Business Architects Are Overly Optimistic About Their Ability To Create Business Architecture

Forrester’s Q2 2011 Global Current State Of Business Architecture Online Survey found that organizations are optimistic about the effort it takes to create a business architecture – overly optimistic. The prevailing view is that it will be significantly easier to create business architecture than it is to create enterprise technical architecture. A significant number of Forrester’s survey respondents – 63% – thought they would create the core business architecture in less than two years. They are clearly not taking into account the multitude of challenges that make building business architecture an arduous and time-consuming task.

 I talk with business architects every day. Here are the types of challenges they tell me they are facing:

 No standard tools or methodologies are available. Existing EA templates and approaches offer little value. Much of the BA’s work is exploration and innovation. It takes time to find the right path.

 Business architecture has to be sold. The overwhelming majority of current business architecture efforts are not chartered by business executives. This means they must be promoted and sold. Additionally, business architecture is a complex product, and every sales professional knows that complex products have elongated sales cycles.

 Multiple views are the norm. Business architecture artifacts are not one size fits all. There are many different viewpoints of business issues and opportunities, including strategy, capability, and process, among others. Business executives vary in their perspectives, so multiple views of each viewpoint will have to be tailored to fit the specific audience.  

 Business relationships are a requirement. BAs can’t just huddle in a corner and create a bunch of fancy business architecture PowerPoint slides. They have to work with business managers and leaders to understand what is important and iterate though multiple architecture views to arrive at business architecture products that are meaningful to business managers. Unless you already have broad and deep relationships with senior business managers, it is going to take a significant amount of time to create them.

 Political and cultural hurdles abound. Current business relationship owners in IT are likely to be resistive to BAs having free rein with “their” clients. Business leaders themselves will question why they should spend time with BAs. Many organizations have strong cultural biases built in to keep everyone focused on the current task and objective. It is often hard to get business leaders to think past next Tuesday.

What are your business architecture challenges?

Comments

Jeff, good post! I would add

Jeff, good post! I would add selling BA to the technology community as a challenge. Done right, BA provides the foundation for strategy, planning, investment decisioning and solution delivery. In many organizations BA has traditionally been considered a "soft skill" that hard core techies don't get or appreciate. I think it has a better chance of success in organizations where the CIO has a balanced vision and good relationships with the business. BA's need to have great sales and relationship skills to get it off of the ground.

Cheers!

Ron Trosvig - AXP

63% of forester survey

63% of forester survey respondents how long would it take create a business architecture answer is less than 2 years, obvious not taken into account the challenges involved. Some key take away of this blog post
• Tools for EA not sharp enough to attack the problem. (Really need a good tool, seen sparx it sux...), the tool industry is immature and so is EA
• Stakeholders not bowled over by the idea of having a BA in place doesn’t surprise me
• Relationship - did I just say I need to get under the skin of the business managers; we need to get the business managers (considering most of them are chasing numbers).
• Political Hurdles- Did I say it was going to be cake walk. My friend Watson get a life, we are solving the biggest mystery of the times "Enterprise Architecture of XYZ Bank"
While what mentioned above is not really a challenge the Enterprise Architect is expected to do this “all said and done these are is core competencies”

BAs are optimistic? We have to be!

Good points Jeff (and Ron from AXP). It is important that BA's wear two hats: Firstly, they have to be the strategists with their eyes on the horizon to get the business where it needs to go; but also (and critically) they have to operate tactically in the here and now to get wins that build credibility and engagement - with both business and technical personalities. Finding small proofs of concepts, championing certain policy or process improvements, and things like that all help to keep BA's feet on the ground and relevant to the teams while they focus on the bigger picture - and that's where an understanding CIO is so important.

Business

Absolutely correct. Business architecture is a term heard most often from IT people not from the business people. It reflects a desire on the part of the IT folks to have a known, solid, stable and predictable business environment against which they can plan systems. Sorry, but it don't work that way in the real world. Enterprise architecture is indeed important for effectively deploying systems. But rather than trying to force fit the business into a technically minded architecture, enterprise architects would do far better to work on building the skills necessary to understand and respond the businesses changing conditions, and building the relationships to effectively influence their colleagues.
Business Plan

Business Architecture Challenge

One of the challenges I have encountered is that the term "Business Architecture" scares or bores many business leaders/managers

(1) Because they don't know what it is, they immediately associate the term with "complex" and "expensive".
(2) Having no idea of the benefit or value of this "complex, expensive" endeavor the risk of allotting any of their scarce time and budget to even explore the concept seems too great.

I would say the foremost challenge from the Business Architect's perspective is understanding the particular business challenges of business leader/manager and being able to convey to them in language that is meaningful to them what aspects of, and how, "business architecture" would help them and their team respond to those challenges.

I have worked with one organization where we could not use the term "architecture" for a number of months. Once we had worked with all levels of staff to build a solid set of models that met their business need then we started introducing the term. Another organization I am working with I may not be able to use the term "architecture" for a couple of years because it just is not part of their business vocabulary. Yet another organization, some of the senior management are not shy of the term "business architecture" at all, but it is still meaningless to their executive so cannot be used in the business case.

I would be very interested to know how others communicate the "why" and "what" of developing business architecture.