Are we ready for a new C-Level Executive: The CBA?

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During lunch at the September 2006 BPMInstitute and BrainStorm Group conference in Washington, DC, Tom Dwyer and Eugene Lee posed an interesting question to the conference attendees. Who will fill the position of Business Architect for the enterprise? Almost immediately, hands were raised and one respondent suggested that an experienced and seasoned Enterprise Architect (EA) practitioner should fill the role. Another suggested a well rounded business operations person with an MBA. Tom allowed some discussion but moved off the topic in the interest of time. However, I believe a most interesting and spirited discussion would have ensued had time been available.

I certainly think we are ready to ask this question and perhaps answer it, too! Before we get to an answer, let's think for a few minutes about the needs and qualifications for a Business Architect. The enterprise needs Business Architects experienced in running crucial areas of business and with strategic prescience for designing the business of the future.

From the business perspective, some serious operational experience with the core business is a must, coupled with several assignments in key leadership positions. An MBA is certainly a welcomed addition to the profile as well as some professional training and various industry certifications. Participation in business architecture and process design projects, along with development and implementation of several important strategic initiatives that included defining the IT requirements and supporting technology are also required.

We must also consider the IT perspective, too! Since IT is an important enabler to a successful enterprise, some significant experience in systems development and integration is a must. Expertise from programming to project management is critical, and participation in IT architecture design and infrastructure build out are essential. Here again, professional IT training and certifications are welcomed as well. Development of IT strategies aligned with the business coupled with innovative solutions in support of the corporate strategy is an absolute necessity.

I should expand the above two paragraphs to include many more desirable experiences, qualifications, skills and traits, but I think you get the idea. We might also realize that we are lacking job descriptions and career development plans for Business Architects. Maybe we should ask another interesting question. Are we even considering Business Architect career paths? As for me, I am not aware of any collegiate curriculums focused on the business architecture discipline nor am I aware of any professional training or certification programs.

As the qualifications described above get better defined, one might conclude that no such individual currently exists since no career plans exist to develop them! So what do we do? In today's environment, I suggest the enterprise fill the role of Business Architect with two people; one meeting the business qualifications and the other meeting the IT qualifications. The pair is expected to redesign, or to design the enterprise of the future, based on C-level strategic direction. Using the business architecture as a tool, they must focus on opportunity identification, industry trends, anticipation of market forces and emerging technologies. They must ignore daily problem solving activities and operate unencumbered by task managers. Therefore, they are totally committed to future building initiatives, inspired by legendary C-level executives and challenged with building the next generation of the enterprise. They must use the business architecture to see the enterprise as it has never been seen before, developing keen insights into the future and discovering hidden opportunities. After all, the pair will create the new corporate blueprint for the future and they will determine the rules that measure success. Considering these points of view, perhaps we should refer to this pair of individuals as the Business Architect "paradigm twins."

Once the "paradigm twins" are assigned their Business Architect responsibilities, they are simply turned loose on the enterprise, seeking ways to gain a competitive advantage, increase customer satisfaction and improve business performance. Led and guided by the strategy, and working with key executives and personnel in both the business and IT organizations, they are required to find solutions to business opportunities, such at those in product and service development along with significant productivity improvements.

I might even consider having them report to a senior business unit executive, the corporate President or CEO. Some might consider the Business Architect as a future President or CEO candidate and I heartily agree. Perhaps in the near future, we could develop capable candidates meeting both the business an IT qualifications, eventually, having one person fill the role with the title of Chief Business Architect (CBA).

Are we ready for a Chief Business Architect? Maybe not just yet, but we are definitely ready for the Business Architect "paradigm twins" and we are certainly ready for the results we want them to deliver.

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