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Business Architecture In Action For Business Transformation

(a.k.a. How Business Architecture Enables Enterprise-Level Change Initiatives)

By Whynde Kuehn | 7 August 2017

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We’re starting a new series focusing on business architecture in action for common business scenarios, where we try to answer that “so what?” question that people like to ask about business architecture.

This post focuses on the significant role that business architecture plays in making business transformation a reality. (And by “business transformation” we mean the sort of enterprise-level changes that fundamentally shift the way an organizations operates. Not the detailed operational changes-but-we’re-going-to-call-it-transformation sort of business transformations. Digital transformation is a major focus for many organizations today, but the ideas here apply to any type of enterprise transformation.)

What’s the problem?

Many organizations are aspiring to transform, but they are not always good at it.

First, there is figuring out what the transformation is all about and why we’re doing it in the first place. Sometimes the strategy and objectives for a business transformation are very high level requiring a giant leap to translate them into steps that people can actually take to make them real in the business and IT environment. In addition, strategy diffusion happens (aka the “telephone game” for strategy where the meaning of it becomes lost as it is explained from one person to another across the organization).

It is also common for the (already unclear) business direction to be interpreted and acted upon separately by each business unit. Even with coordination, we know how this story ends. Potential gaps, redundancy, conflicts, and lack of integration in the resulting business and IT solutions—which doesn’t lead to a very good customer experience or efficient operating environment.

And then there is just the reality that organizations do not always know where to start or how to approach such a massive change, especially if they have not done anything like it before. As a result, some may focus on the IT aspects since they are more tangible or turn to vendors to bring in quick frameworks and solutions—but this can overlook some critical aspects of the change, especially from a business perspective.

How does business architecture help with all of that?

Integrating business architecture upfront in the strategy execution life cycle is a game changer for business transformation. With business architecture (and brainy business architects) we can:

  • Clarify and rationalize business direction right away, and communicate one common view across the entire organization of what the business and IT environment should look like when the transformation is done. This way everyone can see what they need to do.
  • Create the best solutions in the most efficient way because we collectively architect them for the whole enterprise scope (including all of the business aspects)—not piece by piece from each business unit’s perspective. Then we break the whole thing into initiatives in the right sequence with scopes that do not overlap.
  • Manage an extremely large scope because business (and IT) architecture gives us a view of the “forest for the trees” so that we can quickly get our arms around what the future organization needs to look like at a high level. Then we can expand into detail “just in time” at the initiative level as we go.

Got it. So how do we actually do this?

Big question, big answer, but this is StraightTalk, so we need to be brief. Check out More Good Stuff to learn more.

  • Step 1: Clarify Business Direction – Understand, rationalize, inform, refine and potentially detail the business direction (easier said than done).
  • Step 2: Identify Business and IT Impacts – Using the handy business architecture knowledgebase that you have created, catalog the pieces of the business and IT environment that will need to change like capabilities (within a value stream context), business units, products, etc. Once you know the capabilities impacted, you can follow them through to understand the full “butterfly effect” of how the operating environment will be impacted by the transformation including processes, system applications, etc.
  • Step 3: Analyze and Visualize Current State Architecture – See how all of those pieces work today. You might find redundancy and other challenges. Visualize them in a current state architecture picture(s) and tell the story to build a case for change.
  • Step 4: Design and Visualize Target State Architecture – Do the serious work of designing new pieces or redesigning existing ones to define your future organization to meet the transformation objectives. Visualize all of this in a target architecture picture(s) and tell the story to gain buy-in.
  • Step 5: Plan Initiatives – Scope and define all initiatives needed to achieve the target architecture and organize them onto a strategic roadmap. Each initiative should be defined from a business perspective, in terms of the architecture changes that will be made, and may result in one or more project later on. If you have multiple business transformations occurring simultaneously, synchronize the target architectures and strategic roadmaps across all of them.
  • Step 6: Obtain Approval – Obtain approval from business sponsor(s) / committee(s) and architecture sponsor(s) / committee(s). This will likely occur iteratively throughout Steps 3, 4 and 5. Then communicate the vision widely.
  • Step 7: Handoff to Execution Teams – As each project is ready to kick off, describe the changes it will make within an architecture context and communicate them to the execution teams. Work with business analysts as they translate the changes into requirements tied back to the architecture.
  • Step 8: Oversee Execution and Measure Results – Provide direction and oversight to execution teams as needed, to ensure that the results meet the architectural direction and ultimately the original business direction.

P.S. We’ve been focusing on the business architecture here, but starting in Step 2, this is an entirely collaborative process that requires IT architecture (and brilliant IT architects). We wouldn’t be successful without them.

Some of the steps sound similar. How is this different than what we usually do?

While some of the words may sound the same, most organizations do not approach transformation with this highly collaborative and holistic approach. There’s a different underlying premise here. We’re talking about driving the design and planning of a business transformation from a top-down, cross-business unit and architectural perspective. This is the opposite of what typically happens where each business unit dives into the details to figure things out and creates their own separate initiatives.

(Thinking fondly back to Post No. 3 on a new vision for strategy execution about now.)

What’s the fine print?

There’s a huge opportunity for business architecture to drive successful transformations in a new way, but the reality is that this scenario falls more in the advanced category.

There are creative options, but using business architecture for transformation typically requires a practice to be established within an organization—with some level of maturity. This includes having a business architecture knowledgebase in place (with at least a minimum baseline documented), experienced business architects deployed, integration with other teams across the strategy execution life cycle in place, and last but not least—adoption and buy-in for the discipline.

This one also requires business architects to act not just as architects, but as true leaders and change agents. It takes competence and courage. But, this could be the mission you’ve been waiting for, should you choose to accept it.

While using business architecture to drive business transformation might not be for the faint-hearted, doing so successfully will launch the discipline within your organization and you as an individual. It can be incredibly rewarding to lead change at an enterprise level and well, a transformational experience.

And here’s a handy summary of all of that for you.


Common Challenges

  • High level direction which may be difficult to translate into specific actions; strategy diffusion
  • Siloed strategy interpretation and execution, leading to redundant and conflicting solutions
  • Heavy IT focus and reliance on vendors for solutions
  • Challenge in knowing where to start and how to approach large-scale change



  • Clarify business direction; provide a common, actionable view of the future for the enterprise
  • Architect solutions from an enterprise perspective, leading to efficient design and initiative scopes
  • Drive transformation from a business perspective and create holistic business and IT solutions
  • Manage large scopes leveraging architecture’s high level view and then expand into detail “just in time”


How We Do It

  1. Clarify Business Direction
  2. Identify Business and IT Impacts
  3. Analyze and Visualize Current State Architecture
  4. Design and Visualize Target State Architecture
  5. Plan Initiatives
  6. Obtain Approval
  7. Handoff to Execution Team
  8. Oversee Execution and Measure Results



  • Business architecture practice maturity is required
  • Integration with teams across the strategy execution life cycle is required
  • Sponsorship and buy-in from business transformation leadership is required
  • Visualization and story-telling techniques are important
  • Business architects must be prepared to act as leaders and change agents

Download Summary >


More Good Stuff

The Strategy Execution Metanoia (S2E white paper): Just in case you missed it, super helpful background on how business architecture enables a new vision for strategy execution. If you’re looking for more details on how business architecture gets involved in the steps described above, this will help.

Business Architecture for Business Transformation Case Studies: Learn from your friends. Here are a few examples from previous Business Architecture Guild® Summits where business architects have shared how they used business architecture to transform their organizations.

Business-Driven Digital Transformation (Cutter Business Technology Journal): A free download from Cutter Consortium which provides multiple authors’ perspectives on how to drive digital transformation from a business perspective—and using architecture.

How Enterprise Architects Can Help Ensure Success With Digital Transformations (McKinsey): Good one that makes the case for enterprise architecture to play a central role in reducing the complexity associated with digital transformations.

How to Build a Business That Lasts 100 Years (TED Talk): Ted Talk by Martin Reeves on how business can learn from biology to remain resilient and enduring.