The term Business Architecture (or Enterprise architecture) is used frequently. First we discuss what this term means. In the second part of the article our approach to business architecture is explained.
The term 'Business Architecture'
Business Architecture concerns the way an enterprise conducts business and how it is organised to do so. The extablishment of a shared picture of the organisation with all relevant aspects, such as IT, HR and Control, supports the execution of strategy, realization of the (new) business model and the transformation of the organisation with programs, projects or other initiatives to achieve this.
The figure below shows the Results Pyramid or Architecture Triangle. It positions the Business Architecture as the means to organise or establish the enterprise or organisation in order to achieve change objectives by managing change (programs and projects) coherently and based on common understanding of future state of the organisation. Coherence between strategy and organisation AND between organisational aspects is key to a succesful transformation of the enterprise. Business Architecture delivers the instrument to manage coherence and to supply clear scope and objectives for each change initiative.
Literature on Business Architecture (BA) gives a broad perspective with different positions for Business Architecture. It seems that each consulting firm has its own method and many definitions of BA are being used. Some methods include the strategic decision making and definition of the business model as part of Business Architecture, this may be called 'strategic business architecture'. Others limit the scope of BA to providing the proper requirements for defining the IT architectures within an Enterprise Architecture. Their objective is to ensure the alignment between business and IT. Our framework includes clarification of the strategy and goals rather than strategizing itself and we use an integrated view of the organization where IT is one of the major organizational aspects.
Besides this several approaches can be found that do not use the term Business Architecture, but still addres the same topics. Examples are Business Model Canvas, Value Delivery Modeling and Capability Management.
Of course you also find some common ground at the basis of the different books and approaches:
- the objective to create alignment with strategy and coherence between organisational aspects when improving and changing organisations;
- the extensive use of models of the (current and) future state of the organisation;
- to enable the growing complexity and speed of change.
For (external) Business Architects it is important to have knowlegde of the different approaches and to switch from method and terminology when needed. Fortunately we find many of the same concepts underneath de different methods and terminology. A proper translation makes it relatively easy to connect the different approaches.
An individual organisation must choose a single approach and method depending on their context, challenges and experience and create clarity about terminology. This will avoid lengthy discussions among architects and others and it will limit the confusion for other participants in change programs and projects.
Our approach to business architecture
An effective business architecture brings a strong coherence between all organisational aspects, such as Product management, Human resources, IT, Process management, Facilities and housing, and more. Also it must be aligned with the vision, strategy and objectives of an organization. In our approach we use the holistic process concept to enable strategic alignment and coherence between all organisational aspects. An holistic view on processes does not only include the activities in a business process (work process), but also the necessary employees and means to get the work done. In this way we can describe a process based on all building blocks needed from every aspect. The figure below shows this concept.
The figure shows the value streams (end-to-end processes) and the work processes that form each value stream. In each work process the building blocks (people, applications, data, IT and facilities) are included. This view is used to discuss with participants from each organisational aspect how the organisation will function in the future and what is needed to achieve that. In this way the process architecture forms the basis for the business architecture.
When we combine the models (sketches) for all organisational aspects or perspectives, we can see all building blocks, including the work processes from the process perspective. The picture below shows a conceptual view of the approach. The design of this model we name the Business architecture or Enterprise Architecture.
An essential feature to get this architecture in place, is the vision for every organisational aspect and how these make the vision and strategy for the organisation concrete. These visions must be coherent as well and this is discussed before detailing the process architecture and building blocks for the organisational aspects. This reduces the complexity of discussions in more detail. Working with coherent visions is one of the key aspects of an architectural approach.
For further reading see the article Principles for Business Architecture or the book (in Dutch) Procesarchitectuur als veranderinstrument.