What’s in your architecture?

Why the architecture has far-reaching effects and how to get it right before you invest in implementing it

architecture
Credit: Julien Belli

What would your business look like once a proposed technology is deployed? The picture is in what we will call business architecture. This architecture is the most important output from a process starting with technology selection and ending with definition of changes to business. Why is it so important?

Why architecture is the real thing

Business architecture has the most far-reaching effects. It indicates the presence or absence of fit between tech project and organizational strategic agenda. Business architecture becomes the business just like civil architecture becomes the building. It is this architecture that will be implemented — and deployed and used. Once it has been agreed on, it becomes almost impossible to fix it — unless more time and money could be spent on “cleanup” projects such as application re-engineering.

Clearly, it's crucial that your architecture has in it the right things designed the right way. What's in your architecture?

What you may not want in your architecture

Does your architecture show a mere piece of technology to be added to your organization? Forrester Research founder George F. Colony has warned, "...if you inject technology and don't actually change the way you do work, you will get very low returns if any, and you may likely in fact disrupt ongoing, very healthy (business) processes." In almost all cases, a business architecture that is updated with only an additional piece of technology is unlikely to be the best thing to happen to an organization.

Let's imagine another situation. Does your architecture attempt to show something elaborate? Is it an enterprise architecture? Check out Gartner's list of pitfalls if you are considering creating an enterprise architecture. In today's era of transient strategy and agility, should you really be launching an enterprise-wide initiative?

What you do want in your architecture

If you want your tech project to contribute to the organization's strategy, you need an architecture that has strategic potential. Often, such an architecture has neither too little, nor too much. It will have the right blend of technology and business innovation. How do you come up with such an architecture?

The concept of reservoir

Well, you need to use a strategy-driven approach to discover and design what we will call a "reservoir." Like an oil reservoir, your reservoir would be a great find because it would have the potential to generate the outcomes you need. Your reservoir would be a set of business elements (processes and assets including technology) having the potential to contribute to the organization’s strategy – if redesigned in specific ways.

End note

So, to ensure that your architecture has the right thing designed the right way, you need to do two substantial activities. First, step outside the functional boundaries of a proposed piece of technology and locate the coordinates of a set of business elements having strategic potential. Then, integrally redesign or innovate this set with the goal of realizing strategic potential.

Business architecture, indeed, has the most far-reaching effects. And it's crucial to get it right before you invest in implementing it.

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