Business-Driven Transformation Strategies & Roadmaps

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President, TSG, Inc.
William Ulrich is President of TSG, Inc. and a strategic planning consultant specializing in business / IT alignment. He has worked with numerous large corporations and government agencies in the area of business / IT alignment. Mr. Ulrich has written several books and published hundreds of articles. His latest book is Business Architecture: The Art and Practice of Business Transformation. Mr. Ulrich is a Former Editorial Director of and Co-founder of the Business Architecture Guild and an advisor to the Penn State Enterprise Architecture Advisory Group.

Transformation roadmaps in many businesses tend to have a heavy technology focus, to the point where organizations invest millions of dollars in initiatives with no clear business value. In addition, numerous tactical projects are funded each year with little understanding of how, or even if, they align from a business perspective. Senior management often falls victim to the latest technology buzzwords, while stakeholder value, business issues and strategic considerations take a backseat. When this happens, executives who should be focused on business scenarios to improve stakeholder value fall victim to technology’s promise of the next big thing. This article discusses how executives can leverage business architecture to reclaim their ability to drive a comprehensive transformation strategy and roadmap.

Consider the nature of most initiatives found within a corporate program office. They generally focus on enhancing one system or another, or in more extreme cases a complete rebuild. The scope of work is bounded by a given system, not by the business focal point, whether that is a particular business capability, stakeholder or value delivery perspective. These initiatives generally originate within the IT organization, not the business, and are launched in response to a specific business need that was quickly translated into a software enhancement, rewrite, or database project. Too often, however, these projects have myopia and lack an understanding of cross-impacts to other projects, business units, stakeholders or products. Their scope is constrained, not by a given customer or business focus, but by technology.

Artificial technology scope constraints are problematic because real world challenges are not bounded by software systems. Customers, for example, trigger specific end-to-end value streams to sign-up for an account, obtain a product, make a payment, request support, change an itinerary or update customer or account information. These value stream perspectives apply across business units and product lines and, as a rule, are implemented by multiple systems, processes and desktop tools. The customer wants quality service and quick results, unimpeded by backend fragmentation, inconsistency and redundancy that stem from multiple systems, heavily augmented by manual processes and desktop tools.

Unfortunately, it is often this complex combination of backend tools and perspectives that undercut rapid delivery of quality service. Fixing just one or another of these backend problems is unlikely to fix and could well compound the problem. Yet when management wants to improve the “customer experience” the first step they tend to take is to seek a system or database solution, spending little or no time examining the customer experience from a value delivery perspective that puts you into the customer’s shoes. The patches they implement tend to provide some temporary relief but at a cost of adding more patchwork fixes to the overall customer experience delivery.  

Business architecture delivers a value centric perspective and provides the underlying framework for envisioning and crafting a more comprehensive solution. In some cases this may begin with a quick fix if that is essential, but this would be accompanied by a roadmap for a more transformative solution. Business architecture provides a more comprehensive issue analysis and planning perspective because it offers business specific, business first viewpoints that enable issue analysis and resolution through business transparency. Once a business solution is crafted, system impacts, which are also discovered through the business architecture, are incorporated into the overall solution.

For example, an insurance company wants to improve the overall customer experience. A mature business architecture can be used to perform an assessment to highlight all customer touch points. Customer touch points are exposed through various value stream viewpoints. In this case, the business architecture minimally requires a detailed capability map, fully formed, customer-triggered value streams, value stream / capability cross-mappings and stakeholder / value stream cross-mappings. These business blueprints allow architects and analysts to pinpoint customer trigger points, customer interaction points and participating stakeholders engaged in value delivery. Once this is done, value streams can be used to pinpoint and highlight where issues such as slow responsiveness, lack of transparency, poor customer recognition and other factors that diminish the customer experience occur across various value streams. Analysts can then use value stream / capability cross-mappings to highlight specific weaknesses tied to enabling capabilities that include submission management, customer management, case file management, case routing and notifications.

Value streams and capabilities are not tied to business unit or other structural boundaries. This means that while the analysis performed in our customer experience example may have been initiated by a given business unit, the analysis may be universally applied to all business units, product lines and customer segments. Using the business architecture to provide a representative cross-business perspective requires incorporating organization mapping into the mix. 

Incorporating the application architecture into the analysis and proposed solution is simply an extension of business architecture mapping that incorporates the IT architecture. A robust business architecture is readily mapped to the application architecture, highlighting enterprise software solutions that automate various capabilities, which in turn enable value delivery. Bear in mind, however, that many of the issues highlighted through a business architecture assessment may not have corresponding software deployments since significant interactions across the business tend to be manual or desktop-enabled. This opens the door to new automation opportunities and new ways to think about business design solutions.

Building and prioritizing the transformation strategy and roadmap is dramatically simplified once all business perspectives needed to enhance customer experience are fully exposed. For example, if customer service is a top priority, then that value stream becomes the number one target, with each stage prioritized based on business value and return on investment. The next step prioritizes enabling capabilities under the targeted value stream stages, with the capability heat map and impact ratings informing the prioritization of work to be performed. Stakeholder mapping further refines design approaches for optimizing stakeholder engagement, particularly where work is sub-optimized and lacks automation.

Capability mapping to underlying application systems and services provides the basis for establishing a corresponding IT deployment program, where the creation and reuse of standardized services becomes a focal point. In certain cases, a comprehensive application and data architecture transformation becomes a consideration, but in all cases any action taken will be business-driven and not technology driven.

The business-driven approach displaces technology-driven projects that historically have invested significant capital while returning minimal business value. It further ensures that transformation roadmap execution is sustainable because the business is driving the effort where initiative investments are directly traceable to priority business goals. Once this occurs, everyone will be focused on achieving the same goals, tied to the same business perspectives, regardless of the technology involved.

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