MEGA recently brought together thought leaders to discuss the evolving role of business architecture in a webinar entitled, “Business Architecture and Strategy Execution: Managing Risk and Scaling Your Practice.” William Ulrich, President of TSG Inc. and the Business Architecture Guild, Diane LeBeau, Chair of The Business Architecture Guild’s Executive Advisory Council, and Josephine Gilmore, Manager of the Business Agility Office at FedEx Services, and MEGA’s North America Services and Customer Success Leader, Gordon Cooper, discussed several topics. Below is a brief recap on the discussion around business architecture and how it can help companies to make more effective decisions.
In our webinar poll, 27% of our respondents indicated their business architecture efforts are viewed as noisy (low perceived value), 46% useful (valued, but not many stakeholders), 24% trusted (has a reputation for delivering value) and 3% influential (business consults before doing a project). While this last point is low, it is encouraging that business architecture is valued and trusted, however more can be done to elevate its value and impact to the organization.
Bill started the webinar by sharing the below graphic from the Business Architecture Guild’s BizBok® Guide which defines the value proposition of business architecture and how it enables strategy execution.
Business architecture helps organizations to make more effective decisions, more quickly based on an understanding of overall scope and impacts, reducing conflicts and streamlining execution, and creating direct traceability to business objectives. Below are three ways to realize the value of business architecture:
Bill Ulrich, President of The Business Architecture Guild, finds that “Too often, organizations are jumping straight to the end because they want to create some sort of digital solution. Far too little attention is paid to developing rigorous business-driven strategies. Businesses need to think, ‘Why am I digitizing? Why am I making these investments? Why do I think I need to leverage and use these technologies?’”
Bill continues, “Sometimes, we use technology to supplement investments in our business. It should be directly tied back to some sort of business strategy, some sort of value delivery to customers and to other stakeholders. If we can't make that connection, we’re really working in the blind and we may be spending a lot of money on things that sound good and look interesting but deliver little value to the organization.”
“Business architecture helps you make more effective decisions. It allows you to make them more quickly and it allows you to understand the overall scope and impact, reducing conflicts, streamlining execution, and creating direct traceability, “says Bill. He further adds, “70% of our webinar respondents said they are in the Useful or Trusted categories; to get to Influential you need to get involved in strategy setting and strategy interpretation. Business architects don’t set a strategy, but they can assist in providing inputs and they certainly are essential to providing an impact assessment on every strategy that comes out of an organization.”
Next, Diane LeBeau, Chair of the Business Architecture Guild’s Executive Advisory Council and retired Director of Business Architecture at United Airlines, adds some perspective on how business architecture helps enable business transformation. She helped lead this initiative during the merger of United and Continental Airlines. “The business architecture team was not originally brought in at the beginning of the effort. After the actual system integration effort had begun, the company stepped back and decided to invite the business architecture team to join this particular program. The very first thing we did was sit down with all the impacted stakeholders and discuss the impact on business capabilities, getting a sense from every single stakeholder to ensure that they understood what was being impacted.”
“This particular approach really helped frame the scope and anchored everyone with the same terminology. Because even though both companies are airlines, the terminology is different, and nothing is worse than working on a project and everyone not using the same terminology. So, it anchored the terminology, and in addition, it highlighted where there may be possible gaps. This was extremely important so that the effort the business and IT teams were putting in was concentrated on the gaps, enabling deeper dives and informed design decisions.”
Josephine Gilmore, Manager of the Business Agility Office at FedEx Services, added some insights around how to realize Influential status. “I’ll tell you a little bit about our journey at FedEx when we started. There was some business architecture as much as 10 years ago, but it really started in earnest about four years ago when we started looking at the problems and barriers we were having in product development. Business architecture had an idea about how we might start addressing pain points in the product development process and started thinking about downstream impacts. At first, there was a lot of, ‘What do we do with this? We think it’s good, but how do we work with it?’ Then slowly by applying the concepts of business architecture to individual projects and helping make connections across initiatives and across organizations, it became a little more Useful.”
Josephine adds, “Then as people started to see wins come out of it with anticipation of downstream impacts and removing potential barriers, we became trusted partners across the organization and built trust across other groups who were helping product development. Now, business architecture is seen as an influential group that is consultative and helps the business owner to hone in on what the most valuable offering is and get them to shape their demand request effectively on the front end to have the highest probability of success.”
For additional insights, please read our eBook Business Architecture and IT Architecture in Unison: Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Execution.