It’s been a while since the release of the first 20 Frequently Asked Business Architecture Questions* – uniquely coined FABAQ – but we’re bringing them back and better than ever. “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” (Mae West) So, if 20 FABAQs were good, then 50 are wonderful. We’ll be exploring the new ones over the next few installments of StraightTalk.
Simply stated, FABAQs are all about providing answers to the burning questions that everyone has about business architecture. And there are a lot of new inquires as the discipline continues to evolve and the practice expands worldwide.
Why FABAQs? First, to help you understand. That is what StraightTalk is all about. But second, to help you help others by arming you with some straightforward answers to these questions – making you an even better leader, practitioner and advocate for the discipline. It’s sort of like having your own personal guide through the world of business architecture.
P.S. Make sure to check out the full set of FABAQs in their complete format. In some cases, the answers have abbreviated a bit here for the StraightTalk format. And, the full set provides valuable business architecture references that offer immersive information along with diagrams you can use.
Here we go again! Note: we’ve picked up the FABAQ numbering where we left off.
21. What Is the role of business architecture in strategy execution?
Business architecture is a critical – and typically missing – bridge between strategy and execution. It can be leveraged to translate strategies and other business direction and collectively architect, prioritize, and plan the actions to be taken from a business-driven, enterprise-wide perspective.
Business architecture and business architects contribute unique value across the strategy execution life cycle, with the heaviest involvement upfront to inform and translate strategies as well as shape the necessary changes into a coordinated set of initiatives. Business architecture and business architects also connect other teams and help them to be more effective.
22. What does it mean to translate strategies and other business direction into execution?
The concept of translating strategies and other business direction (e.g., transformations, comprehensive regulatory changes, integration after a merger or acquisition, etc.) into execution entails ensuring that strategies and business direction are:
- Entirely clear and understandable (e.g., SMART objectives)
- Consistently decomposed (e.g., there may be multiple levels of cascading objectives at increasing levels of detail) and deconstructed into the requisite components (e.g., strategies, goals, objectives, and action items)
- Interpreted into a collective set of changes* needed to business and technology, by first identifying value streams and capabilities impacted and then following them through to the other business and technology domains to which they are connected (e.g., business units, stakeholders, information, products, policies, related strategies and initiatives, journeys, processes, applications, software services)
- Effectively made real through a coordinated and rationalized set of initiatives, framed by the value streams and capabilities which are being uplifted*
Having clear, measurable objectives as well as agreed-upon action items in #2 are critical to success. This is because value streams and capabilities will be associated to them within the knowledgebase, and these objectives and action items also provide the necessary why and direction upon which the entire organization can act cohesively.
* Note: Business architecture value streams and capabilities do not “change” frequently (unless an organization’s business model is changing), but rather they coordinate and frame where changes are necessary to people, process, technology, etc.
Translating strategy through the business architecture ensures that initiatives do not create duplicate, fragmented, or conflicting solutions for the same capabilities. A summary of this important traceability is shown in the handy diagram below.
[DIAGRAM GOES HERE]
23. How can strategy and business direction be translated if it is not clear or detailed?
There is often a big leap between high-level strategic direction and a cohesive understanding of what actually needs to change in the business and technology environment to achieve it. When business direction is unclear, the best approach is to perform the process of strategy translation described in FABAQ #22, through which ambiguous business direction can be made increasingly clear.
First, work with your leaders/strategy team to walk through the strategic direction so you can gain a better understanding. Next, take a first pass at defining the objectives, action items and impacted business architecture value streams and capabilities, even if you have to make assumptions or fill in some gaps. Then, review your interpretation with the leaders/strategy team, identify changes needed, and iterate with them.
Leverage business architecture and your role as a consultative business architect to bring new value by objectively sharing new insights and enabling leaders to think differently and achieve their goals. By working together in partnership and taking initiative, you can minimize the time you require from your busy leaders/strategy team, and the process may even help them to better articulate the business direction for others. It might even illuminate gaps and opportunities to enhance the strategy formulation and communication approach going forward.
24. Is the business model a part of business architecture? Who should create it?
The business model 1 is not a defined domain of business architecture, but there is a critical relationship between the two. An organization’s business model drives what its business architecture needs to be as well as any changes to the architecture over time.
Physical relationships are not typically made in the business architecture knowledgebase between an organization’s business model canvas and its business architecture content, though there should be a conceptual tie. For example, in concept, the value propositions delivered by an organization’s value streams should collectively enable the organization’s value proposition as defined within the business model canvas. In addition, the organization’s stakeholders as defined within the business architecture should collectively encompass the customer segments defined within the business model canvas, and so forth.
The business model is equal parts business direction and business structure. This brings up questions on who within an organization is best suited to create it. (BTW, an organization may have more than one business model.) A business model is ideally created, evolved, innovated and communicated in partnership between business leaders, strategists and business architects. For a variety of reasons, business architects often take the role of stewarding an organization’s business model (i.e., maintaining the documentation). All people within an organization should understand and use the business model as applicable.
25. What deliverables do business architects create?
The business architecture deliverables to be created depend on the usage scenario for which an organization is leveraging business architecture. A prescriptive set of business architecture deliverables intentionally does not exist for the business architecture discipline. However, organizations may define them in their own internal methodologies or playbooks for applying business architecture to relevant usage scenarios that support their overall value proposition. For example, heat maps of business direction and planned spend may be created to support project portfolio investment decision-making. Or, target architectures and strategic roadmaps may be created (in close partnership with IT architecture partners) when translating a large change, such as a new strategy or transformation, into action.
What is most important is not to focus on the creation of deliverables, but rather focus on the delivery of value. In fact, embodying this value-first mindset versus a deliverable-focused one is what distinguishes successful business architecture teams from non-successful ones. The business architect role is a strategic one, and over time business architects can become trusted advisors to the leaders and team members they work with throughout an organization. Business architects can help to inform a wide variety of decision-making, ensure an organization is structured most effectively to achieve its goals, and architect change to help an organization reach its defined future state.
26. How do organizations use business architecture?
Organizations use business architecture in a few key ways:
- To translate direction, which bridges strategy and execution – For example, to translate a strategy, business transformation, business model change, or integration after a merger or acquisition.
- As a framework for analysis and decision-making, including for simplification of a complex environment – For example, to analyze and inform strategic options, investments, risks, costs, M&A, joint ventures, application portfolio management, etc.
- To create a shared language and visibility across the organization – For example, to align all associates around a common terminology and mental model for clarity in communications and onboarding.
Here are just a few ways in which business architecture has been leveraged by organizations globally:
Strategy translation, business and digital transformation, shifting to customer-centric organization, business model evaluation and redesign, innovation, M&A, divestitures, startups, joint ventures, cross-organization ecosystem architecting, cross-sector social initiatives, portfolio investment decision-making, initiative shaping and assessment, driving prioritization for agile teams, organizational design, regulatory compliance, cost transparency and reduction, business and technology simplification and efficiency, application portfolio rationalization and management, leveraging emerging technologies, IT architecture transformation, legacy modernization, cloud migration, framing requirements and solution design and more…
27. How can governments leverage business architecture?
Don’t let the “business” in business architecture mislead you. Business architecture is as relevant for governments (and non-profits organizations too, BTW) as it is for for-profit businesses.
Governments can leverage business architecture in similar ways to businesses. For example, business architecture helps governments to:
- Translate policy and mission and achieve them to the greatest extent possible
- Be a good steward of resources
- Create a common language and context to operate more effectively within its ecosystem
The exact same scope and principles of business architecture apply to governments as they would for any organization. In other words, the business architecture domains such as capabilities, value streams, organization, information, products, stakeholders, etc. all still apply as well as the principles to create them. However, each organization’s business architecture should reflect what they do and their terminology, so in the case of governmental capabilities such as Customer Management becomes Constituent Management, and Product Management becomes Government Service Management. The BIZBOK® Guide offers a comprehensive government reference model.
Here are just a few ways in which governmental organizations can leverage business architecture:
- Translating strategy and policy into coordinated, effective execution
- Creating seamless cross-government citizen experiences and services
- Providing cost transparency and identifying reduction opportunities
- Simplifying and increasing the overall efficiency of the business and technology environment
- Building national or international ecosystems (e.g., innovation ecosystem) that stimulate economic activity and other benefits for citizens and governments
- Facilitating cross-sector initiatives across public and private institutions
28. Can business architecture be used across organizations?
Absolutely! Business architecture can and should be used both within and across organizations. Here are a few key ways:
- Cross-Organization Structural Changes – This includes scenarios such as mergers and acquisitions. Business architecture can be leveraged to inform decision-making during exploration and due diligence as well as to guide integration activities post-merger or post-acquisition.
- Cross-Entity Coordination Within an Organization’s Scope – This includes scenarios such as a government that wants to define and deliver reusable government services across agencies, leading to a more integrated citizen experience as well as operational efficiencies. Or, a company that wants to facilitate opportunities for sharing innovations and resources across its operating companies, brands, or other entities.
- Collaborative Cross-Organization Value Delivery – This includes scenarios such as joint ventures or other collaborations involving two or more organizations that intend to deliver an expanded value proposition together.
- Ecosystem Architecting and Collaboration – This includes scenarios such as organizations in disrupted industries that shift their strategies to reflect the broader ecosystem, ecosystems with many players that form around integrated solutions (e.g., smart homes, smart cities, the connected vehicle) and other examples.
In order to actually perform these types of scenarios, each organization must have a business architecture in place – and ideally ones that leverage similar, principle-based business architecture reference models to greatly accelerate the activity. Value streams and capabilities in particular serve as key connection points across entities.
29. How can business architecture be leveraged to guide decision-making and the adoption of emerging technology?
Business architecture can guide organizations as they make decisions, implement, adopt, and govern emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, etc. For example, business architecture can help organizations to:
- Ensure clear business direction is provided, including business objectives, planned business model shifts and articulation of other business needs
- Accelerate digital readiness and prepare for the robust demands of digital transformation
- Make informed decisions about technology usage and investments, such as through impact analysis to the workforce and other key stakeholders
- Identify usage scenarios for applying emerging technologies across the organization, aligned with business priorities
- Prepare and rationalize data across the organization around common, agreed-upon business information concepts (e.g., customer, product)
- Provide transparency and traceability, such as to illuminate the policy upon which an algorithm is based
- Translate the changes necessary to implement emerging technologies into action, in a coordinated and business-focused way
30. How can business architecture be leveraged to build a better world?
Here are a few ways:
- Business architecture can be leveraged to help non-profit organizations as well as startups and smaller organizations – Non-profit organizations can leverage business architecture in the same manner as any other organization (see FABAQ #26).
- Business architecture can help any type of organization, even for-profit businesses, to be more sustainable and purpose-driven – Sustainability should not be an afterthought or a set of isolated or superficial programs – but rather embedded in the DNA of how an organization thinks, acts and operates. Business can help organizations to:
- Measure, improve, create transparency, and communicate sustainability performance
- Identify sustainability-related opportunities with the business model, value streams, capabilities or other architecture-based innovation as well as identify sustainability-related risks
- Make sustainability top of mind
- Translate sustainability strategies into execution
- Architect ecosystems which allow organizations to work together and share inputs and outputs to reduce waste
- Business architecture can help organizations and individuals to work together and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by:
- Providing individual organizations with visibility on how they are contributing to the SDGs and tie concrete actions to them
- Facilitating collaboration by helping to match SDGs and needs to the global collective of people and solutions that meet those needs
- Ensuring focus on end-to-end SDG outcomes and value
1 “A business model describes the rationale by which an organization creates, delivers and captures value,” as defined in Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. The business model canvas has become the de facto modeling standard for business models.
More Good Stuff…
You’ll notice that this section is a little light during our FABAQ series – because you have loads of related resources available to you on Biz Arch Mastery.
Biz Arch Mastery: (This is brand new) Your place to master the art and science of business architecture for robust organizations, ecosystems, and a better world. Rich content, tools and accelerators to help you learn and successfully practice and leverage business architecture. Check out the full set of FABAQ content.
The BIZBOK® Guide (Business Architecture Guild®): Of course. (Guild membership required.)
The Art of Making a Difference (TED Talk): A TED Talk by Andy Gilbert on the art of making a difference, based on research. Life wisdom here.