The Business Architect Cometh

[Forrester Principal Analyst Alexander Peters, PhD. and I collaborated on this research.]

You may have heard the term "business architect" in your travels; if you haven't, you soon will. A significant number of our clients are searching for these new leaders. Broadly, BAs are responsible for developing and managing an organization's business model and business technology (BT) agenda. The business architect fills the gap between business management and IT management. One way to bridge the gap is to make it someone's responsibility to do so.

In our research, we spoke to individuals occupying this crucial role in a large European agency, a large financial services firm, a regional healthcare provider, a diversified energy provider, and a logistics firm. The need for BAs is most acute in organizations that are in the midst of transforming their businesses and information systems.

The need for business architects is manifest, but what's less apparent to these firms is how this role should be structured, who should occupy it, and what a BA's responsibilities should be (as illustrated by wide variations in job ads for the position). In our research, we found two established models for the BA role:

Both the BAA model and the enterprise architecture models suffer a common weakness: They define a role that is consultative in nature rather than a role that is responsible for getting things done. Key decisions and execution strategies are left in the hands of other organizations. Also, in both the BAA and EA models, the BA has no direct accountability for the successful execution of transformation plans and decisions. With no accountability, there's neither a strong incentive nor the authority to sweat the details that result in success.

We recommend a third model for chartering business architects: Establish the role as an executive function accountable for getting things done rather than just advising others on what to do. We call this approach the business architecture executive. We saw this model employed in a regional healthcare insurer and a financial services firm. Forrester clients, see the full research report for a detailed description of the business architecture executive role. We include recommendations for both application development & delivery professionals and business process pros on this topic. (Hint: What a great opportunity for you!)

Our definition of business architect as executive may never fly as a new title and department within enterprises. But we believe it is likely to become how the top corporate technology leader — whatever his or her title — functions in the future. Forrester has long predicted that the future of IT is business technology (BT). BT leaders have a seat at the corporate strategy and planning table. To have a seat at the executive table, an individual needs high status in the organization. Certainly, a business analyst who works as a consultant and an enterprise architect-cum-business architect do not have enough status. These formulations of the BA role describe a staff function, not an executive leadership position. The most likely candidate to fill the BA executive role, then, is a C-level executive. We've seen CIOs as well as chief process officers play this role. Thus, we believe our business architect as executive model forms the core job description of a BT leader.

What's your experience with this topic?


Business Architect - Critical Success Factors

The real need behind the emerging BA’s profession is defined by today’s requirement for Continuous Change, driven by the necessity to extract more Value out of existing Operating Models (People, Processes and Technologies) in an increasingly competitive and globalised Knowledge Economy.

I personally find an element of critical reflection in the underlying assumptions behind the BA’s organisational positioning and related accountability concerns expressed above; namely: “Things get done if someone is made accountable, and the related authority to make things happen comes from the organisational status of the accountable person (i.e. CXO).”

My personal experience with Business Transformation in the last 10-15 years suggests otherwise. My observations tell me that nowadays Change success or failure is driven by:

• The appropriate Enterprise-wide Leadership behavior and corporate culture
• The ability of analysing and understanding Change holistically and systemically from a People, Processes and Technology point of view, with the People element driving the fundamental enablement of a new Leadership wisdom (Change Leadership) capable of shifting the outdated Change Management paradigm: Change decisions taken at an Executive level and cascaded top-down to the rest of the organisation with an incentive scheme fundamentally driven by a monetary leverage.

My empirical observations also suggest that today’s dominant Change Management wisdom is still of a traditional top-down kind, which represents the key root cause behind Corporate’s struggles with the required continuous innovation and improvement pace and depth.

Cascading Change from the top is often a recipe for painful resistance to change at many organisational levels (especially front line operational), which drives many of the transformational effort struggles and failures that we have all observed across the last couple of decades.

Acknowledging that top-down commitment is only a necessary condition, but not sufficient, and the real critical success factor is driven by the Leadership ability to broaden the Stakeholders engagement process as much as possible both internally and externally is key here. “Authority” is not so much a function of organisational status anymore, but increasingly reflects the ability to build followership through Stakeholders’ involvement, engagement, motivation and inspiration via non-monetary means and regardless of these Stakeholders’ titles and positions within the organisation.

I personally see the BA’s inclusion at the CXO level positively, but not so much in terms of cascading change authority, but rather as a powerful Leadership Behavioral Change Influencer across the entire CXO team and from there throughout the entire organisation at all levels.

In answer to the above “How, Who and What questions”:

• WHO: An effective Change Leader, who is capable of influencing and motivating Stakeholders at all organisational levels, from high level strategic to hands-on operational (i.e. Business Analyst skillset)
• HOW and WHAT (Role & Responsibilities): Owner of and responsible for the Sustainable deployment of a Continuous Change centered Operating Model that leverages End-to-End Process Analysis and Measurement as a vehicle for the creation, sharing and application of Change Knowledge across the entire organisation in a “genuine” collaborative and partnership spirit.

In summary, I personally see a Business Architect operating without the CXO status, but equipped with the right leadership skills, utilising a leading-edge toolkit (i.e. End-to-End Business Process Modeling, Lean Six Sigma Performance Measurement System, and etc.) and engaged in the appropriate cultural setting, having far better chances of succeeding than a BA CXO who does not possess the above characteristics and tools.

However, I strongly believe that the combination of the two scenarios together is the best possible scenario to ensure Sustainable success – BA CXO equipped with a cutting-edge leadership mindset and technical toolkit.