Let’s review first some examples of artificial intelligence applications so we can get a more precise picture of the order of magnitude of artificial intelligence transformation to the business:
Even though artificial intelligence technology is promising, it represents a real challenge for companies to develop, customize or implement. Additionally, budget and resources are often limited, and organizations are reluctant to spend some of their budget for a hypothetical return on investment into a technology that has not yet proved its profitability.
The implementation of artificial intelligence requires a broad understanding of the business context because lots of customizations can be needed to implement an effective AI solution that brings concrete business results. Also, there are many areas of the business that can benefit from artificial intelligence that it is often very difficult for company leaders to prioritize artificial intelligence initiatives.
Based on these aforementioned challenges, company leaders need help gaining clarity to improve their decision-making when it relates to AI. This is where business architecture comes into play with its holistic approach. As described in Wikipedia, it is a discipline that "represents holistic, multidimensional business views of: capabilities, end‐to‐end value delivery, information, and organizational structure; and the relationships among these business views and strategies, products, policies, initiatives, and stakeholders.”
In the Bizbok, a guide published by The Business Architecture Guild, there are four core elements that serve to define the business architecture including value streams, business capabilities, information and organization.
Value streams are depicted as an end-to-end flow of activities from a stakeholder perspective. They define the required stages necessary to satisfy customers.
Let’s suppose a bank wants to understand how it can improve its loans with artificial intelligence. A business architect will define the value stream for a customer who wants to subscribe to a loan as such:
Review all loan offers -> get advice -> select the loan -> check credit score -> get approved -> pay desired item with the loan
By describing value streams, business architects ensure to get a true customer centric approach integrated in the business architecture. Value streams are also easy and quick-to-use and they clearly show how value is delivered to the customer. In the previous example, the value obtained by the customer is to pay a desired item with the best loan.
A business capability map is a set of business capabilities that can be viewed as the building blocks defining the business. Business capabilities can also be tied to value streams because each stage of a value stream is enabled by business capabilities. With this tie, business architects can fully understand how business capabilities provide value to customers and work with a true customer-centric approach.
Then, by assessing business capabilities, business architects are able to identify and prioritize the business capabilities that can be improved.
Going back to our last example, business architects can assess the capabilities supporting the loan approval stage in the value stream and find out how they can be optimized with artificial intelligence.
In AI, information is of course an important aspect because artificial intelligence is all about data, structured or not structured. In business architecture, this element is about making a glossary of business concepts used in an organization and depicting how they relate to each other in information maps. Concepts can be created through a bottoms-up approach which consists of analyzing databases and extracting metadata out of them. A top-down approach can also be performed. In such a case, business architects can identify the different concepts based on the business capability map objects.
In our example, the approval piece can be optimized by for example, analyzing vast amounts of consumer data and utilizing machine learning algorithms to develop credit risk models that predict a consumer’s likelihood of default.
Representing the organization is key to understanding business context. In this element, business architects describe the company organization (business units, departments, functions, people etc.) in organizational maps. Organizational items can also be tied to business capabilities to get visibility into the business units involved for each capability.
When analyzing how artificial intelligence will impact an organization, it becomes clear and easy to identify the business units impacted by a change in a business capability due to artificial intelligence.
Other elements of business architecture and enterprise architecture need to be studied to fully understand the impact of artificial intelligence into an organization. Namely, the business processes that need to be redesigned because artificial intelligence will change many current processes, as well as the applications supporting business capabilities that should be redeveloped to integrate artificial intelligence.
Based on this analysis, business architects can identify various transformation initiatives or projects, and simulate different transformation scenarios of AI implementation, such as building or buying a new AI application, or adding a new AI feature to an existing application.
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