Selling Business Architecture Internally – The Value-based Approach

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Business Relationship Manager - Product Lifecycle Management, Chevron Corporation

Too often, as business architects, we face internal barriers while driving adoption of business architecture practices within an organization.  We are confronted with confused looks, competing priorities, tight budgets, and hearing frequently that “we don’t need another documentation methodology.”  All are fair points if the perception of business architecture is truly that it is only a documentation methodology.  Business Architecture, however, is much more.    It is easy for any business architect to get preoccupied in the daily routine of producing business architecture artifacts, thereby missing opportunities to engage leaders in necessary discussions about the strategic or tactical value of business architecture.

Even more important than our templates and processes for implementing business architecture, we business architects need an internal marketing plan which enables us to effectively communicate the value of business architecture at an executive level.  This, ultimately, will help drive adoption and create champions throughout the organization.  What we do is not nearly as important as why we do it. 

In this brief article, we examine reasons why business architects overlook “value” discussions, and identify ways to ensure that it is part of your future conversations.

Why business architects often neglect having value based discussions about business architecture: 

We assume that the value is obvious.
Business architecture relies on appropriate sponsorship in order to deliver value.  As business architects, we often feel that the value of efforts is obvious and that sponsors can clearly see and understand the value.  The problem is that this sponsorship rarely has the context about business architecture that we may have, making it difficult to understand what the real opportunity is for them and how it relates to their world. 

It is difficult to connect day-to-day activities to business results.
A big portion of our work involves rolling up our sleeves and getting into the details of process and requirements.  We facilitate sessions with subject matter experts, document our findings, and aim to find gaps or opportunities at a low level, with the expectation that the sum of all improvements adds to overall business value for the organization.  It is no surprise that these activities make it challenging to step back and realize the higher level value that these efforts provide. 

We initially hit barriers with a top down approach and adjust our approach immediately.
Typically, business architecture represents a new concept to executive leadership.  Rarely are new concepts ever immediately accepted at these levels.  Amidst dozens of priorities competing for executive attention and sponsorship, there is a very small likelihood of gaining sponsorship and funding to drive business architecture the first time it is requested.  Persistence pays off.  Without a “top-down” structure supporting the approach, teams may opt for the alternative:  an organic, “bottom-up” approach, which can yield its own set of benefits, including pockets of incremental process efficiency gains, etc..  Pursuing a “bottom-up” approach makes it difficult to achieve and create visibility for benefits at the cross-enterprise level.  Benefits must be actively identified and persistently “sold” at the executive level.

Things to consider when pursuing the next business architecture opportunity: 

Incorporate business results into the delivery of business architecture artifacts. 
In addition to planning business architecture deliverables for an effort, it is important to work with the sponsor to define how these may provide value to the broader organization.  Business architecture artifacts, coupled with business process management, enable the understanding of a current state and where opportunities exist.  This will allow you to define reasonable metrics for business value improvements.  When proposing business architecture work, align these deliverables to the specific areas that are aimed for improvement, rather than general statements about efficiency improvements.

Align business architecture team objectives to corporate goals.
In order for business architecture to be adopted at the executive level, it is important to align business architecture artifacts with corporate goals.  For example, a corporate goal may be to “achieve twenty percent efficiency gains in the claims process.”  By aligning business architecture efforts to such a goal, the architecture team assumes responsibility for giving claims process improvement efforts support and strategic direction.   By aligning with these corporate goals, business architecture avoids just working towards arbitrary performance targets, and attaches itself directly to value creation within the enterprise.

Understand the current “pain points” or opportunities that your clients want to address.
With any business architecture engagement it is crucial to understand your clients’ perspective.  This includes identifying pain points and opportunities for growth.  As a business architect, you need to act as a consultant, and begin by listening carefully to your clients’ goals, needs and expectations.  In many cases, it may be worthwhile to invest time up-front in doing a high-level current state analysis, in order to better understand where the target opportunities exist.  This will allow you to work side-by-side with your clients to determine where business architecture may be most appropriately developed.  

Know the sponsor, stakeholder drivers and priorities.
It is important to spend time with sponsors and stakeholders prior to defining any initiative.  Make sure that you understand their drivers and priorities.  This will enable you to have discussions around business architecture that address their needs – not your needs. 

Advocate and “sell” the value of business architecture
As business architects, we are skilled at assessing processes and identifying opportunities for improvement within organizations.  These improvements may never be realized, however, unless their value is made clear to our client-sponsors.  For this reason, business architects must always be ready to actively advocate and “sell” the value of business architecture within the organization. 

 

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