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A Win-Win Situation: How to Get Some Business Architecture Quick Wins

By Whynde Kuehn | 20 July 2019

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Some of the most common questions – and challenges – for business architecture teams is Where do we start? and How do we get some quick wins? Wins can help to demonstrate the value of business architecture, which is often essential for socialization and achieving buy-in from the organization. Explaining the value of business architecture is much less effective than showing it.

P.S. For more on socializing business architecture, check out Post No. 34 – Business Marketecture and Post No. 37 – Business Politecture.

Early uses of business architecture and quick wins also help to test out the business architecture as well as help the team learn valuable lessons about how to use it.

So, in this installment of StraightTalk, we will explore some ways that you can start putting business architecture into use ASAP to provide business value — while you continue to build up your knowledgebase and pursue more complex usage scenarios over time. The intention here is to give you some starter ideas that inspire you to create many more of your own.

How do we balance the need to build the business architecture knowledgebase yet also demonstrate the value of using it right away?

This is a common challenge for newly established business architecture teams. It’s true that establishing a business architecture practice often requires some building the plane while flying it in the beginning. You need to have a business architecture knowledgebase to do all the cool things you’ve promised, but you need some time and enough buy-in to get it built in the first place.

So, the key is to build smart:

  • Step One: Build your minimum business architecture baseline. The minimum baseline includes an enterprise capability map, a set of enterprise value streams and a cross-mapping between the capabilities and value streams. To clarify further, some organizations will document the full scope of their capability map at the highest level of detail (called “level 1”) and only break down some of those capabilities into more detail (like down to “level 2” and “level 3”) to start. Also, some organizations will only document a few of their known value streams upfront instead of doing all of them.

 

  • Step Two: Build out the rest of the knowledgebase opportunistically and keep maintaining it for reuse going forward. Capture your extended business architecture domain content (e.g., strategies, policies, stakeholders, products, initiatives and metrics) and other domain content (e.g., system applications and processes) opportunistically — only when you have a specific need for them based on planned business architecture usage.

The secret is to get through step one as quickly as possible (BTW, this is more feasible today than ever before considering the methods and reference models readily available) and then build the rest just enough, just-in-time directly in support of business value and usage. Beware: The if-you-build-it-they-will-come strategy for building the business architecture knowledgebase typically turns out not to be an effective approach.

BTW, StraightTalk has you covered on how to get started. For how to establish and mature a business architecture practice, start with Post No. 4 – Let’s Get This Party Started. For more on how to build a business architecture knowledgebase – and as quickly as possible, check out Post No. 12 – A Map of the World, Part 1, Post No. 13 – A Map of the World, Part 2, Post No. 22 – Speedy Business Architecture, Part 1 and Post No. 23 – Speedy Business Architecture, Part 2.

K. So how do we identify business architecture quick wins?

Here are a few criteria as you consider opportunities to leverage business architecture in situations where you can show value in a fairly short amount of time:

Minimize the Business Architecture Content Required.

Do: Choose opportunities which require one or minimal business architecture domains. For example, a wide range of analyses can be done with just a capability map (but ideally an organization should always get the minimum baseline mentioned above in place ASAP).

Don’t: Choose opportunities which require many business architecture domains until you have had some time to build them out. For example, starting with an enterprise-wide transformation typically requires a solid capability map and value streams as well as content from various extended domains and cross-mappings to other domains such as system applications.

Start Small-ish.

Do: Choose or define opportunities with a scope that is small enough to complete quickly, yet impactful enough to demonstrate the value of business architecture. For example, to demonstrate the power and relevance of business architecture, choose opportunities which are strategic and ideally involve at least two business units.

Don’t: Choose or define opportunities with a scope that is so small or tactical that it does not allow you to demonstrate the value of business architecture. Remember that what you do will speak much louder about what business architecture is and isn’t, and the value it can provide – versus what you say. On the other hand, a scope that is too large will likely take a long time for you to demonstrate value (unless you break it into phases) and can even reinforce misconceptions like business architecture takes too long.

Find a Friend.

Do: Choose a sponsor(s) for the opportunity who knows and trusts you (if possible), is open to new ideas and maybe even likes to be a champion for new ideas within the organization. Also, choose someone who will become an ongoing advocate for business architecture once you do get that quick win.

Don’t: Choose a sponsor(s) for the opportunity who is focused on status quo, short-term thinking, a siloed scope and/or solution-thinking versus business-first. Ideally, do not choose a sponsor who is a naysayer of business architecture. But, if this is your situation and if you deliver the quick win well (which you will), business architecture non-believers that become business architecture believers can be some of the best advocates for you and the discipline.

How quick should a quick win be?

This is defined by you and the organization, based on factors like your bandwidth and the organization’s tolerance for delivery time and expectations for what you deliver. Generally, a quick win of about 3 weeks’ to 3 months’ time is enough to demonstrate some substantial value and give you your first success story to tell.

However, a business architecture quick win could require just a day or even an hour or less!

Give me some examples.

Here are just a few. This is by no means a complete list, but rather a starter list of quick win categories and ideas to get you thinking. They generally use capabilities as the main framework for analysis, though other domains like value streams may be used as well.

Quick Wins That Take Hours or Days

Assess the Impact of Anything – For example, a potential business model change, strategy, innovation idea, product, acquisition, policy change, etc. Use it to help:

  • A business or technology leader or team member to make a decision, understand their scope or impact, identify collaboration points with others, etc.

 

  • An agile team (or any other one) to identify shared capability/solution opportunities, collaboration points and stakeholders to involve (especially if business architecture was not involved to identify these upfront).

Frame a Problem or Opportunity – To help scope, analyze and solve a problem or opportunity within the fullest, relevant business context. For example, you may identify that a problematic capability should be fixed within the context of many value streams, even if the original problem was identified within just one.

Quick Wins That Take Weeks (or less depending on the scope and complexity)

Analyze Anything for Decision-Making – For example, investments, risks, cost allocations, organization, partners, simplification, system applications, etc.

P.S. Also check out Post No. 55 – Decisions, Decisions for more ideas.

Visualize Strategic Direction – To reflect the most important capabilities (and value streams) to enable the organization’s strategies. This provides a great comparison point to evaluate any planned or in-flight work (e.g. formal initiatives, continuous improvement activities, planned investments, etc.).

Reflect a Capability-On-A-Page – To illustrate an aggregate view of its current state and health, future state, active initiatives, stakeholders impacted, etc. which can be used to communicate the total picture for decision-making, identification of gaps and overlaps, etc.

Quick Wins That Take Months

Translate One Strategy – To identify business and technology impacts, design a target state architecture, and create a strategic roadmap for execution. While this is more involved, if you do just enough, just in time you can demonstrate value and business architecture’s true role in translating strategy into initiatives for execution.

Here is a quick diagram that represents these examples.

Cohesive Strategy Execution Diagram

What are some of the best options which have worked well for other organizations?

Impact Assessments of anything and everything using the capability map is one of the most common uses, especially by new business architecture teams.

From the Analyze Anything for Decision-Making category, two of the top uses of business architecture, especially by new business architecture teams, is to use the capability map (and other domains as applicable) to:

    • Analyze the strategic alignment and planned spend for initiatives by capability, at an aggregate level, within or across portfolios

 

  • Rationalize system applications by capability and analyze their health and risk within a capability context

Translate One Strategy is also common for business architecture teams that are a little bit further on the journey.

Getting people in the organization to understand and adopt business architecture is harder than I thought.

Julie Johnston, the American soccer player and recent FIFA Women’s World Cup champion summed it up nicely:

“Embrace the opportunity, no matter what it is. Look at everything in a positive light.”

You didn’t choose the business architecture discipline or career because it was easy, you chose it because you wanted to make a difference. Keep the faith because business architecture will catch on — and continues to for many successful organizations. By following the right approaches, it usually does in time. Find new ways to use business architecture, find new ways to visualize it, find new people in the organization you can help, find new advocates to support you. Just keep going.

Establishing a business architecture practice within an organization is like climbing a mountain – the only way to get to the top is one step at a time. Remember that every business architecture practice starts this way. You’re in good company and you have friends around the world.

More Good Stuff…

Would you like to share a business architecture quick win that worked for you? There are very few examples of these shared in the public domain. If you have an idea, give us a shout. We’ll commit to publishing the ideas back to everyone through StraightTalk to help us all learn from each other. Do not include company names, confidential or proprietary information.

 

The Value of Business Architecture: New Mindset, New Results (S2E white paper): Just in case you haven’t read it, check out this overview of the value of business architecture and how it can be applied.

Showing vs. Telling, On Knowing It Can Be Done, Shouting Into the Wind, Fear of Shipping and The Myth of Quick (blog posts by Seth Godin): Relevant wisdom from a wise man.

Building the Plane While We’re Flying It (Consortium Air): Just for fun, a short video of a crew building a plane while it’s flying. To bring a smile on the days when it sort of feels like this.

Embrace the Near Win (TED Talk): An excellent TED Talk by art historian Sarah Lewis, who explores the pursuit of mastery and archer’s paradox: “the idea that in order to actually hit your target, you have to aim at something slightly skew from it.” “Success motivates us, but a near win can propel us in an ongoing quest.”

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