What Is Business Architecture?
By Jibility Co-Founder Chuen Seet
Business architecture is a practice fundamentally concerned with the translation of business goals into an executable plan.
It achieves this by applying a specific set of methods, techniques and skills with (and to) the business operating model. The goals in question usually relate to solving a particular business challenge, which could be either a problem or an opportunity.
For clarity: a business operating model is a holistic description of how an organization is structured, works, and creates value. The practice of business architecture applies at all levels of an organization, i.e. it’s applicable across the full breadth and depth of the business operating model. So, this means that the scope could range from organization- or enterprise-wide strategic goals, to departmental, functional or project goals.
What Is the Role of a Business Architect?
A practitioner of business architecture is a business architect. A business architect supports the business in achieving its goals by solving structural or systemic business problems, and seizing opportunities to embed new solutions or ways of working.
This is how. Business architects:
- Develop a holistic understanding of the business from different perspectives (such as value chains, capabilities, processes, functions and skills) by use of models, representations or blueprints.
- Identify and communicate business impact and change imperatives for the business to achieve its goals.
- Design options, solutions and actions to meet the business goals.
- Formulate and prioritize packages of work to implement business changes.
- Provide oversight to ensure that the business goals are achieved.
The discipline of business architecture is broad, and there are overlaps with other disciplines, such as enterprise architecture.
Consequently, the role of a business architect can overlap with many different roles, such as an enterprise architect, business analyst or business strategy consultant. In fact, it’s not uncommon in some organizations for senior business analysts or senior business engagement leads to undertake business architecture activities.
Why Does Business Architecture Matter?
Business architecture is often the missing link for organizations that are looking to create and sustain a competitive advantage.
Hadaya and Gagnon, in Business Architecture – The missing link in strategy formulation implementation and execution (available here), describe how business architecture addresses three key challenges that organizations must overcome when in pursuit of their competitive advantage:
The organization must formulate a sound strategy that deliberately differentiates it from competitors.
The organization must successfully implement this strategy and become proficient at transforming itself.
The organization must properly execute the strategy, whereby all capabilities requiring transformation are fully implemented to create lasting change.
Furthermore, Hadaya and Gagnon note ten issues organizations face when attempting to overcome these three challenges. For example, people don’t know what to do to implement their strategy; or the transformation projects are poorly identified or selected.
Their conclusion was that, despite the many strategy formulation approaches out there (such as from Kaplan and Norton), business architecture is the discipline that will enable organizations to overcome these ten issues and tackle the three key challenges.
This is a conclusion with which we whole-heartedly agree, following many years working in the strategy and business architecture space ourselves. Business architecture is crucial for business transformation. When the practice is applied to strategy formulation in a way that is simple, easy to follow, comprehensive and substantiated, then there is a strong likelihood that the strategy will be implemented and executed successfully.
What Does Jibility Have to Do With Business Architecture?
Jibility was birthed out of our aforementioned hands-on business architecture and strategy consulting engagements. We simplified our approach and created Jibility’s six-step method to ease business engagements and provide clarity on the necessary steps in translating a set of business goals into a strategic roadmap.
Importantly, Jibility is founded on sound and proven methods such as capability-based planning. Like Hadaya and Gagnon, we define capabilities as the building blocks in an organization that enable it to do what it does. Taking a capability-based planning approach ensures that actions and initiatives are derived from the specific capabilities that meet the objectives and address the challenges. This keeps business architects focused only on the areas that need elaborating into detailed architectural design.
Jibility additionally has a simple initiative prioritization and roadmap visualization approach to help stakeholders decide which are the right initiatives to invest in within the time, budget and objective constraints. The simplicity behind it makes it suitable for both seasoned business architects and those new to the discipline.