Every organization needs a business architecture – the blueprint that explains the structure of the enterprise capabilities, business processes, and information exchanges, connecting strategy with execution
A Business Architecture describes the business processes and functions needed to support an enterprise’s business strategy. It consists of requirements, principles, and models of the enterprise’s business processes. The goal of the Business Architecture is to ensure that the actual implementation, changes, and enhancements to business processes and functions are in support of and traceable to the business strategy.
Business Architecture typically is owned by a cross-functional team of business and IT leaders and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Other components of enterprise architecture should be owned by IT but be supported by the business. This ensures that IT stays aligned with the business units since both areas are part of the same enterprise.
Benefits of Business Architecture
For many organizations, the value of embarking on a business architecture initiative is not clear, therefore leadership may not embrace this proposed effort. As Ralph White stated in his article “The Business Case for Business Architecture”, one cannot simply cost-justify architecture. One has to move beyond thinking of architecture in terms of being “cost-justified” to thinking in terms of architecture as being a “reusable asset” in this, the 21st Century Information Age. This “reusable asset” enables the enterprise to achieve something new, different or great; something that it cannot achieve in its current state. According to many experts, including White and John A. Zachman, there are many benefits to business (and enterprise) architecture:
- Defines business processes that facilitate integration and reuse of application, data, and technology components across the enterprise
- Enables EA efforts to be aligned with business strategy, vision, and corporate objectives that can result in clear competitive advantage and improvement in stakeholder value
- Allows leaders to view the enterprise holistically by putting the customer first – above the internal politics and functional silos – integrating business goals and requirements
- Provides mechanisms to connect components throughout the organization to define and drive effective and agile solutions delivery
- Fosters understanding of the corporate architectures to define and design a new capability for competitive advantage
Business Architecture Strategy
The work of creating and defining a business architecture is not meant as an academic exercise. A business architecture is based on the organization’s business strategy. The business architecture positions the organization to operate efficiently in pursuit of its goals. As defined, a business venture is about creating value. Value is demonstrated in the form of corporate profits or in returns to owners and shareholders.
Corporate goals tend to be high-level and wide. Organizations use various processes and methods for capturing and documenting the corporate goals. The method used in capturing the corporate goals is less important than having the discipline, structure, and communication methods to support the creation and dissemination of the corporate goals across the entire organization.
Used most effectively, corporate goals are developed within the context of a larger enterprise wide strategic planning function. Often, the process is used in creating the organization’s data strategy, which may occur during enterprise architecture planning.
Over time, the success of an organization can be driven by its effective use of resources (financial, physical, and human) and the performance of its key capabilities in meeting return on capital targets. As competition in virtually every market intensifies, there is less impact stemming from industry structural changes and companies and individual corporate performance is driven by performance in selected key capabilities.
In high performing organizations, the strategic drivers and business goals are defined in the enterprise at inception, and refined regularly. During this activity, the enterprise business architecture team should ensure that these strategic drivers and business goals are current and any areas of ambiguity are clarified. If no strategic drivers and business goals are defined, the architecture team should collaborate with the business to define these essential business drivers.
These drivers often communicate the need for agility, and can empower IT to support business to achieve a competitive advantage and may identify specific value propositions. The drivers lead to the business architecture vision.
The vision would communicate the capabilities of the proposed architecture and its benefits to the decision-makers in the enterprise. In addition, the vision sets the expectations that the architecture is aligned to the strategic drivers, conforms to the principles, and addresses stakeholder concerns and objectives. The vision would include high-level description of key business requirements (derived from business strategies and goals) that the architecture will implement and fulfill. Specific business requirements along with their details can be discovered and documented using business scenarios.
Create Business Scenarios
Creating business scenarios is a technique that identifies business requirements and ensures that the enterprise architecture is linked to the business requirements. Linking the enterprise architecture to the business requirements allows the organization to achieve its business goals efficiently and with the use of shared (enterprise) resources. A typical business scenario describes:
- Business process, application, or a system (group of applications or sub-systems) that can be enabled by the architecture
- Business and technology environment
- Users who execute the scenario and desired outcome of such execution
A good business scenario correlates to the significant business need or problem. It describes a business problem in business and architectural terms which allows individual requirements to be related to each other in the context of the overall problem.
Defining solid business scenarios along with the overall vision is necessary to eliminate the possibility of the architecture being based on an incomplete set of requirements and/or not being aligned to solving the actual business need.
Business Principles consist of various position statements of business leaders to assist decision making in defining, designing, and implementing Business Architecture. These positions statements are unlikely to change over the next few years as they are formed by taking short-term and long-term business strategies into consideration. In addition, they are used as guidelines and not rules for decision making purposes.
Business Patterns are high-level concepts that communicate the business purpose of any solution. In addition, they define major objectives of the solution, identify participants, and describe interactions between them. The patterns involve three main entities:
- Users of the solution: Users can include internal and external customers, partners, suppliers, investors, etc.
- Enterprise: The enterprise represents the business or the systems in the business with which the users interact.
- Data: Data represents the data and information in an organization and with the extended enterprise
The following four business patterns identify the common interactions between the entities. Each of these business patterns is self-contained. The scope implements minimum end-to-end flows necessary to implement a system, and interacts with other patterns through integration points.
- Self-Service: Users leveraging business processes
- Collaboration: Users collaborate with each other
- Information Aggregation: Data from multiple sources are aggregated and presented across multiple channels
- Extended Enterprise: Integrate data and process across enterprise boundaries (external data sharing)
There are also two integration patterns used to integrate two or more basic business patterns. These integration patterns are:
- Access Integration: Describes recurring designs that enable access to one or more business patterns. This pattern enables access from multiple channels (aka devices) and integrates the common services to support an uniform user interface
- Application Integration: Interfaces with multiple applications and information sources without the user directly invoking them. This pattern is effectively applied when development efforts require seamless execution of multiple applications and access to applications that implement the data and technology architectures and support the business architecture
Business Architecture Techniques
There is a variety of techniques used in business architecture; some are shared with other enterprise architecture domains:
Each technique has its steps and artifacts, and each activity provides value to the development of an enterprise business architecture, and an understanding of the business context. The outcome enables the organization to extract additional detail into elements of the business plan; articulate business accomplishment objectives; describe ways the business will achieve those objectives. The business architecture should inform the application architecture, so that all the solutions developed and purchased are aligned with the business (and other) architectures.
Business Architecture is a component of Enterprise Architecture that provides the foundation of the highest level business goals and requirements aligned with the application / technology, and data architectures, and applied to actual business needs and problems. When combined, these architectures offer the organization the opportunity to develop potential solutions and their scope, and to analyze each aspect of the business through a variety of proven activities and techniques. Business Architecture helps to create and sustain the “reusable asset” of the 21st Century, information, and manage it appropriately.