What is Business Architecture?

By Allen Brown, President and CEO, The Open Group

I have heard and read the opinions of a number of people about what is Business Architecture, as I am sure many of us have but I wanted to understand it from the perspective of people who actually had Business Architect in their job title.  So I wrote to 183 people in Australia and New Zealand and asked them.

I chose Australia and New Zealand because of our conference in Sydney that was coming up at the time.  It is also worth mentioning that when counting the number of individuals in each country who have achieved TOGAF®9 certification, Australia is ranked 4th in the world and New Zealand is 20th.

I explained that I had thought of constructing a survey instrument but I always think that such an approach is only really suitable when you want to measure opinion on things that you know.  Since I really wanted to have an open mind, I asked everyone for their thoughts and provided a small number of open questions that showed the sort of thing I was interested in learning.

These were:

  • What is Business Architecture in the context of your organization?
  • Do you have Enterprise Architects in your organization? If so, what is it that you do that they do not? If not, how do you see Business Architecture differently from Enterprise Architecture?
  • Who do you report to? Is your line of reporting up to the CIO, the COO if you have one, or other senior level person?
  • How is Business Architecture perceived in your organization?

 It would also help me if I knew something about your organization.
  • Which industry are you in? e.g. IT, Oil, Finance, Healthcare, National or Local Government, etc.?
  • Is your organization primarily a consumer of Business Architecture or a supplier? e.g. consultant, trainer, vendor etc.
  • What type of organization do you work in? e.g. a for-profit entity, a government department, a charity, etc.
  • How big is the organization? Some idea of revenue or budget, number of employees – doesn’t have to be precise. You could just say small, medium or large.
  • How many Business Architects, Enterprise Architects or other architects are there in your organization?

And perhaps a little about yourself.
  • Your background e.g. Operations, Business Analysis, Project Management, IT, Finance etc.
  • Were you recruited for the role or did you develop into it?
  • I don’t wish to take up too much of your time but anything you can share would be very helpful. And please feel free to add anything else that you feel is relevant.

I have so far received 24 responses which is what I was hoping for but I am open to any other views people who are performing this role might have.  16 of the responses came from people employed by organizations that I think of as consumers of IT products and services (government departments, telcos, banks, accountants, energy companies, and mutuals) and 8 came from suppliers.

The responses were amazing and thank you to everyone who took the time to do so.  They included some wonderful insights into their role and into their organization, without of course divulging anything that they should not have.  But of course because I asked open questions, the responses are, at the same time both more complex and more interesting.  It’s a case of be careful of what you wish for – but I am really glad that I did.

So far I have been able to summarize the views of the consumers.  I will turn to the suppliers next.  It will be really interesting to see where the similarities and variations lay.

It is important to note that I am still in the process of seeking to understand, so I would be really pleased to hear from anyone who has such a role, to correct any misunderstandings I might have or erroneous conclusions I may have drawn.

A number of comments jumped out at me.  One example came from a Business Architect in a government department.  The reason it stood out was very simple.  Many times I am told that Business Architecture only applies to commercial business and cannot apply to governments or non-profits.  Which is strange to me, since I lead a non-profit and when I was at business school, part-time of course, a good proportion of my classmates were from the public sector.  The comment was in response to the question: who do you report to?  The answer was, “we report to the Secretary but all reporting lines are business focused”.

The first level of analysis, which should come as no surprise is that Business Architecture is a relatively new discipline for most organizations: in most cases it has been around for between 1 and 5 years.  Described by some as a growing capability, or as immature, or even as “largely missing”.  One respondent describes herself quite rightly as a pioneer.

A recurring theme was that the ability to have a company-wide or industry-wide model was critical as it provides a common terminology across the board to what the organization actually does and enables understanding of the implications of any changes.  Another was that the success or lack of it in Business Architecture really came down to the expertise of the people in the team; and another was that Business Architects acted very much, like internal consultants and often had a consulting background.

What Business Architects do is exactly that – their focus is on the “What”.  Some of the comments included:

  • Understanding strategic themes and drivers
  • Modeling value chains, value streams, configurations
  • Context modeling e.g. external interactions
  • Capabilities, including business capability, service capability (including both business and IT capabilities), capability maturity, targets and gaps
  • Calling out the interdependencies of all the business and architecture domains: strategy, governance, market, distribution, product, capability
  • Design – entities, people (organization structure, incentives), process, systems, functions, roles
  • Linking with and supporting the strategy and injecting into the investment planning cycle
  • The Business Architect provides processes, part of the input and information for the business to determine whether or not any investment will be made within their organisation

The “How” is in the domain of the Solution Architects, Application, Data and Technology Architects and the Business Analysts: business, process and data.

The crucial element is how well the Business Architects are integrated with the other architects and with the analysts.  In many cases Business Architecture was within the Enterprise Architecture function – as an aside it was pointed out by one or two respondents that they considered Enterprise Architecture as a function rather than a person – in other cases it was not.

The reporting lines for Business Architects varies from organization to organization.  Some reporting lines ultimately end up with the CIO or CTO, others to the COO and others did not.  In many cases they reported directly to a GM or Head of change management, transformation or business strategy or improvement.

In those cases where Business Architecture was not embedded within the Enterprise Architecture function the relationship was enabled via a forum or committee that brought the Business Architects together with those working on the other disciplines.   Gaining agreement on a common content framework, on business modeling standards and on governance procedures were cited as approaches that supported the collaboration.

Although in one case, Business Architecture was relegated to a sub-discipline of IT architecture to focus on the “business stuff”.  In most cases the Business Architects described a differentiated focus or role.

  • A focus on business performance, process design, organization design, strategy and planning
  • The documentation and governance of business processes, organizational elements, business requirements, regulatory requirements, business rules and risks
  • The description of what we are trying to do, what value it adds and how it can be done

The difference from the other architecture domains was often described under the general heading of technology.

  • Technical architecture and governance
  • Strategic solutioning
  • Information, application, data architecture
  • Portfolio management
  • The enterprise stack of tools
  • Innovation through new technology

Business Architecture often demands a certain amount of analysis work and in one case it was seen as glorified business analysis. I have also heard “industry experts” say that they do not understand the difference between Business Architects and Business Analysts.  But that is unfair both to the Business Architects and to the Business Analysts.  They are both important functions in their own right.  In fact it has been emphasized that you need all three disciplines: Business Analyst, Business Architect and the Solution, Information, Technology Architect.

Perhaps in smaller organizations you might get by with a Jack of all trades but the size of the organization represented by these respondents ranged from 1,500 employees to 50,000 employees and they need the benefit of the three different specializations.

While the Business Analysts are the source of the very detailed information needed, the Business Architect brings the skills needed to distil that information and discuss it with the business leaders.  The people they are talking with are the senior leaders, the strategic solutioning teams, the program directors of large change programs and others who need pragmatic, easily digestible information.  They need to understand the implications and gaps, the dependencies, the opportunities and the limitations.

As one person said, “the success gauge for Business Architecture is an organization that starts solving business problems by defining them within the organization’s context across the spectrum of change areas, minus the technology change area, and then works toward the technology, rather than starting at a technology solution that might solve the problem and playing catch-up from there.  I continue to hold to the view that investing in the Business Architecture up front saves on people, process and technology cost at the end.”

Again, I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to respond.  Everyone has a valuable story to tell and everyone is fully committed to the role and function of the Business Architect.  If I have misunderstood anything, please do not hesitate to correct me. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Allen Brown

Allen Brown is President and CEO, The Open Group – a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through IT standards.  For over 14 years Allen has been responsible for driving The Open Group’s strategic plan and day-to-day operations, including extending its reach into new global markets, such as China, the Middle East, South Africa and India. In addition, he was instrumental in the creation of the AEA, which was formed to increase job opportunities for all of its members and elevate their market value by advancing professional excellence.

2 Comments

Filed under Business Architecture, Certifications, Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Transformation, Professional Development, TOGAF

2 responses to “What is Business Architecture?

  1. harryhendrickx

    Hi Allen,

    Thank you for sharing these results. They look fair to me as a practitioner in the field of transformations and architectue management.

    Only one build I would suggest. Business architect’s most important task is communication during both pre-design and Design phase of business needs and requirements. All the modelling is an enabling means, not a goal in itself.

    The second build is that his role is in my view most effective if there is continuity in his role for governance and architecture management. This was already mentioned in your summary.

    Kind regards Harry

  2. Hi Allen
    Thanks for putting together the feedback.
    Would like to know, have you come across anyone working in Agile development. Is the Business Architect role played by Product Owners.

    Best Regards
    JP