The definition of business architecture, is to provide a common and consistent view and definition of the organization and to align strategy with tactical execution. Business architects are known as the subject matter experts that perform this type of work.
Though there are quite a few success stories with the practice of business architecture, the message is not resonating with senior leaders. Business leaders are just not understanding the value as they seem to think because the business is “marginally” successful and there is no need to change. However, other companies that have implemented a business architecture group are seeing greater returns in productivity revenue increase in double digits, as well as a more efficient work force.
Business architecture has some great benefits, which includes; establishing transparency across business units, product lines, cross functional teams, and the overall business vision. Allows for the creation of road maps so clear blue prints are established and can be understood and followed across the enterprise.
Miscommunication amongst departments and division is one of the key inhibitors to companies being successful. Business architecture helps companies create that common vocabulary and lexicon when discussing things like customers, profit, product, and vendors. Poor communications can create situations that lead to duplicative work or poorly implemented process and or systems, and could also lead to missed opportunities, and loss of revenue. The example below is a real-world scenario.
A company’s IT infrastructure group was trying to implement an enterprise wide monitoring solution for the infrastructure systems. The infrastructure group made assumptions in requirements that were needed at the divisions and the site level. This caused the solution to continue to be in re-work and re-configuration mode because the implementation team continued to struggle to re-architect whilst rebuilding. A local site team, ended up developing their own monitoring solution through custom development and freeware tools. The amount of time and money spent so far, and we still do not have a consistent enterprise monitoring solution. Architecture in general could have enabled this to be a successful deployment or at the very least, would have showed that this would not have worked to begin with, without the investment in all the time and money.
Digital has become the latest buzz word with regards to the next generation of business. The question is what does that really mean, digital business? Some describe digital business as business that has an internet presence, or a business that has a web site, maybe takes payments over the internet. I think it is much more than that. Digital business is all things digital to enable the business. For example; automated business processes, data driven decision making, continuous improvement and having a direct and immediate pulse on your customer’s needs and wants.
Three fundamental changes when transforming your company to digital are, recruit talent that is enthusiastic about the vision and technically proficient, prioritize speed of delivery over perfection and introduce a mile-stone based method of project delivery. Very iterative and keeping continuous improvement in mind.
Recruiting talent, has changed in the sense of the who and how. Talent in the digital world consists of expertise in the following areas, data science, IoT developers, user experience design experts, and product owners. These are quite different than the traditional, software developers, server and network engineers and ERP engineers. The way to recruit this talent has changed as well. No longer can we rely on traditional job postings in mainstream job sites or periodicals. Companies must use multiple channels and market and sell their brand like selling a customer they must convince an employee prospect as to why work at their company.
In addition to retaining top talent, digital businesses must adopt a concept of fast iteration. Either with their products or services or both. Working a product to perfection will almost certainly take too long to deliver and another company will almost certainly beat you to the punch. Companies need to think of the minimal viable product and be sure that what they are delivering is something the customer either wants or solves a problem for them. Otherwise, there really is no need to have the product or service.
Follow the data; digital businesses need to understand the value of data and begin to use the data to make decisions. If something is not selling or customer response is less than desirable companies must understand this quickly and adjust their products or services. The only way to understand this at a fast paced is to create a data analytics solution that allows for this type of information to be gathered, analyzed and acted upon.
Business Architecture Failures
Why has it been so difficult to implement business architecture in the enterprise? One reason could be that the role of enterprise architecture is not fully understood and can sometimes be confused with other roles such as business analysts, systems analysts and requirement engineers. Given this ambiguity it can be confusing for leaders to understand the value and at which level in the organization. The industry has also created confusion in that Business Architecture has not been promoted as something that falls under the umbrella of Enterprise Architecture, thus giving it some clarity and relationship within the organization.
What should companies do to implement a successful Business Architecture program? At a very high level start small, enlist executive support and have a clear and direct line of sight into the value of the program and its deliverables.
If there is a new transformational initiative underway, this might be a good opportunity to enlist a business architecture approach. Ensure there is executive support and understand the roles and deliverables by all parties. It is important to capture lessons learned, as there will probably be many and continue to improve the process and the documents. This is an iterative process and should have a continuous improvement loop as part of this program.