Over the last few months I have met or spoken to a significant number of Forrester clients who are undertaking a business architecture initiative. As you can imagine, these initiatives have various sponsors and are at various levels of maturity. Some business architecture (BA) initiatives are being driven by chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) wanting to get a seat, and become an influencer, at the strategic decision-making table. Whilst others are being driven by business executives, who either believe business design and transformation is a business responsibility or that IT has insufficient business competency to understand and deliver what is required.
The different levels of maturity struck me, as just like the English Premier League (that’s where real football is played, for those not in the know) there are the elite (the big boys – top five or six teams) and there are the also-rans/others. There are also the elite BA teams and the non-elite BA teams. The gap between these two groups is growing, which will be a nightmare for a non-elite BA leader benchmarking his initiative against other organizations. Where one could argue in the football reference it is money that divides the two groups, as this attracts better players and creates better teams, with BA teams it appears to be more based on focus. Less mature and non-elite BA teams focus their efforts primarily on the building of BA, reacting to siloed demand and then selling or pushing BA artifacts to stakeholders in the hope that they find these artifacts useful. Whereas, the elite BA teams focus on addressing stakeholder needs and the use of BA, delivering relevant BA services and allowing stakeholders to pull the BA artifacts that address the challenges they face.
When I look at the sorts of advisory work we engage in, I am often struck by the fact that our client organizations are at very different start points on their business architecture journeys. The start point is complicated by the team’s perception of the stakeholders they serve (to whom they deliver value) and the ultimate objectives for their initiative. Not only are the start points and journeys themselves different, but the challenges met on the road also differ. So in a very real sense, working out which mountain you are scaling is just as important as the deciding the route to get there and the team required for success.
We see many different types of business architecture efforts — usually they are attempting to support one or more of the following initiatives:
Provide the basis for transformational change.This is especially difficult when transformation implies changing just about everything you do and, most importantly, the way you think. When the organization is going for a “wellness program,” rather than continuing to apply project fixes like Band-Aids, the challenge is to engage colleagues on that longer-term objective rather than becoming fixated with short-term efficiency goals.
Remove redundancy post-merger in an M&A scenario. Often, the challenge here is to take two or more distinct cultures and legacies, and develop one compelling future, complete with new organizational structure and road map to get there. Sometimes dressed up with other titles such as process harmonization, this usually involves surfacing views of the business and its purpose such that leaders and managers see past their own silo-oriented agendas.