How Would You Sell Business Architecture To Your CEO?

Consider the following scenario. You have realized that your firm can benefit from having a documented business architecture – perhaps based on business capabilities – not for any one issue or need but rather as a general framework for planning, strategic execution and coordination by different parts of business and IT. You are in a meeting with your CIO, making the case, when the CIO says, “In a couple of minutes our CEO is dropping by. You can make your case to him. If he’s interested, we’ll go ahead.” 

OK – that scenario may seem like kind of a stretch – after all, how often does the CEO drop in on the CIO and want to listen to a pitch on business architecture? Well, something like this happened to me recently, and I’d like your thoughts on how to make the case. I was visiting a client – the head of EA at this client (a medium-size financial services firm) – when he said, “I’ve started to lobby with our business management that we need a business capability map. The CEO is dropping by and would like to hear the reasons from you. I think you’ll have about 15 minutes.”

Talk about a challenge! When CEO arrived, after initial introductions, this is the case I made:

  • Your business is complex, and there are decisions and strategies being formulated across the business. While you can set overall direction, the consistency of these decisions and individual area strategies with your direction is likely to be a challenge for you to maintain.
  • IT is enabler of these strategies. Because your IT organization supports all of your business, it sees requests for projects based on these strategies and decisions and is the one company resource where inconsistent strategies and unclear priorities are most apparent. From an IT perspective, this means a lot of projects but not a clear contribution to business success. It may also an indicator of broader organizational thrashing.
  • A business capability map describes your business as the set of related capabilities necessary for your business model and markets. While it’s high level, it captures key business information such as processes, business goals and associated metrics.
  • Firms use these capability maps to have strategic discussions on what capabilities are most important to their business, where they expect the most change, and what the most important outcomes of their investments – both business and IT – should be. They also use them to coordinate planning around business and IT change. The result is better coordinated and more consistent execution of the CEO’s direction.

I’d like to claim I sold him. However, when I followed up a week later with the head of architecture, he said that, while the CEO remains open, he’s not yet convinced.

What do you think of this case for a business capability map? I know many IT organizations are getting real traction with their business using a capability map approach – if you are one, how did you introduce the concept and get their buy-in? 

Comments

I wouldn't even try

I wouldn't TRY selling business architecture to a CEO. I WOULD try selling a change in mindset (individually and organisationally) towards a more EFFECTIVE organisation (aka Rightshifting).

Such a mindset (world-view) change will "pull" more effective behaviours, including (maybe) business architecture.

BTW The three-box monty (df DiModica) is your friend here :)

- Bob

It is not familiar language

We tried this approach in a major Australian company. My experience is that this is unfamiliar language to most senior managers let alone the CEO. Great intellectually but it requires a less than direct approach to be successful. I also found it useful to have business architecture maps to show people.

4 pillars of CEO communication

Alex,

I always frame conversation with CEOs around 4 'pillars'. Reduce cost, increase revenue, enter new markets & increase market share.

I also endeavor to know the CEOs "burning issues" the top 4 things they are currently worried about (reg compliance, failing projects, siloed thinking, etc).

I always tie the conversation to these things. I agree with Graham about using familiar terminology and this is a method for doing that.

By the way, great effort given that you were thinking on your feet. I think that you last point was what bought you a second hearing. I'd stick to that "if you have no destination, every path will take you there." line. Most CEOs have concerns about there being a gulf between strategy and execution. Use the mantra "How can a business possibly hope to deliver products and services optimally with no visibility of the capability portfolio and its relationships to strategy and execution?"

The selling of Business architecture

To Quote "What do you think of this case for a business capability map? I know many IT organizations are getting real traction with their business using a capability map approach"

The issue with the approach is embedded in your comment........business architecture cannot exist soley to give IT traction. If business architecture is to become a valued business discipline it needs to provide stand alone value to the business.

A capabiliyt map or matrix (depending on your approach) is only one small part of BusArch. It is often pitched as the centre piece an approach I disagree with. In my view it is the link from strategy into capability that is the key selling point

Capability Map = Specification

Andrew,

according to my understanding, we may say, a capability map, however it may be propagated, will amount essentially to a more (or most) careful specification for an IT-project/undertaking, intentionally including strategic issues. No more. No CEO will be attracted by specifications issues, obviously.

Thank you for your responses, plus a few comments

Thank you all for your responses to this blog post. I like that this has generated discussion. I'd like to comment on a few of your points:

Bob Marshall - I'm not sure the best way (particularly for someone in IT) to sell a new mindset. However, we can help develop a new mindset by what we bring to the conversation. Recent comment from the head of EA of a large retailer brings this to life: "we introduced our version of a capability model to business division heads 3 months ago. Now they are saying to each other 'we should share this or that capability'" BTW, in my opinion, this sets the land-speed record for changing business thinking!

Graham Johnson - good point about having a map to show. We still have the challenge of we want them to 'own' the map at least conceptually, and to do so, they need to feel like they are co-creators of it. I do think the solution is to make the connection between the map and something they care about, while at the same time trying to develop the new way of thinking that Bob Marshall mentions. I've found that the term 'capabilities' is actually easier for them to identify with, as does the statement "our business model requires that we have a set of capabilities to execute on it" - it sounds like your experience is different.

Alexander Mathews - good points and I believe you are spot on about the CEO worrying about the gulf between strategy and execution. The challenge of focusing on the 'top 4 priorities' is that for many people, the response is a big program - which simply adds to the multitude of initiatives already underway. or another big strategy theme, with varying interpretations.

Andrew Gallagher - I don't disagree with your perspective. But it seems like few business architecture initiatives start within the business and most are started by EA teams. They need a legitimate, recognized by all, reason to start this and I believe the easiest one to justify is how business architecture helps business-IT alignment - which if you believe that technology is pervasive and core to business, is not an 'IT-only' concern.

AS few more words

Alex, I should have said I have just finished a working career of 38 years in the own organisation and have now moved on at age 59 to undertake a PhD covering in part the very question you have raised. We did use a capability model linked to business architecture linked to IT architecture. Problem was poorly defined strategy and business model (a mature business undergoing real change). I am interested in visualising business/IT architecture as an aid to decision making. Needless to say I will keep reading your blog.

Cheers

G

Selling Business Architecture (Capability Mapping)

I agree with the points you made to the CEO. It would have been a tough sell, but the strategic alignment tack appeared to be one that would have have appealed to a CEO. We initially sold capability mapping at a lower level in the organization and based it upon rationalizing applications and projects to make IT more efficient and effective. Now we are gaining traction on selling capability mapping to business PMOs for business portfolio management. At the same time we are developing total cost of ownership models with Business Service Management which is aligned with capabilities. With the traction from the business portfolio management and BSM we are moving into Strategic aligngment based on capabilities for improved business / IT alignment with improved strategic planing, IT portfolio management, and risk management. A top down approach would not have worked in our situation. Our CEO is now aware of what we are doing based on improved efficiencies, but if we had started with him, I doubt if we would be where we are today.

Don't ask, let it be revealed

Two cents...

We documented our business architecture, but we didn't ask for permission to create the business architecture. Instead, we latched onto one of the most critical projects within the company - one that crossed many org boundaries - and made "creating the business architecture" one of the first steps of the project.

The project was extremely successful, and the success was directly related to our approach of first creating the business architecture. Furthermore, the business architecture is now getting reused on other projects.

In my opinion, Business Architecture is a tool used to get a project completed, and is not a project in-and-of-itself.

So, my advice would be that you do not try to "sell business architecture" - not to the CEO anyway. Instead, find a project that needs it and make it successful. In the end you won't need to define/sell business architecture using abstract terms - you will be able to POINT to something and say, "here is our business architecture and this is how it made Project XYZ successful."

Selling BA Starts in the Halls

Alex,

We've been working with experts and partners alike in Business Architecture for about a year now. Proposing a Solution for BA - that is, tool, method, communications, etc. - is a big challenge. Like anything, in forward-thinking companies there are grass roots efforts that get the most traction. It's not EA, and it's not BPA, its both plus a strong understanding of capability. We get more and more positive responses as we work with our partners to push the message to our clients and prospects. We're counting on experts like you to help spread the word!

Thanks,

Terry

Selling Biz Arch

Alex -

Since we're in the business of business architecture... You can't "sell" business architecture. A capability map is the one component that the CEO will care about, but there's more to business architecture than that. The easiest (comparatively) way to introduce business architecture is through KPI improvement angle. Results can be obtained within weeks, not years, and nothing builds credibility of an approach like quick success.

Regards,

Aleks

Capability Maps

I have read several articles in the Blogs that talks about the Capability Maps, but really I don't know what it is, may be because Forrester doesn't have representation in my contry (Venezuela). I read the article, and I feel it is exactly what we need to achieve. Where I could find at least how looks a capability maps for the Banking Industry, what information I could get from it (at least in general terms) and how I can use it.
Regards,
Antonio Marquez

Re: Capability Maps for Banking

Antonio -

Capability maps are by definition heavily customized to each organization. While there are common capabilities and capability portfolios, the levels of investment into them is going to be very different for each organization based on their competitive position. What we found after publishing sample capability maps (we have done so for some verticals) is that it's more productive to show how to create a capability map that will make sense in your organization. You can find more information on that method in our Capability Based Business Architecture Seminar.

Regards,

Aleks

Capability Maps for Banking

One of Forrester's Analyst Jost Hoppermann wrote an article called Bank EAs: Start Working With A Customized Business Capability Map. I would start with that article, then setup a call with Jost. Below is the link to the article. You need access to the Forrester site. Additionally, Jeff Scott, another EA Forrester Analyst has written multiple documents on Capability Maps. Jeff was previously employed with a large bank and was over EA. I hope this helps!

http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/bank_eas_start_working_with_customi...

Thanks,
Chris

Let's begin with a metaphor

Alex - I wrote an article for the Business Architecture Institute (BAI) about the "business of business architecture" where I likened our role, metaphorically speaking to that of a management accountant (see link below).

http://www.bpminstitute.org/articles/article/article/what-is-the-busines...

CEOs don't need us, the same way that they don't need to hire management accountants to run their business. But CEOs still hire the services of management accountants. Why? It's because they rely on management accountants to help them make better decisions. These are decisions that are based on insights which management accountants synthesize from seemingly disparate facts and information. The article will expound more on this metaphor.

In the same manner that CEOs treat management accountants as "trusted advisors" I believe we need to picture ourselves as such when we're in the same room with a CEO. Trust is key. Once we have this mindset, our "elevator pitch" will flow effortlessly -- because friends buy from friends.

But how do you gain trust in the first place, you might ask. There's no simple answer. But the fact that you're in the same room with the CEO already says a lot. Cheers!

Why is Business Architecture Relevant?

My PoV is to focus on selling business results and then making the case for why Business Architecture is relevant to driving these results. In other words, improvements in Business Architecture will result in faster business cycles, improved KPI's of the process (linked to cash imrpovement, cost reduction, or sales) improved productivity, and better and faster decisions. A companies growth and operating strategies will have implications on it's business processes. An end-to-end understanding of your companies proecsses is imperative to be responsive to change. IT enablement and integration of the business process transformation will not only deliver the business results above but will lead to agility in a VUCA world.

Capability to Measure

I tend to agree with Aleks. I have had this talk with a couple of top bosses and the idea that the business architecture helps the end goal of having complete visibility onto their business KPIs really lights them up. Then we had sold IT as a major enabler for this.

Capabilities and relationship to projects (organizational change

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I think you lost him after the first bullet point and especially when you mentioned IT. Do you think your description directly and clearly addressed the CEO’s pain points, for example, his time to market issues or regulatory or fiduciary responsibility?

Consider not talking about IT but rather capabilities and relationship to projects (organizational change) and benefits to the business for such a planning tool, for example:
- Validate project priorities based on the value of capabilities delivered, timeliness, cost, and funding status.
- The degree to which individual business unit projects support foundational technology capabilities is identified.
- Business partners quickly assess the value of tentative projects based on the strength of the relationship to capabilities.
- The timing of a capability’s availability is flagged to inform potential course corrections.

Describe this as a planning tool and mapping of organizational change to manage inherent risks. Natural questions come from this dialog, such as; do I need new competencies to be developed? Are their new processes that need to be addressed? Does this change the way we look at the infrastructure to support the current business model?

Capabilities and relationship to projects (organizational change

Capabilities and relationship to projects (organizational change)

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I think you lost him after the first bullet and especially when you mentioned IT. Do you think your description directly and clearly addressed the CEO’s pain points, for example, his time to market issues or regulatory or fiduciary responsibility?

Consider not talking about IT but rather capabilities and relationship to projects (organizational change) and benefits to the business for such a planning tool, for example:
- Validate project priorities based on the value of capabilities delivered, timeliness, cost, and funding status.
- The degree to which individual business unit projects support foundational technology capabilities is identified.
- Business partners quickly assess the value of tentative projects based on the strength of the relationship to capabilities.
- The timing of a capability’s availability is flagged to inform potential course corrections.

Describe this as a planning tool and mapping of organizational change to manage inherent risks. Natural questions come from this dialog, such as; do I need new competencies to be developed? Are their new processes that need to be addressed? Does this change the way we look at the infrastructure to support the current business model?

Improving Specification will not Help

Alex,

according to my understanding, we may say, a capability map, however it may be propagated, will amount essentially to a (at best much) better specification for IT-undertakings, by intentionally including strategic issues. But this is, by far, not sufficient for that IT/business aligment, which concerns CEOs.

The root for IT/business mis-aligment lies not, I think, in the specification as such, but in the un-reflected conceptual frame, in which any specification is made so far.

This frame is dictated by IT and leaves room to cope with governance only, not self-organization.

However, reality is that in any company we have a mix of governance and self-organization, mostly carefully balanced. CEOs heavily rely on this balance. Specifications in terms of governance seem terribly alien to a CEO.

Regards
Peter

The CEO is more concerned

The CEO is more concerned about the bottom line:
1. How much money can be generated or saved from a documented business architecture.
2. Improve customer satisfaction.
3. Time to market of new capabilities (Leadership position in the market)

I will start my conversation this way with the CEO: A documented business architecture allows your business and the IT organization to work together effectively to understand the current state of existing capabilities and focus their resources by improving those processes and capabilities that improve customer satisfactions and reduce IT spending. Example on how much money can be saved or generated would be helpful to attract the CEO attention. It is all about the numbers.