Committing to the Business Architecture

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Enterprise Business Architect, Independent Consultant
Ralph Whittle is co-author of a book titled, Enterprise Business Architecture: The Formal Link between Strategy and Results, CRC Press 2004. He is a Strategic Business/IT Consultant and subject matter expert in Enterprise Business Architecture development and implementation. He has built Enterprise Business Architectures in various industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare, financial, and technology. He has worked in the IT industry for over 26 years, conducting engagements in enterprise business process modeling, strategic/tactical business planning, enterprise business requirements analysis, enterprise business architecture and IT architecture integration, strategic frameworks integration with systems development methodologies and IT service offering enhancement. He is a co-inventor of a patented Strategic Business/IT Planning framework. and BrainStorm Group hosted Business Architecture (BA) events at their conferences in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York in 2006. Interest in BA across all industries is growing with attendance at all BA presentations increasing. The conference attendees are coming prepared with excellent questions, expecting answers and seeking information about BA initiatives. It seems that one question is frequently asked by the conference attendees: How do you get the enterprise committed to the Business Architecture initiative?  While there is no simple answer to this question, it is certainly worthy of analysis and discussion. 

In preparing the BA initiative for strategic review and approval, one must plan to unite the BA teams, define the BA initiative and find a BA leader.

  • Unite the BA teams: One important thing to do is to find peer team support for the BA initiative. More than likely, various BA activities have been going on somewhere in the enterprise for several months, but they are neither unified nor integrated. Maybe different business and IT teams have independently come up with the same concept of a BA, not realizing that others share their views. Perhaps organizations with R&D responsibilities are looking ahead, considering emerging technologies, methodologies and approaches for improving the business. Some teams may have successfully implemented Business Process Management (BPM), Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Enterprise Architecture (EA) programs, and are starting to realize the need to better integrate and leverage these important strategic initiatives through the Business Architecture. Wherever these kinds of activities are taking place, bring them together under one, single BA initiative. This unification step is necessary in order to build critical mass for developing the Business Architecture.

  • Define the BA initiative: Having pulled the independent BA teams and activities together, you then have to define the concept, approach and the strategic initiative itself. You may even have to continue researching the marketplace for BA approaches, to study BA white papers and articles produced by various research organizations, to attend conferences and seminars gleaning the do’s and don’ts from other companies and finally, to package the BA initiative as a strategic candidate for consideration by executive committee. These are complicated tasks! Having the various teams come together and focus on a commonly shared and developed approach is not only time consuming, but requires a tremendous amount of compromise between teams. The definition of the BA initiative is critical as it must provide a clear understanding of the required support and expected results, as well as a compelling reason for undertaking the initiative. Express this compelling reason in business terms, business results and benefits to the enterprise.

  • Find a BA leader: Most importantly, you need to find a senior corporate or business unit executive with extraordinary leadership abilities convinced of the importance and significance of the BA initiative. This may not be as hard as it seems. Visionary executives with keen strategic insight are most likely looking for these kinds of initiatives anyway and you may find that they are quite receptive and open to innovative ideas. Executive “buy in” to the Business Architecture is essential in order to sustain the initiative and to keep it directly aligned to the corporate strategy. Finding this kind of leader is perhaps the most important task. Without this senior executive support and strategic linkage, the BA initiative will get treated as a one-time project with a typical start and end date, rather than as a new corporate behavior. 

The Business Architecture initiative is strategic, one that will impact the whole enterprise and change the way we think about our customers, and the products and services we deliver. In a similar manner, the Internet changed our corporate behavior. Other strategic initiatives such as BPM, SOA and EA are also changing our corporate behavior. These are not one-time projects as each of these has an ongoing life-cycle and not simply a project start and end date. Each has provided and will continue to provide opportunities for growth and improvements in effectiveness and efficiency.

The Business Architecture initiative too, will have the same ongoing life cycle and a profound impact on corporate behavior. It can not suffer the detailed scrutiny of project management to reduce project costs down to a budgeted number, but inspired by leadership, the initiative will build the Business Architecture up to the towering expectations found in the vision and strategy. Its achievements will justify the compelling reason for undertaking the initiative.

As you begin to determine how to start your Business Architecture initiative, please consider the above points. While these comments are not simply mechanical steps for you to follow, it is a description of an approach for you to analyze and adapt to your enterprise. You may feel the need to perform other support activities that are required to prepare an initiative for strategic consideration in your enterprise.  However, the points above are the minimum necessary for getting the Business Architecture initiative started and the necessary resources committed.

Leveraging corporate wide BA support, presenting the initiative in clear and precise terms and having executive sponsorship will greatly enhance your chances of getting the Business Architecture included in the corporate strategy. Ultimately, achieving BA initiative acceptance will depend on how well you can articulate the benefits and predict the return on investment. With a shared strategic vision and committed support, the Business Architecture initiative will create an innovative business model, build the enterprise of the future and deliver lasting success.

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