Business Architecture (BA) is a really hot topic these days. A few years back it was a topic that people either didn’t talk about or they avoided it. Over the past year or two I have noticed it’s frequency increase a great deal. I think the reason it comes up so much is that we as Enterprise Architects are desperately trying to solve the root business challenges instead of implementing technology for technology sake.
In this post I will reflect on the two part surveys The Open Group conducted over a few months back. Kudos to them for conducting this in a crowd sourced / practitioner based way and not going into an academic debate over this topic. This is as real world as you can get.
Before we go into the survey I think there is a broader context I want to highlight and take a step back. I believe that Business Architecture is not ply part of EA but also key to EA success.
Business Architecture is Core to the New World of Enterprise Architecture
[UPDATED Gartner Research]
Based on a double blind 2011 worldwide survey and a 2012 survey of Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit attendees in the US and Europe, Gartner finds that the vast majority of organizations are focusing their EA efforts on how they can drive business value (including IT), not just on driving IT decisions.
In a June 2012 survey, they find that 80% of organizations are focused on how they can leverage EA to either:
- Aligning business and IT strategies (25%)
- Delivering strategic business and IT value (39%)
- Enabling major business transformation (16%)
They also find that 67% of organizations are either: starting (39%), restarting (7%) or renewing(21%) their EA efforts. A point to note that many of the organizations that state that they are "starting EA for the first time" are actually "restarting" because we have talked to them in the past – it is just that the current EA leaders don’t know that there previous efforts.
See more in: Hype Cycle for Enterprise Architecture, 2012
Wow, those are big numbers behind the refocusing . I was very surprised to see that the number was so high. The next set of statements from Gartner was that those new and restarted EA organizations are not rebooting with the same concepts they had in the past but rather business oriented ones instead. That then drives for a much stronger focus on Business Architecture.
With these data points from the analysts and from what I see with customers I certainly see the tide shifting. There is a readiness factor to all of this though. Of the total customers I work with, I would say that currently there are very few that are performing what I would call an end-to-end BA practice. Of that base there is a growing community of EA’s very ready to do BA or have started in some way but again still small. The largest population I’ve seen are the ones willing entertain the notion because they realize that keeping their heads out of the sand only focusing on technology hasn’t given them overwhelming success.
Evidence shows that business leaders are sick of the IT status quo and are making drastic shifts. IT is getting run by more and more business professionals. Both Gartner and Forrester agree that there is a new breed of the CIO. This person is one that comes from business background and runs IT as such. Gartner says 46% of today’s CIO comes from a business background. This is compounded by other roles taking on IT. Like at NASCAR, the CMO has a large stake in big data and pulling in the IT budget as his own. This is becoming increasingly popular with CMOs but also COOs as well.
The bottom line for me is that this wave is coming, either we can be on top or get swept by it and pulled under by the current.
What is Business Architecture – By The Open Group Survey Members
Back in April 2013, the president of the Open Group, Allen Brown surveyed Australian and New Zealand Architects on their views of Business Architecture. The post was called, "What is Business Architecture".
Some of the questions asked were:
- What is Business Architecture in the context of your organization?
- Do you have Enterprise Architects in your organization? If so, what is it that you do that they do not? If not, how do you see Business Architecture differently from Enterprise Architecture?
- Who do you report to? Is your line of reporting up to the CIO, the COO if you have one, or other senior level person?
- How is Business Architecture perceived in your organization? It would also help me if I knew something about your organization.
Allen says it well on the state of Business Architecture:
The first level of analysis, which should come as no surprise is that Business Architecture is a relatively new discipline for most organizations: in most cases it has been around for between 1 and 5 years. Described by some as a growing capability, or as immature, or even as “largely missing”. One respondent describes herself quite rightly as a pioneer.
I personally feel you would be hard pressed to find any one individual or organization that is an authority on Business Architecture. Myself included here. I am very much along for the ride to see where this leads as well. Now with that said I certainly have perspective on the field and want to evolve it to the best of my abilities. As with the other architects that participated in the survey, we all have our own unique perspectives on the matter. With that are success stories that are largely situational in nature and don’t represent the profession.
This is a challenge that we need to be mindful of. We don’t have a baseline that is universally accepted from a BA perspective. Meaning that without universally accepted outcomes of doing things with common roles and approaches our "mileage will vary". It just will not be repeatable and predictable for the masses. So while it may work in unique situations, once you go outside of that the value may diminish.
I say that because most practitioners, including myself have made our own way through BA. What this leads to is lot of independent thoughts, methods, misconceptions, etc. around this discipline of BA. You can see evidence of this in Nick Malik’s blog post about Business Architecture definitions. We are all over the map.
These architects surveyed see this as an issue. They want standardization from both a broad industry perspective and their respective industries.
A recurring theme was that the ability to have a company-wide or industry-wide model was critical as it provides a common terminology across the board to what the organization actually does and enables understanding of the implications of any changes.
Which of the five interrogative’s do business architects focus on?
In the post some of the surveyed architects said that BA focuses on the "what" part of the equation. An area of clarif
ication that I would add to the comments is in regards to BA’s only focusing on "What" the business is. I don’t think this gives the BA its full justice.
In my opinion, I see the common mistake that business architect make is that they focus on what the business currently is, instead of focusing on what the business should be. You need both views to guide you. Business Capability Models (BCM) do a great job of addressing "what" the business is. But if you don;t understand the motivations and value creation and ultimately realization you are left with a context-less and a risk of a flawed BCM.
Business Architecture in my opinion all boils down to rationalizing "Why". To be explicit, rationalizing and not creating the business strategy.
Below is a model I have used to articulate this:
I believe the surveyed architects nailed the BA focus with the following listed:
- Understanding strategic themes and drivers
- Modeling value chains, value streams, configurations
- Context modeling e.g. external interactions
- Capabilities, including business capability, service capability (including both business and IT capabilities), capability maturity, targets and gaps
- Calling out the interdependencies of all the business and architecture domains: strategy, governance, market, distribution, product, capability
- Design – entities, people (organization structure, incentives), process, systems, functions, roles
- Linking with and supporting the strategy and injecting into the investment planning cycle
- The Business Architect provides processes, part of the input and information for the business to determine whether or not any investment will be made within their organisation
The only thing I would add here is that while models, templates and tools are good and helpful, we need to be wary not to develop a model for a models sake. Business Architecture facilitates the process of understanding the business and how to improve it based on that analysis. In other words it’s not about the destination (models and tools) but the journey (collaboration, ideation, rationalization, negotiation, etc.).
Again, a big thank you to the Open Group for conducting the survey and distilling the results for all of us. Much appreciated.