The Business Architect Collaborator

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President, Business Innovation Partners
Jeff is a senior business and technology executive, with extensive expertise and leadership in innovation, strategy development, business architecture, and organizational transformation. He has substantial consulting and corporate experience working with senior leadership to set direction, build consensus, and translate business objectives into effective action. Jeff is an internationally recognized thought leader in business architecture, strategy execution, and organizational transformation. He frequently speaks, writes, and teaches seminars on these topics Jeff currently writes the blog, The Business Architect, chairs The Business Architect’s Roundtable, is a member of the Business Architecture Guild’s advisory board, and is the Editorial Director for the Business Architecture Institute.

Business architects don’t control large budgets nor do they command large groups of people. With little money and less authority, business architects’ success hinges on their ability to create value through others. In pursuit of that goal many business architects attempt to implement governance mechanisms with little success. One of the biggest lies analysts and other BA pundits tell us is that governance is a best practice. A best practice is something that works for a significant number of people in a wide variety of circumstances. Given that business architecture governance is something tried by a large number of people with little success, maybe we should call it a worst practice. Gaining senior level support in hopes they will direct others to follow our lead isn’t much better. Successful business architects recognize that collaboration is a key element in reaching their goals.

Business architects collaborate with a wide group of people:

Business architecture’s clients. Working with business leaders in a collaborative fashion is clearly a best practice demonstrated by most successful business architects. To do this means you have to let your clients help shape your models and deliverables. Not all business architects are ready to do this but it is a key to long term success and sustainability.

Program Management Office. Business architects spend significant time working with the PMO helping evaluate and shape the investment portfolio.

Corporate and/or LOB Strategy. Business architects collaborate with strategists by providing operational insights on capability performance and by helping illuminate and communicate the strategy across the organization.

Customer Experience. Leading business architects are beginning to work with customer experience teams where they provide operational insights and help translate customer experience designs into a common set of goals and objectives.

Enterprise Architecture. Many business architects originated in EA or still work there. They collaborate heavily with their technical counterparts ensuring a tighter alignment between business and IT goals.

Four levels of collaboration

Not all collaborators provide equal benefits. Business architects should identify who they want to collaborate with and what type of collaboration will create the most value. They should also identify who is initiating partnerships with them. Are these the right groups to spend time with? For each potential collaborator, identify what style of collaboration you seek and what style you current have.

Level 0, no collaboration. Information is not being exchanged and goals are not being aligned.

Level 1, receive information. In the lowest level of collaboration, information flows mostly to you. This style is often appropriate when collaborating with groups higher in the hierarchy than business architecture such as corporate strategy. They provide you with information that enhances your work.

Level 2, provide information. At this level business architecture is providing information to others with the goal of informing and/or changing their decisions and action.

Level 3, sharing information. Here, information flows in both directions and there is some level of back and forth influence though it is largely focused on enhancing the level of information shared.

Level 4, shared goals. At the highest level of collaboration, organizations have developed shared goals and are committed to helping each other attain them. They may or may not be common goals but are at least mutually reinforcing. Occasionally, groups will collaborate to help each other with disparate, but non-competing, goals, to further relations, get recognized for being a team player, or some other indirect benefit.

Four steps for jumpstarting collaboration:

  1. Where you have something going on, keep it going and expand on it. Growing current relationships is infinitely easier than creating new relationships. Use your current relationships to help you initiate new ones. Don’t be hesitant to ask your current collaborators to help you collaborate with others. After all, they know it works – they are getting value from the relationship.
  2. Ask for information to help you do a better job. Though some groups protect their information as if it were the crown jewels, most are willing to share if you ask nicely. Follow up by showing them how you applied their information and how it furthered you success, or even better how it supported their goals and how you gave them credit for their help.
  3. Help others succeed. Nothing will jumpstart a new collaborative effort like helping your partner before helping yourself. Think of it as an investment in future collaborations where they help you accomplish your goals.
  4. Think win-win. Collaborations are always about everyone getting benefit. It is even better when your partners get a little more than you do. They will always be delighted to work with you.

Note that not everyone is willing to collaborate no matter what you do. Some people are just not team players and want to go it alone. Don’t be one of those people.

The bottom line

We can always accomplish more together than we can alone. Collaboration brings value in a variety of ways, sometimes even unexpected ways. Successful business architects will make collaboration with clients and partners a cornerstone of their program.

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