In our world where data is ubiquitous and we have information about everyone and everything, I often reflect that there is still one place where it lacking: the holistic set of information about how our organizations work. Business architecture helps to answer this need. It provides a reusable business knowledgebase that can be consulted again and again to understand what an organization does today and how it is planned to evolve over time.
I am delighted to see the continued focus on and adoption of business architecture globally, including within the SAP community. However, I find that while people are often aligned on the essence of business architecture, the interpretation of it in practice can vary quite a bit. This is partially due to the fact that the discipline has grown up quite a bit over time, and it has evolved and become more formalized. Importantly, business architecture is not only part of the enterprise architecture umbrella, but it has also become a business discipline that is a critical foundation for strategic change.
Five Things to Know About Business Architecture Evolution
Here are five key takeaways that summarize the most recent thinking and practice around the discipline.
1. The business ecosystem represented by business architecture has formalized and expanded.
While capabilities are still the heart of a business architecture – coupled closely with value streams – the full ecosystem includes a total of ten domains which represent different business perspectives. Business architecture can and should also be cross-mapped to domains within other disciplines as well. For example, capabilities and value streams may be cross-mapped to customer journeys, processes, software applications and services, and requirements. This also means that a business architecture now represents a more macro level view of an organization and connects to the more detailed perspectives of processes, systems, and other components.
Note: The ten domains defined within the circle above are from the BIZBOK® Guide by the Business Architecture Guild®.
In addition, the definition of these ten domains and their relationships (the business architecture metamodel) is in the process of becoming a formal standard through the Object Management Group (OMG). This will lead to greater consistency in practice as well as new opportunities around tooling.
2. The scope of a business architecture represents an organization and the ecosystem in which it operates.
Business architecture creates the greatest business value and impact when it is practiced as an enterprise discipline, not as a toolbox of available techniques. (In other words, it is a reusable knowledgebase from which blueprints and views can be generated – not a set of standalone, one-time artifacts.)
Organizations have plenty of fragmented views and techniques today – business architecture gives us an opportunity to do things differently. It is a refreshing view of the whole that unites people around one shared mental model, unified across business units, products, and geographies.
As a result, the scope of a business architecture is intended to represent the entire scope of what an organization does and the ecosystem in which it operates (unless it is a conglomerate or other situation warranting separate business architectures). Additionally, a business architecture should be business-focused, business-driven, and business-owned.
3. Business architecture works in an ecosystem of partners.
Business architecture is not a silver bullet or a standalone discipline. It works in close partnership with an entire ecosystem of teams to design an organization that can deliver on its promise to customers or constituents, execute strategy, and transform when necessary. As part of this, certainly the disciplines of business architecture and business process management partner closely.
One of the key indicators of business architecture maturity within an organization is how integrated it is with other functions, disciplines, and organizational processes for strategy, planning, transformation, innovation, solution development, risk management, procurement, compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and many others. To truly succeed, any approach must be multidisciplinary.
4. The why of business architecture is what matters.
While the process of creating a business architecture reveals new insights and ah-ha moments for those involved, ultimately an organization’s business architecture is a means to an end. Like a Swiss army knife, business architecture offers a variety of value propositions. However, I like to categorize those value propositions within a few common themes:
Facilitating effective strategy to execution
Improving and evolving (or initially creating) the design of organizations and business ecosystems
Informing decision-making with a holistic view
Delivering business value is the reason that architecture exists. It’s not about the models. Lead with value, build as you go has become a mantra for successful business architecture teams worldwide.
5. Business architecture is increasingly leveraged and positioned as a key enabler of end-to-end strategy execution.
Business architecture is a bridge between strategy and execution, critical for business transformation and organizational agility. Its value as a tool of strategic management and strategic planning is being increasingly recognized by organizations, industry associations, academic institutions, and even mainstream business literature.
Business architecture plays a role throughout the entire path from strategy to execution, though it is most focused upfront (along with enterprise architecture) to inform and translate strategies and other business direction into an aligned, cohesive set of actions execution across people, processes, and technology. Business architecture also provides the end-to-end traceability that aligns strategies, architecture, investments, initiatives, and outcomes on an ongoing basis.
This positioning is helping business architecture to increasingly resonate with an executive and business audience – and draws the rest of the enterprise architecture team further upstream into a more strategic context and into the right conversations.
What does all of this mean and where do we go from here?
I think this is a key question for discussion by this community. What opportunities does the contemporary practice and positioning of business architecture offer for strategic engagement upstream, expanded value for clients, additional product support, and more?
We all play an important role in continuing to test, shape, and advance this discipline together to maximize its business value. There is a tremendous opportunity to help organizations not only address their needs and realities of today, but to also help them embrace an even greater level of strategic change tomorrow, with business architecture as a foundation.