7 Practices of Successful Business Architecture Teams — How to Succeed With Business Architecture: Wisdom from Practice Leaders

Published

April 19, 2021

Updated

May 10, 2021

Published In

PRACTICE & VALUE
Summary
How does an organization really succeed with business architecture? In this epic installment of StraightTalk, we explore that question with nine different business architecture practice leaders from around the word. They each give the straight talk on how to position business architecture, how to deliver real business value and outcomes with it, how to gain buy-in and shift mindsets, and how to start and grow an internal practice within an organization. This installment is based on a very special 3-part podcast series, which contains individual interviews with each one of them.

How does an organization really succeed with business architecture? In this epic installment of StraightTalk, we explore that question with nine prominent business architecture practice leaders from around the world. They each give the straight talk on how to position business architecture, how to deliver real business value and outcomes with it, how to gain buy-in and shift mindsets, and how to start and grow an internal practice within an organization. 

We were humbled and inspired by the leadership, courage, and wisdom of these accomplished professionals and we think you will be too. They are the real deal. Even though we all know it’s a journey, we recognize and celebrate all that they and their amazing teams have achieved.

Here’s the star lineup. We extend a warm thank you to Coen de Bruijn, Grant Ecker, Theresa Fannin, Linda Finley, Chris Jarvis, Alex Randell, Amélie Régimbal, Steven Scott, and Jake Walker for generously sharing their stories, journeys, perspectives, and advice with all of us.

Disclaimer: We've deviated from our usual format of questions and answers. What follows is a brief snapshot of each conversation and a synthesis of our guests' wisdom into the 7 Practices of Successful Business Architecture Teams.

How To Succeed In Business Architecture –The 3-Part Podcast Series

Be sure to listen to the podcast that inspired this StraightTalk post. You do not want to miss a single word of advice. The engaging conversations are compiled into a 3-part podcast series available on Biz Arch Mastery or Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Coen

Coen de Bruijn, Portfolio Director Data & Analytics EMEA at Nike1

Great Quips and Quotes: “Business architecture is like a Swiss army knife.” “Create a diverse coalition of the willing.”

Value of Business Architecture: Connecting the dots in complex environments. Unraveling and giving insight into the complexity.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • Listening to what stakeholders need at a certain point of time and applying the appropriate part of the business architecture “Swiss army knife.”
  • Speaking in terms that stakeholders understand. Making it work in the environment.

Biggest Surprise: How well it can be received and appreciated as a powerful tool.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Create a diverse coalition of the willing to help you move business architecture forward.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Make sure you understand your organization and make sure that what you do with business architecture works for it.
  • Adapt along the way. Try things and allow yourself to make mistakes.
Grant

Grant Ecker, Vice President of Global Enterprise Architecture at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Great Quips and Quotes: “Business architecture is the tip of the spear.”

Value of Business Architecture: Business architecture is what helps us become a forward-looking architecture practice. It is the tip of the spear to create the platform strategy and roadmap, to clarify business strategy, and from that drive the outcomes around how we actually get to where we want to go. We can drive those outcomes into execution and ensure alignment.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • On the Boots side, business architects are the first voice of IT in the 3-year planning process with the business and that came from years of work to build trust with IT. Business architects speak in business terms and drive business stakeholders to the outcomes they are seeking. Business architects have a track record of being a conversion lens to translate ideal outcomes into what the technology, people, and process need to be.
  • On the Walgreens side, we are actively working to create the same success as we’ve had in the Boots business. We are starting with a few key partners and business imperatives and building relationships with our IT colleagues, and creating a facilitated conversation to help the business stakeholders evolve their vision. 

Biggest Surprise: Arriving and seeing the bar of what is possible (as within the Boots business).

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Know that you are not alone. Leverage the community and available resources.
  • Scale is the answer, not perfection. Find ways to bring others along. When the community starts to use this as their language and joins the conversation, that’s the force multiplier.
Theresa

Theresa Fannin, Practice leader of business architecture and business process architecture at a US-based health insurance carrier

Great Quips and Quotes: “Start where your friends are.”

Value of Business Architecture: The business architecture superpower: a common language that allows us to connect the dots and see the entirety.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • Creating strong partnerships with the players across the strategy execution value stream.
  • Gaining buy-in both top-down and bottom-up. Adapt the WIIFM to each stakeholder.
  • Following up socialization efforts immediately with value delivery.

Biggest Surprise: How business architecture varies by organization and even by engagement.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Start where your friends are and leverage the trust and relationships you have built.
  • Don’t start from scratch or aim for perfection.
  • Celebrate every win and build your evangelists once success at a time.
Linda

Linda Finley, Global Architecture Lead at Cargill

Great Quips and Quotes: “It’s all about value.”

Value of Business Architecture: We illuminate the organization for the people who need to make decisions about strategies, investments, and prioritization, and we do it all through a capability lens that lets us see it in a really unique way.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

The business capability model, the mindset, and the buy-in around it is a key success factor. This requires:

  • Getting clear on what the capabilities are, what they represent, and the power they have.
  • Obtaining buy-in from leaders and architects.
  • Creating a governance structure around the capabilities.
  • Bringing capabilities to an actual, active part of how we run and think about our day-to-day operations.

Biggest Surprise (and Delight): When the light bulb goes off for people.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Remember that it’s all about value. We have to be relevant, we have to resonate, and we have to deliver value to the organization we serve. It’s not about the models, the discipline, or the rigor as much as it is the why of it and how we can change our thinking.
  • Really get into it so that you speak from a place of knowing about it rather than doing it.
Chris

Chris Jarvis, Enterprise Business Architect at the UK Financial Conduct Authority

Great Quips and Quotes: “Business architecture is the archetypal long game.”

Value of Business Architecture: People recognize business architecture as uniquely positioned to bring disparate viewpoints of the business together and join the dots in a real value-add way to support strategic delivery ideation. We are working to move business architecture to the left (i.e., upstream in strategy execution) and be recognized as an integrated part of strategy definition and elaboration, with involvement in the business planning cycle, particularly to influence IT portfolio prioritization.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • Building out the enterprise reference models.
  • Working as an integral part of what the organization understands as design integrity: the ability to see the traceability from strategic intent through business solution design, aligning to the IT landscape views, and the business analysis outputs at all stages of the software delivery life cycle.
  • Waiting patiently for an opportunity requiring change on a sufficient scale so that business architecture and what it can do for the organization is recognized.

Biggest Surprise: The lack of business architecture recognition that still exists.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Business architecture is the archetypal long game. Any immediate action should be recognized as a step in the right direction rather than the destination in its own right.
  • Find others to collaborate with who have an area of mutual interest or shared concern.
Alex

Alex Randell, Director of HR Technology at Principal Financial Group

Great Quips and Quotes: “You realize that’s exactly what my job is [the ability to solve complex problems], right?”

Value of Business Architecture: Bridging strategy and execution. What it really means: transparency to ensure alignment of the organization, a focus on the value the organization provides to the customer and understanding the internal building blocks of the business and how they are put together. Boiled down to a few words: business architecture solves complex problems.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • Gaining executive buy-in and an executive sponsor who is willing to serve as the leader for the discipline, be a voice in the executive room, and make connections to get business architects in the right strategic conversations.
  • Having sharp practitioners who can act on opportunities created by the sponsor, including quickly defining and decomposing a problem, leveraging business and IT architecture and initiatives to address it, and delivering value for the organization.
  • Maintaining buy-in and socializing the success of business architecture widely.
  • Equipping other executives and stakeholders to use the business architecture.

Biggest Surprise: There is a community of people who all think about things in a similar way. Just how many ways business architecture can provide value.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Do not focus on the deliverables. Our role is not to “do” business architecture. Deliverables are important, but first and foremost we need to deliver value.
  • Focus on solving the most strategic and most complex problems because your greatest impact will be at that level.
Amelie

Amélie Régimbal, Practice leader for business architecture at Desjardins, the leading financial cooperative in North America

Great Quips and Quotes: “To start a new discipline, you have to be convinced and convincing.”

Value of Business Architecture: Helping people make the right decisions. Ensuring consistency and traceability between strategic ambitions and actions. How? By increasing the relevance and realism in the selection and sequencing of initiatives, by reducing inconsistencies and redundancies, and by speeding ​​up decision-making thanks to our global perspective.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • Establishing key winning conditions. The very first was the senior management support.
  • Finding our trigger, which was the establishment of major transformation programs.
  • Ensuring common practice, tools and language and solidify governance, with EA.
  • Ensuring business architects know the organization and speak the language of decision-makers.
  • Building partnerships and establish a complementary role with other disciplines.

Biggest Surprise: It takes time!

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Do not minimize the efforts to build credibility.
  • Use the business architecture practice as a means not an end.
  • Create a team with different profiles, skills, and backgrounds.
  • Take small steps, do not attack everything at the same time.

Steve

Steven Scott, Director of Business Architecture at Autodesk

Great Quips and Quotes: “Get the organization to crave the clarity.”

Value of Business Architecture: Connecting the dots between what others can’t see. Building bridges between what is envisioned and what is developed which results in much tighter alignment to strategy.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

  • Starting grassroots with a cabal of business architecture “friendlies,” who were key influencers of the roadmaps to better align in-flight and planned initiatives.
  • Getting early wins using business architecture to solve a problem.
  • Leveraging the resulting executive backing to train up the team.
  • Training some product managers and other people in key roles.

Biggest Surprise: The importance of storytelling as THE key skill in the practice.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Start grassroots – under promise and over deliver.
  • Get the organization to crave the clarity that business architecture brings on how to get from strategy to execution.
  • Be relentlessly persistent in building that craving and demand.
Jake

Jake Walker, Head of Business Architecture for Global Distribution for T. Rowe Price

Great Quips and Quotes: “4 factors to get internal buy-in: the team + the 3Ss” “Follow the bright spots.”

Value of Business Architecture: The official mission: As a team, we enable and accelerate our firm’s ability to deliver excellence at scale through capability planning and management disciplines that connect execution to strategy, and we do that through capability models and services. According to our stakeholders: business architecture helps to (1) reinforce accountability for capabilities, (2) objectively assess capability maturity and identify where to invest, (3) identify where we need process and data maturity and ownership, and (4) provide an objective method for integrated strategic planning and investment prioritization.

Key Success Factors and Gaining Buy-In:

The four big factors for gaining buy-in and momentum for business architecture were the team + the 3Ss:

  • Establish a team.
  • Obtain sponsorship.
  • Create repeatable services.
  • Integrate business architecture into strategic planning processes.

Biggest Surprise: How much courage it takes.

Advice for Building a Business Architecture Practice:

  • Find a sponsor and help them articulate the big why and then build a repeatable service to help them deliver it.
  • Then, follow the bright spots. Find people you can help by applying business architecture to their area of focus.
  • Leverage each experience to make your service better and articulate the value to others.

Puting it all together.

Here’s a synthesis across the leader conversations, based on their wisdom and in many cases their own words. Let’s call them the 7 Practices of Successful Business Architecture Teams.

  1. It’s All About Value – Deliver relevant value to the organization you are serving. It’s not about the models and deliverables – they are a means to an end.
  2. Deliver Repeatable Services – Build repeatable services to deliver on your value proposition. Listen, listen, listen to your stakeholders. Speak their language. Deliver relevant services and keep making them better. Integrate into strategic planning processes.
  3. Tell Your Story – Once you’ve delivered, tell the story and articulate value to others. Storytelling is the key skill in the practice. Celebrate every win and build your evangelists one success at a time. Work grassroots and get the organization to crave the clarity.
  4. Build Support Top-Down + Bottom-Up – Find a sponsor and help them articulate the big why. Make sure the story resonates up and down the chain and describe WIIFM to different stakeholders. You have to be convinced and convincing.
  5. Bring Others Along on the Journey – Start where your friends are and create strong partnerships. Create a diverse coalition of the willing to help move business architecture forward. When others come along, it is the force multiplier.
  6. Don’t Aim for Perfection – Remember that business architecture is the archetypal long game. Scale is the answer, not perfection. Try things and adapt along the way. Take small steps. Make each action a step in the right direction.
  7. Remember You Are Not Alone – Don’t start from scratch. Leverage the resources available. Get help from the business architecture community. You’ll be amazed at how open and welcoming they are. 

Here’s a handy summary of it all.

Illustration showing the 7 Practices of Successful Business Architecture Teams

How To Succeed With Business Architecture: Wisdom From Business Architecture Practice Leaders

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Whether you are just starting the business architecture journey or well on your way, we celebrate your achievements.  Know that you are not alone – you are part of a global business architecture community and together we are making a difference every day to our organizations and world.

Your answers are here, the resources exist, and the community has your back. Courage, mes amis. Take that leap and make business architecture sing. 

More Good Stuff...

How To Succeed With Business Architecture (3-part StraightTalk podcast series): Just in case you missed the links right there in the beginning, every single practice leader conversation is a must-listen. Conversations with Theresa Fannin, Grant Ecker, and Chris Jarvis are in Part 1. Conversations with Coen de Bruijn, Linda Finley, and Steven Scott are in Part 2. Conversations with Jake Walker, Amélie Régimbal, and Alex Randell are in Part 3.

Conquering the Business Architecture Summit (Whynde Kuehn): Establishing a business architecture practice is a journey of passion, persistence, and reward. This white paper is a passion piece that shares a vision of what is possible and some wisdom on how to succeed on the business architecture journey, using mountain as metaphor.

Related StraightTalks: Here are a few select installments of StraightTalk that provide some helpful background: Post No. 72 on The Secret of business architecture; Post No. 4 on how to build a business architecture practice by leading with value and building as you go; Post No. 90 on secrets of socialization; Post No. 97 on business architecture strengths and team building: Posts No. 3 and No. 50 on business architecture and strategy execution; and Posts No. 55 and No. 86 on decision-making.

Selected Business Architecture Presentations: Learn from your friends. Check out just a few of the excellent presentations from previous Guild Business Architecture Innovation Summits, shared by our business architecture leaders and their organizations.

Twin Cities Business Architecture Forum (TCBAF): This is the community Linda mentioned in her podcast, of which she is the Founder. This vibrant community is glocal (global + local), so check it out for events (including an annual Summit in December), resources, and community.

8 Secrets of Success (TED Talk): A 3-minute TED Talk by Richard St. John, who defines 8 secrets of success based on 500 interviews and 7 years of research. These secrets apply to building a business architecture practice – and life.

  • 1. Please note that much of Coen’s insights were drawn from his experience at ABN AMRO, where he was the Head of Business Architecture for several years prior to joining Nike.