Business Architecture: Governance from the Business Perspective

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Business Architect Executive, Independent Consultant
Mr. Balmes is a Senior Business Architect and Change Management Consultant with a natural talent for improving business effectiveness by integrating Business Architecture into the enterprise. He employs expert skills from more than 25 years of domestic and international experience with well-studied, proven approaches for evaluating business effectiveness and ensuring alignment between IT and the business. Mr. Balmes can be reached at

“Governance.” Mention the word and it elicits a different definition from each person that hears it. Mention governance with regard to the public sector and the first thing that comes to my mind, right or wrong, is bureaucracy. With regard to product or application development, I think of a Project or Program Management Office (PMO) that manages the schedules, risks, and issues of multiple, related initiatives.

For the purposes of this article, let us think of governance as “follow-through.” Follow-through is the governance structure put in place to monitor all aspects of the business.

Follow-Through: Make No Assumptions

Presume we understand the strategy, that some PMO is effectively monitoring our portfolio of investments, and we are actively executing our business plans. So what?We can not assume that our plans will not change. The question is, “What business events are influencing the change and are we responding effectively to them?” We also can not assume that monitoring our investments is enough. We must analyze the results, determine if we are on target to achieve desired results, and be prepared to act on the analysis. And finally, we can not assume that the strategy and vision can not or will not change. This is where we find ourselves in a catch 22; do the results of our governance influence changes in the strategy and vision or do changes in the strategy and vision cause us to change that which we govern?

Top Down: What we Know

We know that our executives have a vision. In the true sense of a vision, it is based on where we are now and envisions how great our executives believe we can be. In between the current state and where we want to be is very little else. That is the nature of a vision. It is not restricted by reality; it does not even have to be rational.

We know that a strategy exists to realize that vision. This is where we think rationally about how we get there from here. This is where we consider the reality of our strengths, our weaknesses, our opportunities and any threats. We establish goals and objectives that leverage our strengths, compensate for our weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities and mitigate the threats.

We know that we have a portfolio of approved investments in our people, processes and technology designed to achieve our goals and objectives. These initiatives are in various stages of funding based on business priorities—each with a predicted set of benefits and business value.

We know that we have factored the predicted benefits from our portfolio of investments into our business plans so we can effectively manage “business as usual” as well as the change introduced by the portfolio.

We know a lot. But how do we know we are right?

Bottom Up: What to monitor, where to report it and when

The governance structure monitors the effects that the portfolio of investments has on the business as each initiative is deployed. This applies to all investments: people, process and technology. It is necessary to monitor the effects of new investments with the defined targets in mind.

Project Managers check the pulse of their respective projects on a daily basis but typically report status on weekly cycles. Their metrics may include progress against a specific work plan, successful achievement of clearly defined milestones and the delivery of discrete work products. Their focus is very narrow and reports into a PMO that has a broader view of various initiatives.

The PMO comprises business and IT leadership who compare the metrics of various initiatives to the overall portfolio of investments. If necessary, the PMO initiates subtle adjustments to the individual project plans on a monthly basis and reports the adjustments to the business units affected. Business Unit Managers perform a function similar to a Project Manager with regard to “business as usual”—those aspects of the business that continue to operate outside the portfolio of investments. The manager compares his metrics and those of the various initiatives to his business plan and makes subtle adjustments to his business plan, also on a monthly basis. However, changes to individual business plans have a ripple affect.

If plans have changed, the portfolio of investments must be reevaluated. Business unit and IT executives evaluate the overall portfolio performance on a quarterly basis and make active decisions to continue funding projects that are meeting plan. Notice that I said “are meeting plan.” It is not enough to be on schedule and within budget. If the plans have changed, de-fund any project that no longer meets the needs of the business. Fix projects that are not going so well. Cut your losses if you no longer need the project but do not cut off funding to spite the business just because things are not going well.

Other business units are also affected when plans change. We are no longer operating in silos; we broke those silos down with cross-functional value chains. Business unit and IT executives use the outcome of the quarterly reviews to make cross-organizational adjustments to business plans on a semi-annual basis. Do not try to make organizational, cross-functional changes too quickly. Changes this broad take and need time. There is a difference between being agile and being reckless. Caution on the side of agile.The C-class executives use the results of the semi-annual reviews in the annual strategic review process. The overall strategy may have to change. The vision may even change. If either of these two events happens, the whole cycle must start over.

Governance: It’s not a catch 22

Good leadership encourages vision and strategy to roll down hill. Good leadership also knows they can not take their eye off the ball. They know that the information they need is not at their fingertips; it is at the fingertips of their senior management, middle management and project management teams. This is where bottom-up comes into play. Vision and strategy may roll down hill but metrics roll up hill.

Governance is an important piece in the continuous cycle of improvement and innovation that makes the business more effective and agile as the cycle continues. But it is the follow-through by the business leadership that gives us governance from the business perspective.

I close with Organizational Change Management. Every initiative that makes it to deployment has an impact on the business. The impact on the business must be managed effectively and monitored just like every thing else. If an organization exceeds its capacity to change, plans must change.


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