A Multitude Of Challenges For Business Architects

I recently led a workshop with 35 clients from a variety of industries to uncover the challenges they face in their business architecture efforts. Through brainstorming and breakout discussions, the group created more than 160 individual challenge statements. In subsequent analysis I was able to identify 14 unique challenges in three major categories: EA skill/capability, organization/culture, and support/resources.

Here are the challenges I identified:

  1. Lack of business skills in the EA team
  2. No proven BA methodology to follow
  3. Low EA visibility/credibility in the business community
  4. Poor business-IT goal alignment
  5. Gatekeepers protect their business relationships
  6. Business units plan and work in silos
  7. A culture of change resistance
  8. Tactical business focus
  9. Lack of clearly articulated business strategy
  10. Lack of executive sponsorship
  11. BA’s value proposition hasn’t been established
  12. Lack of funding for BA initiatives
  13. Concern over impact to other initiatives
  14. Management puts a low priority on BA

Fourteen challenges seem like a lot to deal with (and I am sure there are more). But as I looked at the list I realized that these are not unrelated issues that can be solved independently but in fact are clearly structurally related. For example: A lack of funding can only be solved when you have a compelling value proposition, which can only be created when you have demonstrated value in some way, which can only be done when you have the right skills and capabilities. A general model of the relationship is below. I know most of us would like to start with funding and executive sponsorship, but it just doesn’t work that way.  

Although most architects aren’t facing all 14 challenges, I am pretty sure most are dealing with at least half of these.

What challenges do you face?


What are the "skills" that are lacking?

Thanks for this list, as it certainly makes for good blog fodder. One question I have outside of my forthcoming blog response those is on your first item. Did you get any details on what specific business skills were lacking? It's always difficult to address a problem when the problem itself is vague.

As an aside, if the response from the business is that you lack business skills or business knowledge without specifics, keep this in mind when talking to your IT counterparts apart architecture. If you are vague, it's hard for them to do anything different.

EA to BA "skills"

Good question Todd. I didn’t get specifics from the group I worked with but here is what I think (keep in mind that I am referring to EAs in IT not the business):

First EAs need to understand what business executives care about – things like: creating short and long term competitive advantage, how to create more leaders within the company, what new products and services can we offer, what new markets can we enter and how do we do it, how to make the company, not the individuals, more efficient, how is my marketplace changing, how do we protect and grow our brand, where is our next big opportunity. I could go on but you get the drift.

Second – after a good understanding of the above – EAs need to understand how the organization operates at a high level - and not just how, but why. So how is the company organized and why is it organized that way. Where does the company outsource work and why did it choose that work to outsource. What is the incentive system and why does it work the way it does. How do we fund the company and why do we do it that way. Etc. The important thing to know here is not how but why.

Third, EAs need to understand the current set of BIG business problems that keep people awake at night. This is where the short term wins are that will help EAs build the credibility they need to move forward.

Yes, this is a lot to learn. And no, architects don’t have to know it all before they can act as business architects.

Also, check out my past post: http://blogs.forrester.com/jeff_scott/10-07-09-six_attributes_every_busi...