by Peter B. Nichol

How BRMs can tap into the value of business architecture

Jan 23, 2018
CIOIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Wondering how to drive value realization through an enterprise? The blueprint of the enterprise holds many answers.

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Walk into a leadership meeting and ask the following question: “Who here has experience working with business architectures?” You’ll get about the same response as you would by asking, “Who could use a coffee right about now?” Everyone knows, but no one can explain.

Business architecture is an enterprise blueprint. It defines the organizational structure of governance, business process, and business information. Business architectures offer a holistic view of strategy, operations, and technology. A typical business architecture includes three parts:

  1. Strategy: external vision, strategic intent, strategic priorities, and competency map.
  2. Structure: capability map or capability hierarchy, value chain, and competencies
  3. Operational: operational context, business service, and means of enabling

How does business architecture fit into the organization? Where does it live? Who owns it? Many businesses design and redesign themselves to find the optimal organizational structure.

Business architecture deals with business issues. Other architectures address different enterprise concerns:

  1. Business architecture: business processes, organization, and people
  2. Application architecture: services, products, and interactions
  3. Information architecture: data, information, and knowledge
  4. Technology architecture: hardware, software, network, etc.

When framing the business architecture content, determine to which level you’ll apply the business architecture: macro (target state), strategic (current state), segment or program (delivery-focused), or project (oversee alignment of IT). Additionally, ensure that the right players are present. Typically, you’ll need three core members’ roles: business architects, business analysts, and technology architects (solution, information, technology).

Curious parallels

CIOs engage business relationship managers to be catalysts for change. The success of their role is determined by demand shaping, exploring, servicing, and value harvesting. Discussions are more conducive to progress if there’s a governing document to initiate these dialogues. That document is the business architecture.

Business starts discussions around innovation and digital transformation with its business architecture in hand. Customer experiences, science, and technology are reshaping the expectations of “good.” Identifying new business insights isn’t a matter of knowing the existing business technology but rather how the business is architected. It’s this architecture that’s undergoing a reevaluation of its business scaffolding, and this is accelerated by the urgency to stay relevant and to make business delivery amidst environmental drivers, which constantly threaten existing organizational structures.

Business architecture has four goals:

  1. Business and technology transformation
  2. Business and technology effectiveness
  3. Business and technology efficiency
  4. Business and technology alignment

Doesn’t this sound remarkably similar to the objectives of a relationship manager? When kicking off your next change initiative, ask about the business architecture. It’s your blueprint for enabling change.

Selecting the right stone

At first, it may seem that the many architecture frameworks options all look alike. But as you do the more comprehensive analysis, you’ll observe that each has subtle strengths and weaknesses. All architectures—and business architectures are no exception—have three key elements: (1) a taxonomy of the deliverables, (2) a description of the methods, and (3) a definition of skills. These three elements are the best factors to evaluate frameworks under consideration.

Business architecture connects the business model with the organizational strategy. These are the most common approaches and frameworks for business architecture:

  1. Zachman Framework (Zachman): an ontology for enterprise architecture
  2. The Object Management Group (OMG): architecture-driven modernization
  3. The Business Architecture Guild: business architecture body of knowledge (BIZBOK)
  4. The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF): enterprise architecture for designing, planning, implementing, and governing

Of course, there are dozens more including: Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF), Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), CIM Open System Architecture (CIMOSA), ArchiMate, Integrated Architecture Framework (CG IAF), British Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework (MODAF), and Extended Enterprise Architecture Framework (E2AF).

TOGAF, FEA, and Zachman are the most widely adopted.

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The Object Management Group summarized well the key functions provided by a complete business architecture:

  1. Business strategy: art and science of implementing long-term objectives
  2. Business capabilities: how service, products, and interactions are provided
  3. Value streams: the series of events that takes a product, service, or interaction from beginning to end; how value is delivered
  4. Business knowledge: insights and business practices created by industry, organizational, or solution experience
  5. Organizational view: delineation of relationships by roles

Change is hard. It requires an insightful awareness of the belief systems, values, and behaviors you’re attempting to influence. Knowledge of the business, application, information, and technology architectures is useful.

If you want to change beliefs, begin with the blueprint of your enterprise—the business architecture.