Business Architecture 101

Neil Williams

28 Aug 2018

A Business Architecture is a structured model of the fundamental business strategy, vision, goals, objectives and capabilities of an organisation. This model provides a common understanding of the technology, people, processes, projects and data in an organisation. It creates a bridge between strategic vision and tactical demands.

This post outlines what business architecture means to Tilix Smart Energy. It provides a broad perspective around the role and function of Business Architecture, laying the foundation for further conversation.

4+1 View

Guiding Definitions

The key business architecture views address several aspects of the enterprise:

  • Business Model: describes the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers, and captures value, in economic, social, cultural or other contexts.
  • Business Strategy: answers “What business should we be in?” and “How shall we compete?”
  • Business Capability: The collection of people, process and technologies to address a specific purpose.

Challenges Addressed

Tilix Smart Energy and its clients use business architecture tools and techniques to helps address challenges in the following areas:

Business Transformation

Can existing capabilities be used in new ways? What new business capabilities are required to benefit from changes in the market or operating environment? Are terminology and semantics aligned right across the business?

Business Capability Effectiveness & Efficiency

How optimised is the business capability in executing the business strategy? Are there any duplicate or obsolete business capabilities? Can we increase business agility, efficiency and effectiveness? Can we streamline supply and distribution chains or other external relationships? Are processes shared across business units simplified and optimised? Where is workflow process automation possible?

IT Effectiveness & Efficiency

How must faster, cheaper and better can IT support and execute the business capabilities? Are there any duplicate or obsolete IT capabilities? Is IT orchestrated to support crucial value streams? Are business requirements clearly communicated to IT?

Business Architecture Artefacts

In addition to documented strategy, business models and business capabilities; some of the most common artefacts include:

Structural Models

Models that emphasise the things that are or will be present in the business are used extensively in planning. These describe how an organisation is split up into building blocks and the important interdependencies.

A good structural model is a logical representation of a business and is depicted on a single page. It can be used in:

  • Business plans for new ventures.
  • Assessing strategic alignment.
  • Identifying overlapping or superfluous business capabilities.
  • Buy or build options.
  • Prioritising areas for transformation.
  • Roadmap after mergers or acquisitions.

Business Process Models

Business process models represent the processes of an enterprise so that new processes can be established or the current activity may be analysed, improved, and automated.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a widely used standard. It is a graphical language used to create business process model. BPMN is ratified as ISO 19510.

Techniques such as the flow chart, functional flow block diagram, control flow diagram, Gantt chart, PERT diagram etc are business process modelling techniques that have been in common use for some time.

Value Streams

Value streams are used to specify a value proposition in the form of an end-to-end collection of value-adding activities. Value streams provide an outside-in view that take the perspective of the customer. They can be cross-mapped to enabling business capabilities that describe how value is delivered.

Use Case Models

A use-case model shows the useful ways to use a product, application, service etc. Use Case Models are requirement documents and as such are for internal audiences rather than customers. Use-case models can be captured in many different ways including as part of a Wiki, on a white board or flip-chart, as a set of PowerPoint slides, in a MS Word document, or in a modelling tool.

Invent, Deploy & Optimise

Getting value from Business Architecture tools and techniques typically comes in three waves.

The first wave (invent) sets the stage and coordinating behaviours come to the fore. Taking care not to overwhelm, the large body of published work on Business Architecture can be used to ensure the team develops a shared mental model. Low hanging fruit can be easy to identify, so a feel good factor and ROI can be achieved quickly.

In some cases the initial Business Architecture activity will exasperate conflict and tension. Sticking to a systematic approach can calm things down. As well as providing subject matter expertise, the Business Architect must also exhibit coaching behaviours and develop mutual trust.

The second wave (deploy) starts after the initial introduction of the tools and techniques. In addition to helping put strategy into action, Business Architecture can help improve business processes and increase the value of IT. However, successfully implementing and sustaining projects requires a new set of keys to unlock success. Here the Business Architect must utilise listening skills, empower others to lead and get engagement from across the business.

A third value wave (optimise) comes into play when Business Architecture start to become custom and practice. A challenge at this point is to not take the results for granted and let up on Business Architecture tools and techniques. Expanding the initiative and keeping up with industry best practices become more and more important.

Conclusion

Business Architecture is a critical viewpoint in business, IT, project portfolio and risk governance. It is the bridge between enterprise strategy on one side and business capability on the other.

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