The evolution of the business architect

The way we interact with business is changing, from online to offline. Organizations are going through fundamental upheaval. At the heart of this change is the business architect.

This article is a summary of a whitepaper by Mike Clark and Whynde Kuehn with the same title.

Role of the business architect

The business architect role was envisioned to be a strategic, senior role responsible for architecting new organizations or re-architecting aspects of existing ones in response to change. Because of technology, the volume and rate of change that organizations face has increased so significantly that most are performing enterprise-wide transformation and becoming more agile. Business architecture is a critical enabler of both, which is why there is more demand for the business architect role.

The three areas of responsibility which need to be addressed by business architects are:

  • Applying business architecture (strategy translator) – This includes using the business architecture in a variety of business scenarios to assess areas for improvement and changes necessary to carry out strategy or reshape the business.
  • Building a business architecture (map maker) – This includes creating and maintaining the business architecture knowledgebase and connecting it to domains outside of business architecture (e.g. customer journeys, processes, system applications).
  • Managing the practice (practice manager) – As the business architecture within an organization matures and the decision is made to establish a practice, this includes formalizing the supporting infrastructure such as role definition and organizational structure, training, methodology, governance and tools.

Table 1 below compares the roles of a business leader, a business architect and an execution role (e.g. a business analyst) for a common set of responsibilities.

roles and responsibilities of a business architect table 1 Whynde Kuehn and Mike Clark

Deployment of business architecture

How should an organization deploy the business architecture function? The business architecture team structure needs to be adaptable to meet the needs of an organization. In fact, in many cases, how business architects are deployed shifts over time to reflect an organization’s evolving needs and understanding of what the discipline can do.

While many business architects may have reported to the enterprise architecture leader or to the CIO in the past, there has been an ongoing shift for them to report to the business. Business architects are now often deployed as part of a dedicated business architecture practice or a multi-disciplinary team where they work on change initiatives, applying business architecture to various scenarios and scopes of the business. As business architecture becomes truly embedded into an organization, business architecture responsibilities can also become part of multiple people’s roles. In all cases, business architecture work should occur upstream before planning and execution versus at the project level or its effectiveness will be limited.

Maturity progression of a business architecture Function

The business architecture team structure defines how business architects will be assigned across one or more leaders. Some common options are having a fully centralized team, a fully decentralized team, or a full hub and spoke (hybrid) operating model. Table 2 below describes each team structure option, the level of business architecture maturity it is best suited for, and pros and cons.

business architecture team structure table 2 Whynde Kuehn and Mike Clark

The choice of team structure is influenced by an organization’s business architecture maturity and other organizational dynamics.

Business architect career path

There are already multiple examples of how organizations have used business architecture to add value, and equally how the business architects at the heart of this have gained recognition across their community. What options are available for successful business architects to continue career growth? How can they be further leveraged throughout the organization? Here are some options that we’ve seen so far.

  • Business architecture specialist – This is the most obvious move, it provides the business architect a platform to become an industry-leading specialist. In this capacity, they can either lead practices or architect increasingly complex and large change initiatives.
  • Move to a role in the business (or IT) – We are already starting to see some senior business architects moving into the business. This may seem odd, but business roles such as product owners, strategists or even heads of business units are starting to become serious options for the next leg of a business architect’s career.
  • Become an interdisciplinary person in the startup world, which demands not only speed, but people with a variety of skills. Business architects are required to have a variety of skills, but also an awareness of business and operating models. These skills are valuable for any start up, and offer a business architect a unique career choice.
  • Become a management consultant.

What is hopefully obvious is that the role of a business architect is not constrained, and opens the door to numerous future opportunities.

Conclusion

What is clear is that changes in business architecture are going to accelerate as business and technology continue to evolve rapidly. Business architects have a clear role to play in this space. As they continue to transition from architect to leader, their value to organizations will become crucial.

For the individual, what was once seen as a niche discipline is now becoming more understood, and is starting to open numerous doors. Business architecture is now almost an expected competency, and provides numerous opportunities for new and experienced practitioners.

From driving forward strategy to participation in agile teams, the future has never looked so bright for the discipline of business architecture. To move forward, organizations must have a vision for how they want to deploy it and business architects must take control of their journeys.

The next five years of business evolution is clearly unpredictable, but with strong business architecture capabilities in place we are sure that organizations and individuals will be able to navigate the changeable conditions and leverage opportunities that lie ahead.

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