Six Attributes Every Business Architect Should Display

I am frequently asked what makes a good architect and, more often now, what makes a good business architect. If I were hiring a business architect, here is what I would look for:

A sound understanding of business principles and concepts. Most IT types think understanding the business is all about understanding the business processes, but this is not what business leaders are interested in. Business architects should understand how the market context affects the business, how value is created, what differentiates their company from its competitors, and how products are created, marketed, and sold. They should have a good understanding of how business strategy is developed – even if it is never articulated.  

An ability to think about business processes outside of the technology context. Even business people have a hard time with this. I have had more than one business architect share his frustration with business project people who continually talk about business process in terms of how their applications work. Though a business architect needs to understand how to leverage IT for business value, he needs to be able to draw a wide, heavy line between business processes and the technologies that enable them.

A really strong consulting mindset. Building a good business architecture is more about listening and hearing between the lines than selling a concept or framework. At the end of the day, the successful business architecture will be one that resonates with business leaders. Business architects should see themselves as business consultants looking for problems to solve.  

A strategic point of view. Business architects need the ability to challenge people’s thinking, to get them out of the current issues and current systems and into thinking about the possibilities of the future. As one of my clients so eloquently put it: “It’s not so much about thinking outside of the box as it is thinking outside of YOUR box.”  

Good at design thinking. I want business architects who can bring order out of the typical strategy chaos at most companies. That means that they can listen to lots of ideas and create a view that resonates across a wide part of the organization. It means they have the ability to see what others are missing and can create a clear line of sight between business intention and business action.

A catalyst for change. At the end of the day, business architecture isn’t worth the napkin it is scribbled on if the organization doesn’t change. A business architect should see himself as a change agent fist and an architect second. He should use business architecture as a tool to agitate for action.  

What do you want to see in your business architects?


A "no IT" analysis. We are getting there

That's a very good analysis. It goes right with I think a Business architect is /should be. At my company I am supposed to be the Business Architect but 99% of the stuff I get in hands is all about IT. My peers are most focused on the "bits & bytes" perspective without seeing the big picture.
They complain about that as they understand the contribution of enterprise architects can be better to the business in general and not only for the IT department or for this or that project alone.
In short the problem is the lack of top executives support.

Jeff, this is a very

Jeff, this is a very insightful piece, that rings absolutely true to me. Something I really like is that although the focus is on business thinking, you don't shy from identifying 'design thinking' as important. For some reason business architects, enterprise architects, and even enterprise IT architects (we can unravel these later) seem to want to avoid the term 'design', even though it is what architecture is largely about, i.e. structural design thinking - also systems thinking - as you say bringing order to chaos. With this goes the need to be able to articulate complex concepts in ways that make them simple and attractive to the majority. All of the characteristics that you highlight though are spot on and I just wish that we would actually see business architecture job descriptions like this.

Be able to expand and challenge

Jeff, Great summary and list.

I would add to your “It’s not so much about thinking outside of the box as it is thinking outside of YOUR box.”

A business architect needs to be of value by asking thought-provoking questions to help the business, challenge it's decisions (and boundaries), and uncover what is not being said or known. Problems may not be known. New revenue opportunities may not be seen. It is important for the business architect to go beyond cost-cutting and problem-solving issues. It may not be thinking inside/outside the box. It's the ability to help the business round some of it's square corners.

The business needs to be better off after a business architects involvement than without.


This is a great business advice article. It covers all the aspects, I am thinking to relocate my business soon using a professional company and seeking new challenges for better success.
Thanks and Regards/-
Jason Webb

What about "architecture"?

Business management should embody most (if not all) of the qualities listed here for a Business Architect position. But what makes a business architect different from business management?

Architecture within business organizations is still not as mature as the field of building architecture. I think a strong quality desired in a business architect is the ability to establish a business architecture and through it increase the shared understanding of the organization within the organization. The ultimate objective of architecture is to enable people to think outside of their boxes and be change agents.

In other words, one limitation in today's business world is the lack of a business architecture that is shared between the business stakeholders (and everyone is a stakeholder). Without an architecture to give us a shared terminology then people fall back on what they know and what is "tangible". When you raised as a concern "business project people who continually talk about business process in terms of how their applications work" then that is a result of not having any other way to express themselves in concrete way. The challenge is turning business architecture from something abstract into something concrete which business can use to understand their business, think outside their box, and become change agents.

Architecture is about Empowerment

Jeff, thanks for pointing me towards you blog. I find it most inspiring. As the Chief Architect of a software business, I do not only need to think in terms of resonating with one set of executives but with as many as possible.

I think the good architecture is about empowerment. Empowering executives to bring their strategies to life, empowering management to describe and strive towards tactical objectives, and empowering process owners and their teams to fulfill business goals. What does empowerment mean in this context? It means to make the business independent of IT in terms of their everyday needs. A good architecture does exactly that. It maps one-to-one to what the business needs to execute. It's what I call a Real World Architecture!

Max J. Pucher, Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus


Jeff - great list, I especially like your first point, understanding what businesses are about is something that is too often overlooked. What I wuld add is that a crucial skill is being able to talk to the business in their language - whatever that may be - rather than in "architecture-speak" or "IT-language". Perhaps that is implied in your other points, but it seems important enough to warrant a special mention.

Speaking in Business Language

I agree with Doug about speaking business speak rather than architectural or IT language.

Biz Architecture is a tool that Biz Architects uses to help the business. Biz Architects need to understand how to use the tool...not the business executives.

The only warning I would also share is that Biz Architects may know about the business but will never know as much as a person living it and doing it every day. A good business architect will never say to him/herself "I know that." Instead, a good Biz Architect will say "How well do I know that" and keep listening and learning.

Financial savviness

Hi Jeff,

Great article !

I would like to add to your first point on "A sound understanding of business principles and concepts", is that business architects at the minimum should exihibit financial savviness, knowledge/understanding of balance sheet vs income statements, and linkage between the two. It's important (especially these days) that they have understanding of financial statements.