What is Business Architecture in Practice?

The article aims to provide a brief overview of what is Business Architecture in layman’s terms. The topic is broad and entwined with Enterprise Architecture and a number of other methodologies and ideas. This is not specifically addressed in the article but looks at Business Architecture in an isolated context to simplify understanding.

Business Architecture sits mainly between strategy and implementation. Once a strategy has been defined (or refined), with or without Business Architecture input. A Business Architecture unit generally moves to further detail the strategy in terms of understanding how four dimensions work together or need to be traded-off to enable it. These four dynamics are People, Organisation, Process and System (or POPS as I like to call it).

Business Architecture sits on the design side, however, at times is involved with implementation specific details when clarity is required to ensure alignment with the overall strategic direction.

The above is an all encompassing definition, each Business Architecture unit in practice generally concentrates on three or less dimensions (with assistance from HR or IT, etc. to provide the necessary support in terms of expertise in that particular dimension). Seldom have I come across a practice which is competent at all four.

Now – about capabilities?

The start of any Business Architecture discussion revolves around capabilities or specifically “What capabilities does the business require to execute their day-to-day activities and what does it require to enable it’s strategy going forward?” Example: A coffee shop, the capabilities within a coffee shop ‘could be’ seen as (there are generally multiple interpretations):

  • Ordering – Needs to be able to take orders
  • Invoicing – Needs to be able to invoice clients, once an order has been received
  • Manufacture / Make Coffee – Needs to be able to actually make the product
  • Purchasing supplies – Needs to be able to purchase supplies to keep the business stocked
  • Advertising – Needs to be able to inform customers that it is operational and caters for their coffee needs
  • Premises Management – Needs to be able to clean, manage, maintain the premises it is on

These capabilities and how they interact form the ‘Operating Model‘ of the Organisation (the coffee shop).

Now, what if this coffee shops strategy is to start offering cakes and cold desserts in the future? Naturally there would be effects to the capabilities that currently exist within the business. In other words, what would the ‘Target Operating Model‘ for this coffee shop in the future look like. In the example:

  • Ordering and Invoicing would require small changes to accommodate the new items
  • Manufacture / Make Coffee – would need to expand or new capabilities “serve cake / make cold dessert” would need to be developed
  • Purchasing supplies – would need to expand
  • Advertising – May need to rethink its position, does our advertising need to change?
  • Premises Management – perhaps more electricity would be required to store cakes and create cold desserts?

Now this is a very limited example of the types of considerations that would need to take place. It does however provide a view of what types of thinking go into the Business Architecture day job and artifacts. Some of these artifacts being:

  • ‘Target Operating Model’ – a future view of how the business will operate, in the form of a conceptual or logical model
  • ‘Transformation Plan’ – Illustrates the requirements from today – to – the Future, that provides a view of the steps and proposed timelines required to transition the coffee shop from today – to – the Target Operating Model.

The above makes up what Business Architecture is about: “aligning the organization to a strategic direction”. The specific role however in the unit, would largely depend on the position of Business Architecture within the organisation and the dimensions which are being emphasized.

Most Business Architecture divisions based in IT focus on the alignment between Business functionality and IT development. Whereas divisions based on the Business side, often have a Business function and Process bias.

Hope this helps with anyone wanting a lay mans understanding of Business Architecture. Depending on viewer appetite I will create an article around the forms of Business Architecture, as IT and Management Consultancies differ quite substantially in their interpretations.

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