by Gordon Barnett

Effective business architecture enables CIOs to deliver on strategy

Nov 11, 20124 mins
IT Strategy

For many companies, business architecture is a fairly new function. However, as large, complex organisations recognise the planning and change management gaps that an organised approach to business architecture can address, many are placing a new emphasis on the position.

The business architect role must have a balance of core hard and soft skills. Core hard skills are essential for developing the architectural artifacts that assist decision-making. Soft skills enable the business architect to effectively collaborate with the various contributors to the business architecture.

Through this shift, one of the major challenges facing organisations is determining how to best acquire and organise the business architecture role and resources.

Forrester’s Business Architecture playbookoutlines the key team deployment options exercised today and suggests that as business architecture matures within an organization, it must also evolve toward a centre of excellence (COE).

One of the biggest lessons learned by organisations undertaking business transformation initiatives over the past decade has been the need for formal teams of experts to provide leadership, to evangelise, best practices, research, support, and training.

The business architecture COE should focus on business architecture best practices to address the challenges faced by the organisation and prioritised by the senior executive. It also allows for a distributed BA practice where individual business architects can still have direct reporting to a business executive, but without the lack of synchronisation a purely decentralised model brings.

The biggest challenge for any COE is to prevent the organisation from falling back into silo-driven practices. Some benefits of the business architecture COE are that it is the definitive source of business architecture communication, research, analysis, and implementation understanding.

Acting as a custodian, the COE ensures unrestricted access is given to all stakeholders. The COE will also proactively manage and market the adoption of business architecture best practices. Finally, it will assess the skillset and competencies of the organisation staff, review transformation initiatives, and recommend development and training to maintain and enhance the delivery of the strategic transformation initiatives.

The “Practice Of BA” Requires Contributions From Outside The Core Team

Effective business architecture enables an organisation to execute its strategy and realise its vision. Thus, the business architecture must accurately reflect the organisation through all the stages of its evolution. It is important to recognise that there are major contributors to the business architecture other than the business architecture team, with which the team should build relationships that ensure that the right information is provided at the right time. The key contributors to business architecture should include the corporate strategy team, line-of-business executives, operations managers, and business process analysts, financial experts and enterprise architecture as well as IT teams.

While a business-sponsored business architecture practice may be the ultimate goal, it might not be the best place to start. Business architecture practices mature over time, and their reporting lines should reflect this maturity. So, when considering the operating model, be sure to consider all the options and make sure that you choose the right approach for you organisation.

Once you choose the right approach, you need to identify the challenges you are likely to face, develop mitigation strategies, and integrate them into your day-to-day operating plan. As the business architecture practice matures, you would need to regularly reassess your structure and determine if your reporting line is still the best one for your situation.

Keep in mind that an effective business architecture practice requires the knowledge, skills, and competency of a wider community, so you should build relationships with Subject Matter Experts and collaborate with them to build business architecture.

About the author:

Gordon Barnett is a principal analyst serving Enterprise Architecture professionals at Forrester Research.