers and a host of others have resonated with business architecture concepts. However, there is a huge gap between business architecting and starting a business architecture practice. Many people want to be business architects and most have the ability to succeed if they apply themselves. There are also a growing number of educational resources for the aspiring business architect. Unfortunately, there are very few places you can go to learn how to start, manage, and grow a business architecture practice and almost no education for business architecture leaders.

The reality is that your biggest challenge to Accelare - Business Arcchitect Attributesbecoming a professional business architect isn’t learning business architecture skills, it is finding a successful business architecture practice to work in. Why is this? I think at least part of the reason is that most people interested in business architecture don’t have the skills or inclination to start a practice while most of those with the right skills are drawn to more visible roles. Here are some of the skills and attributes you need to start and manage a successful business architecture practice:

1. First and foremost, you must be culturally and politically savvy. Culture and politics remain the number one challenge for business architecture startups. Business architecture rarely aligns with the organization’s status quo of low quality strategic communication, silo decision making, politically driven funding mechanisms, and cultures that discourage cooperation. And every organization has its political challenges. If you can’t manage the politics and culture, you won’t succeed at managing a business architecture practice.

2. You must have a vision. Starting a business architecture practice is a little like building a bridge as you walk on it. You have to know where you are going. I find it fascinating that business architects who focus largely on business strategy and roadmaps don’t apply these tools to themselves. For over a decade I have been talking about business architecture as an innovation. Innovators are visionaries. They know where they are going even if they don’t know how they will get there. They need strategies and roadmaps.

3. You must have robust influencing skills. This includes marketing and selling. It is unlikely that senior management is going to initiate a business architecture program and put you in charge. You have to sell the idea to them and then be a good enough influencer to convince other business leaders to use your services. No one, let me repeat, no one, is going to tell senior managers to follow your lead. You have to create followers.

4. You must be a risk taker. Sixty percent of new business architecture initiatives fail. Senior managers in your organization are not clamoring for business architecture. There are no templates for success. You have to find your own way and that means taking professional risks.

5. You have to be flexible. Successful business architecture leaders know they cannot force “industry standards” on their organizations and that they will often have to compromise with their clients. Pure business architecture may exist in books and classes but not in the real world. There, pragmatism and flexibility are what drive successful business architecture practices.

6. You need a fair amount of ambition and tenacity. Starting a business architecture practice is not for the faint of heart. For most it will be a difficult, painful, frustrating experience. You will likely have many failures before reaching success and even then your life will be precarious. Until business architecture becomes a well-know and sought after function by senior business managers you will have to endlessly “sell” business architecture and yourself.

What would you add to this list? Please post your thoughts or send me a note. Jeff.Scott@Accelare.com

The bottom line:_________________________________________________________________

Learning business architecture skills is easy. But starting and managing a business architecture practice is much, much harder. In many ways the attributes needed to manage a practice are totally different from the skills needed to be a good business architect.


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