The Business Architecture Sherpa Series: Frequently Asked Business Architecture Questions, Part 2


18 June 2018


07 May 2020

Published In

In this installment of StraightTalk, we cover the second half of the questions and answers (#11-#20) to our top 20 FABAQ (Frequently Asked Business Architecture Questions), which help you understand and help you help others understand the importance and value of business architecture.

In this installment, StraightTalk Post No. 30, we have the second half of the questions and answers (#11-#20) to our top 20 FABAQ (Frequently Asked Business Architecture Questions), which help you understand and help you help others understand the importance and value of business architecture. Feeling smarter already?

P.S. Just in case you missed the first half of the FABAQ, you can check it out here in Post No. 29.

11. Can business architecture be used for digital transformation? Is it necessary? Won’t it slow things down?

The right question to ask is actually, “how can an organization successfully do digital transformation without business architecture?” An organization with an established business architecture practice can greatly accelerate and improve the results of their digital transformation both because of the enterprise framework and cohesive strategy execution approach that are inherent to business architecture.

Many organizations struggle with knowing where to start and how to organize themselves for a digital transformation. The pure scope of change can be overwhelming and it requires organizations to work differently than they have before, not only due to scale but because it almost always entails needing to work across business units in order to achieve the integration and transparency required to shift towards customer centricity.

However, business architecture provides a foundation for digital transformation in two key ways. The first is that business architecture provides an agreed upon, business-focused framework, encompassing everything that an organization does, described at a high level. Business architecture also connects to all other aspects of the organization, including the operating model level of detail made up of people, process and technology. As a result, business architecture provides the fundamental structure for digital transformation, allowing people to readily view what the organization does from a business perspective (without spending time rediscovering it) and then methodically assess and redesign how it will change as a result of digital transformation—no matter if it entails digitalizing existing capabilities and offering them in different channels or completely reinventing the organization’s business model.

The second way in which business architecture provides a foundation for digital transformation is through its role in translating strategy into a coordinated set of actions for execution. With a documented enterprise level business architecture (and IT architecture) in place, the business and IT impacts of the digital strategy and defined future customer experience can be cataloged and assessed and then collectively architected across products and business units. The resulting target architecture(s) can then be scoped into a set of transformation initiatives in the most effective way across business units—without redundancy, conflicts or dependency issues. The traceability from strategy and objectives through the business architecture to initiatives also allows for measurement to ensure the initiatives actually deliver on the expected results. This top-down, cross-business unit approach to strategy execution is essential to any type of business transformation—and to an organization’s ability to continually adapt to change. While it requires more than just business architecture to achieve, an established business architecture practice will help to drive much of this approach within the context of a transformation.

Check out Post No. 9 for more on how business architecture may be used for business transformation from end-to-end.

12. How does business architecture work with agile development? Doesn’t architecture slow it down?

In its simplest form, agile is about getting things done—and business architecture helps us get the right things done. While business architecture focuses on the business and translating business direction, agile teams are the mechanism that take that direction and deliver the results.

Within the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe), business architects work at the portfolio level and focus on:

  • Informing prioritization
  • Providing business context and framing for work
  • Providing a common vocabulary and mental model
  • Connecting the dots across the organization related to business direction and initiatives

If applied correctly, business architecture should not slow down agile teams. Business architects work alongside the teams to help them be focused and prepared—which speeds things up rather than slowing them down. And, it ensures that the agility and the success of the team is applied to the highest value parts of the business.

Check out Post No. 27 for more on this as well as the corresponding podcast.

13. What does a business architect do?

There are three focus areas of the business architect role in any organization:

  • Applying business architecture to various scenarios (a.k.a. “architecting”)
  • Building the business architecture knowledgebase
  • Creating the business architecture practice infrastructure

A business architect may focus on one, two or all three of these, depending on how the role is defined in their organization. But make no mistake, #1 is the most important thing that business architects do. Business architects architect and provide insights to support decision-making. The role has never been more important than it is today because our organizations are constantly changing, especially due to external factors like new customer expectations, the shifting competitive landscape, digital technology and regulation.

There is not yet an industry standard business architect job description in place yet, so if you are looking to hire a business architect or join an organization as a business architect, keep in mind that the understanding of the role can vary.

Check out Post No. 6 for much more on the business architect role, as well as The Business Architecture Team white paper.

14. Do business architects develop strategy?

Business architects can and often do inform strategy formulation (and business model evolution), but they are not ultimately responsible for it. Business architects may also map strategies (i.e. document them using formal techniques), especially if it was not written down to the extent needed for communication throughout the organization. Business architects certainly use the business architecture to translate strategies (and business model changes) into the set of coordinated actions necessary to make them real.

If you are a business architect who is heavily involved in strategy formulation and business model design for your organization, that might be more related to your personal skills and experience versus the intention of the role, which is one focused on translation. (Check out Section 2.1 of the BIZBOK® Guide on strategy mapping.)

15. Where should the business architecture team report?

For years now, there has been a trend of business architecture teams reporting to the business—and with success, for a number of reasons including more access to decision makers, more knowledge of business direction, and more buy-in. So the answer is: ideally the business architecture team should report within the business.

Business architecture teams often report to business leaders such as those responsible for strategy, planning, transformation, innovation (or any combination of these), though there are many other examples, such as teams who report to different C level executives. Business leaders who have responsibilities that cross business units and care about business direction being executed well are good candidates for the business architecture leader role.

However, this does not at all mean that business architecture teams who report within IT will not be successful. In fact, many business architecture teams incubate in IT since there may be the initial buy-in and skills there to help get the practice off the ground. Many teams will then shift to report to a business leader later on.

The bottom line is that having the business architecture team report to the business is ideal, but you start where you can start, and ultimately the best answer is: where it works best for your organization based on its needs and dynamics.

Remember that business architects have a foot in two different worlds, one in the business and one as part of the enterprise architecture team, so no matter where the business architecture team reports, they will always need to maintain close partnership with the other.

Check out Post No. 8 for more on organizational design for business architecture teams.

16. How many business architects do we need?

It depends, but generally speaking here is the formula:

Business Architecture Team Size = Number of Business Architects to Cover Demand + Number of People to Support the Practice

A couple key drivers of team size are:

  • Size of your organization
  • Number and size of change initiatives within your organization (e.g. enterprise transformations or acquisitions)

Check out Post No. 7 for more on team size and how to build a great business architecture team.

17. What can a business architect do after they have mastered the discipline?

The business architect role opens up many different opportunities. Not only is the business architect role in high demand right now (in many different countries), but the experience it provides can position practitioners well with broad knowledge of their organization, deep relationships and a foundation of structured thinking.

Once a business architect has truly mastered the role and reached a high level of competency, there are a number of possible career path options they can pursue. A successful business architect can shift their career in the direction they desire, either making the business architect role a long-term career or a step in a larger journey.

Here are a few career path options:

  • Specialize In Business Architecture – A business architect may continue to advance their business architecture career within their own organization or move to another one. Some business architects shift focus to leading the practice, while others choose to continue architecting increasingly complex and large change initiatives.
  • Move Into a Business or Technology Role (Within the Organization) – A business architect can pursue a business (e.g. product manager or department leader) or technology leadership role. They can also move into (or even lead) another function or practice such as strategy, innovation, planning, customer experience design or IT architecture.
  • Transition to a Different Career (Outside of the Organization) – A business architect can take their skills and experience and apply them in a completely different realm such as management consulting or working with a startup organization.

All that is explained in pictures in the handy diagram below.

Organization-style chart showing progression of business architect career choices

Business Architect Career Progression

Downloadable Media

Check out Post No. 6 for more on the business architect role and career progression.

18. How does an organization get started with business architecture?

Starting business architecture within an organization can be a fairly organic process, but there are proven sets of practical steps that work. First, build a solid understanding of what business architecture is, including its scope, role in strategy execution, integration with other teams, and the value it can provide. Then, define business architecture’s value for your organization and establish a team (which could be a team of one to start).

Once the case for business architecture has been established and a team has been formed, work along two parallel tracks: one for developing the business architecture knowledgebase and applying business architecture for value, and the other for maturing the business architecture practice. Develop just enough practice infrastructure (e.g. methodology, tools, etc.) just in time to support the relevant business architecture scenarios.

Check out Post No. 4 and The Business Architecture Practice white paper for more on how to start a business architecture practice.

19. How do we measure the value and success of business architecture?

We generally focus on two categories of results:

  • Value business architecture provides to the organization – An assessment of the overall impact business architecture is making in the organization (e.g. on customer satisfaction, revenue, cost savings, quality, etc.), how it improves planning and solution development, and generally how valuable it is to the people who consume it.
  • Maturity of the business architecture practice – An assessment of how mature an organization’s business architecture practice is as well as how embedded and how well-scaled it is across the organization.

More on measuring business architecture results and maturity in Posts No. 20 and No. 21.

20. What does the future hold for business architecture as a career and a discipline?

While the journey may not always be easy, based on current trends and evidence, here are some predictions for the future of business architecture. (Note: Some of these predictions are a number of years out and all are subject to change based on ongoing evolution.)

  • Business architecture adoption and advancement will continue at an increased pace globally.
  • Organizations will increasingly leverage business architecture for strategic purposes and position business architecture teams to work upfront in the strategy execution lifecycle.
  • The focus of the business architect role will continue to shift from developing the business architecture knowledgebase to “architecting the business.”
  • The business architect role will continue to elevate.
  • Business architecture will be deployed in new ways across organizations.
  • Business architects will architect across organizational boundaries.
  • Architecture will become a true profession.
  • Architects will use their talents for “good.”

For more on the current and future state of business architecture, read Post No. 19.

More Good Stuff…

Where else do you find answers to FABAQ?

Check out the full set of FABAQs (Frequently Asked Business Architecture Questions)

  • The Business Architecture Quick Guide (Business Architecture Guild®): Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
  • The BIZBOK® Guide (Business Architecture Guild®): Of course. (Guild membership required.)

The Business Architecture Team (S2E): A white paper which provides practical guidance and useful best practices to help you successfully establish a business architecture team within your organization. This paper is full of answers to FABAQs on organization design (e.g. positioning and distribution), team design (e.g. composition, size and sourcing) and role design (e.g. a business architect job description, competencies and career path).

The Business Architecture Practice (S2E): A white paper which provides a pragmatic perspective on how to establish and mature a business architecture practice. Great for FABAQ on how to get business architecture started within an organization.

The Evolution of the Business Architect (Clark and Kuehn): A collaborative white paper which explores the evolution of business architecture and the business architect role. Helpful for FABAQ on the future of the business architect role and career path.

Conquering the Business Architecture Summit (S2E): A passion piece on the journey to start and mature a business architecture practice, using mountain as metaphor.

9 Life Lessons From Rock Climbing (TED Talk): A TED Talk by Matthew Childs with some basic but very wise lessons learned from his experience rock climbing for 35 years (like “strength doesn’t always equal success” and “fear really sucks because what it means is you’re not focusing on what you’re doing, but the consequences of failing”).