Walking the Business Architecture Talk

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Faculty Member, BAInstitute.org and Architect and Owner, Leadership Advantage
Linda is a senior consultant and coach working in all functional aspects of organizations, with specific expertise in strategy formation, leader assessment and development, and business architecture. Linda is a popular and active proponent of business architecture in her local professional community and globally over the last few years; launching the successful Twin Cities Business Architecture Forum in 2010 and continuing to serve as the Board Chair and leader of this thriving community of professionals. Linda is a member of the Advisory Board and former director for the Business Architecture Guild, an international Business Architecture professional association, and a primary author of the BIZBOK, a Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge. She serves on the Competency Modeling and Certification work groups and as the Collaboration Chair for the Business Architecture Guild. Linda is an instructor with the Institute for Professional Development at Metropolitan State University, teaching an 8 week certificate course she created focused on business architecture. She completed undergraduate degrees in Interpersonal Communication and Industrial Relations and graduate programs in Management from the University of MN, and today serves as a board member of the College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association. She completed a Master program in Leadership with the University of St Catherine, and holds certifications with the Adizes Institute and the John Maxwell Company; Linda is a frequent conference speaker, facilitator and writer. A consultant now, Linda worked with Prudential for 17 years; always in delivery-focused and leadership roles. She led efforts in new business planning and launch, new program and product introduction and Business Delivery. She joined Governor Ventura’s leadership team at the State of MN and after serving several years as the technology leader in MN, Linda became CIO for NOVON and then moved to Trissential to focus on Leadership, Strategy Formation and Business Architecture. Linda is owner and president of her own firm specializing in strategy formation, leader development, and business architecture.

One of the questions I’m asked frequently is “how do I launch business architecture in my company?” I know it can be challenging–I have a lot of great responses to this question, and I offer classes specifically on this topic and consulting with organizations to do it. At the same time, I believe that benefits from business architecture techniques and models are already attainable for you regardless of your defined role, position or formality in the business. I always say, once you start thinking and acting like a business architect, regardless of where you sit, things will make sense to you in a new way and you will provide value for the business.

I was a few minutes early for a lunch meeting a few weeks ago, so I stopped by a furniture store across the street from the restaurant that had a big sale sign out front. When I stepped into the store, it became clear by the room vignettes (and the prices) that this was an interior design retail showroom.

A man who was sitting at a small table with a garage sale-style cash box and cell phone asked me if he could help me find something. I told him I was attending my goddaughter’s wedding soon and thought maybe I could find a unique gift for her among the specialty items, and that in fact my goddaughter worked as an interior designer for a competitor—maybe he knew them? He said he did, and with the future viability of his company clearly on his mind, he told me that they were closing their retail store because they had determined it was diluting their success as a custom design business. He said that their customers seem to want to consult with his designers, but then “DIY” through on-line and other avenues, including his retail shop, to complete their design projects. He felt he could eliminate this customer frustration by closing down his storefront and no longer offering a retail experience, but was still clearly worried about revenue.

I asked him what got him into this business…what is his purpose? Through the conversation that followed, we determined it was to create personalized, aesthetic, functional spaces in which to live and work. I asked for whom he is creating these spaces, and he confirmed that his few “ideal customers” loved letting him and his team personally come into their homes and businesses with specially selected furnishings and room staging, and were willing to pay top fees for the high touch value they received. I suggested that he indeed seemed to have a clear understanding of his “ideal” customer profile, but perhaps rather than pushing away the frustrating shoppers who he wasn’t currently designed to reach (channels) and serve (value proposition), it may be worth exploring this customer segment as representing a potential new market and value he could provide by leveraging his current business capabilities.

In the next few minutes together we briefly imagined through the value delivery side of a potential business model.

We described his new customer persona as one wanting a beautiful and functional space and valuing the expertise and benefit (and panache) of a high-end design firm, but that doesn’t appreciate the same ultra-high touch approach beyond the initial consultation. He described this new customer as most likely to be a woman between 30 and 60 years old, she’s technology savvy, enjoys upscale in-person shopping, but shops on-line as well and can be supported largely through digital channels. She has financial resources, but pays attention to value for her dollar so doesn’t want to pay too much; still she knows what she likes and will spend money to get what she really wants. She prefers to be collaborative–she wants to create a plan with coaching and follow up, and to have help available if she needs it to find the most hard to get or unique pieces.

The revenue structure in the model is most likely supported by a blend of base fee for consultation and plan, with hourly consulting and resourcing commissions.

This conversation literally took place in the 10 minutes before I had to leave for lunch, but it encompassed the business architecture aspects of purpose, customer segment, value proposition, channels, relationship, capabilities, and revenue…and I think it changed everything for this business owner. If we had more time I have no doubt we could have thought about the people he has working today, their competency for coaching and collaboration, and his ability to lead them in this new model. We would have talked about his infrastructure and how well positioned his technology and processes are to enable a virtual service delivery model and whether he has the information he needs to support it. Indeed, there was plenty of heavy lifting to do to test viability, explore cost, ensure sustainability, etc., but what a start!

This is the value of learning about business architecture. It helps us pull the thread, to make sense of the relationships and structure of the business. It provides guidance for the questions to ask, and equips us with the frameworks and models to think about how to help businesses understand markets, customers, and their current and potential capabilities to create and re-create themselves every day. We help them to understand where to start with change; we remind them of why they’re in business, and inspire them to explore new strategies.

I didn’t even know this man’s name—and he surely didn’t realize he was building his strategy, requirements, or business architecture! We didn’t take weeks or months to create documents, mapping, and disciplined approaches before we got started, and I wasn’t trying to convince him to appreciate the discipline of Business Architecture. Because we were simply inspired to create a strategy from a business opportunity we observed, built on the purpose and capabilities he already had, in an industry he already understood, to lead to new business success.

Simply awesome. This is why I do it.

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