Jeff Scott, Senior Analyst 'Business Architecture' at FORRESTER

Daan Rijsenbrij, dinsdag 01 september 2009

The Business Architect reinvented

Jeff Scott is one of Forrester’s leading experts in business architecture and delivering EA value. Prior to joining Forrester, Jeff managed his own consulting practice, where he worked with Fortune 500 companies developing enterprise architecture practices and IT strategy. Before that, Jeff was the director of advanced technology for First Union (now Wells Fargo) where he created innovative organizational models for IT delivery, developed IT strategy, and implemented leading-edge technologies.

Introduction by Daan:“I understand that about a year and a half ago Forrester noticed a significantly increased interest among IT architects to become business architects. That sounds very interesting. I myself too have the idea that very often the former business architect was an IT-architect trying to apply techniques common in IT-architecture in a business environment.

Our readers would like to learn from you what that new business architect is all about. So let’s start with some simple questions.”

Daan: “How do you define business architecture?”

Jeff: “Our clients have many different definitions for business architecture. It will be quite some time before the industry standardizes on a common definition. My working definition at the moment is that business architecture is the process of clarifying, organizing, and illuminating the business model to create deeper business insight and broader business perspective. It focuses on ‘what’ the business can do and needs to do. I think this definition works pretty well for both business and IT.”

Daan: “Do you mean with business perspective information, legal, finance and HRM for instance and their impact on the main stream of the business and their mutual interactions?”

Jeff: “Most organizations create vertical organizations that have limited insight into the other verticals. By broader business perspective I mean creating a way for line of business or business unit verticals to have a more complete understanding of how the overall business works. I think the main focus is broader perspective across the P&L organizations, but also includes legal, finance, HRM, etc.”

Daan: “Business insight for what? For a future proof application landscape and technical infrastructure?”

Jeff: “It is more about business transformation and investment decision making at the business level. The application landscape and technical infrastructure will certainly be affected as will other support units such as finance, HRM, etc. If we get the business view right, then we can do a much better job of aligning the application portfolio and technical infrastructure with future business needs.”

Daan: “For formulating the business model you probably need both a business architect and business analysts. Who is doing what and what is the working relationship between these roles?”

Jeff: “Business architects focus on defining what the business needs at a strategic level while the business analyst is focusing more at a tactical level. For example: a business architect might describe how the business needs to work through a business process model and the business analyst would start with that model and take it down to a workflow model that a development team can start designing from.”

Daan: “What is the relation to ‘digital business architecture’, a concept that was introduced by Forrester some years ago?”

Jeff: “Digital business architecture is about tightly integrating strategic business needs with IT systems. Business architecture will help to identify and articulate those needs more accurately thus accelerating digital business architecture’s progress.”

Daan: “So digital business architecture is a bridge between business architecture and the IT-architecture, isn’t it? Is business architecture a kind of preparation/prerequisite to build information and knowledge streams and the application and infrastructure landscape?”

Jeff: “You are correct. Digital business architecture is a complete integration of technology with the business. We in IT understand the technology capabilities but have a limited view of the business, mostly through a process view. Business architecture will give us the view we need to more fully digitize the business.”

Daan: “What kind of deliverables (artifacts, products, documents) does a business architect make and for whom?”

Jeff: “Currently business architects take multiple approaches which drive different deliverables. In general the deliverables are used by business and IT executives and strategists. It’s important for everyone to have a good understanding of their company’s operating model. Eventually I see business architecture providing views that everyone in the organization can use to make day to day decisions. Some of the more common types of deliverables are:

  • Business capability maps describing the unique set of functions the business performs in executing it’s business model

  • Strategy maps linking executive goals and directives to activities across the organization

  • Value streams describing how value is created and work flows across the organization.”

Daan: “I am missing the translation of those business descriptions to the information needs of the business. Can you say something about that?”

Jeff: “Very few business architects are talking about information. In most business architecture models I see, information is secondary to strategy, process, and capabilities. For example many capability models describe a capability in terms of people, process, and technology. For them, information is consumed and created by processes. I think IT has always thought more about the information than business has. Today business managers think about transactions first, information second.”

Daan: “How should business managers use business architecture?”

Jeff: “Business managers can use the business architecture as both a planning tool and a strategy communication vehicle. Most organizations do a relatively poor job of articulating and communicating their strategic intent. Using business architecture as the major communication vehicle ensures the strategy gets across and also provides enough detail that business managers know how to act on it. Imprinting the business architecture across the management team also provides a common and well understood foundation for strategy discussions.”

Daan: “In my daily practices I notice that business managers hardly realize the impact of their technology demands. I think that they need simple architecture visualizations to become aware what they are asking for. Can you comment on that?”

Jeff: “This is an important issue. One of the advantages of a well articulated business architecture is that it illuminates the broader organizational impact of business initiatives both in the business as well as in IT. And, to your point, this needs to be done with simple models and language that business managers connect with. Too often architects want to create complex models because they are more complete and coherent. In business architecture, simplicity is goodness.”

Daan: “What should be the relationship between a business architect and the solution architects?”

Jeff: “I think of solution architects as project focused architects with the objective of optimizing the project within the context of the larger enterprise architecture. The solution architect works at a project level to ensure that the project advances the enterprise architecture strategies, both technical and business. Solution architects should be using the business architect’s products as input into their decision making at the project level and should provide the business architect feedback on the relevance of his or her business architectural model.”

Daan: “What is the relation between business architecture and business technology a concept that Forrester introduced more than 6 years ago?”

Jeff: “Business technology (BT) is the idea that many of the services currently housed in IT today will migrate to the business as business leaders become more IT savvy and take more interest in technology as an integral part of their business. We see business architecture as one of the tools that will enable the transition from IT to BT. Forward thinking companies are using business architecture models such as capability maps today to help shape the business demand for IT services enabling more of the solution design to be moved into the business.”

Daan: “Do you mean IT as a business service?”

Jeff: “In a sense, yes. The transition to BT is about IT functions becoming so integrated with the normal course of doing business that they cease being ‘IT services’ and are just part of the business process. If you take this to its logical conclusion you are left with business services with IT components and IT as an organization disappears.”

Daan: “What are the crucial quality criteria for a valuable business architecture?”

Jeff: “The most crucial quality is that the business architecture captures the business’s interest. We can talk all we want about elegant models and clever frameworks but the key factor is creating a view that business leaders will resonate with. While IT centric architecture views are very ‘information intensive’ business architecture views must be ‘insight intensive’. Less data – more meaning.”

Daan: “What role does the business architect play in business innovation?”

Jeff: “Business architecture provides a model to enable scenario analysis of business opportunities. Business architecture models also help provide a holistic view of the organizational impact of new strategies, products, processes, markets, etc.”

Daan: “What is the working relationship between a business architect and the business strategist on the one hand and the business analysts on the other?”

Jeff: “Business strategists provide one part of the business architecture so I see architects and strategists closely aligned. Over time I think these two functions will merge. Together they help shape business demand (the ‘what’ the business needs to do). The business analyst takes the demand and formulates it into the business view of ‘how’ we are going to accomplish it. IT analysts and designers then turn that view into ‘how’ IT is going to implement it.”

Daan: “Can you give some clear examples of enterprises which have successful business architecture?”

Jeff: “Though architects have had business architecture as part of their model for a couple of decades, actual business architecture development didn’t start in earnest until about 3 years ago so at this point very few (if any) business architecture programs have reached a high level of maturity. Most business architects tell me it is still too early to tell how much impact they are going to have.

Also business architects work at different levels. Not all of them work at an enterprise level. Wachovia, for example has saved over 40 million dollars with a small business architecture team working in one business unit focused only on business process.”

Daan: “Can you give a couple of specific architecture principles meant for business architecture?”

Jeff: “I am encouraging architects to think less in terms of principles and more in terms of strategy. In reality most EA principles are just good intentions. They are considered during decision making but don’t have a significant effect on the outcome. Strategies are more action oriented and drive decision making in a cohesive direction.

Daan: “What aspects in business architecture need visualizations? What kind of visualizations do you recommend? And what is the purpose of those visualizations?”

Jeff: “Since the purpose of business architecture is to provide business insight and perspective, not an engineering diagram of the business, I think most of it will show up in visualizations such as capability maps, strategy maps, value streams, value chains, etc. A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Daan: “What makes business architecture for a particular enterprise unique?”

Jeff: “At this stage of development most business architectures are unique even within industry. This is indicative of the relative newness of the discipline. There are very few reference models in the public domain so this uniqueness will continue for quite some time. High level operating models expressed in capability maps look somewhat similar within an industry. Some consulting companies offer industry specific capability models but I see organizations creating these models in a wide variety of ways. A critical success factor for any business architecture is to capture the business interest. This is another factor in why architectures are likely to remain unique.”

Daan: “Is there a special methodology to formulate a business architecture that you prefer?”

Jeff: “I am not seeing what I would call a well structured business architecture methodology. At this point in time business architecture is going through a phase of hyper-innovation with many people trying different approaches and techniques. Also, just like with EA in general, what we will see is that the approach to business architecture will vary by specific business and organizational context. That said, it appears to me that some form of business capability model will be at the core of most business architecture initiatives.”

Daan: “How can one reduce business complexity by formulating a business architecture?”

Jeff: “Business complexity is what it is. I don’t think business architecture will have a significant influence on complexity. What it will do is illuminate the complexity and present models that help business leaders deal with it more effectively.”

Daan: “Who are the crucial stakeholders for business architecture?
How can one sell the need of architecture to those stakeholders?
And how can you keep them involved during the formulation of the business architecture?”

Jeff: “The first step of creating a business architecture is to identify the goal of the initiative. Different goals will result in different stakeholders. In terms of selling, you have to find a problem that business architecture will solve and promote that. It could be deciding how the business needs to react to a competitive threat or improving business and IT alignment. Keeping stakeholders involved is pretty easy if you point out that it is their architecture and that your role is simply to facilitate the clarification of it.”

Daan: “What should be the working relationship between a business architect and the CIO?”

Jeff: “A major goal for many business architecture initiatives is IT-business alignment. Business architects can provide their CIO more insight into business operations and strategy than he or she is likely to get from any other source. CIO’s should be working very closely with business architects regardless of where they reside in the organization.”

Daan: “Who should be the (financial) sponsor of business architecture? And to whom is the business architect responsible?”

Jeff: “I don’t think in terms of ‘should’ but in terms of what is and what can be. Today we are seeing business architecture sponsored from a wide variety of organizations. Business architects report to IT as well as the business. Today we see more business architects in IT because that is where the idea of business architecture originated. But I think this will change over time. At this time I am seeing very few business architecture initiatives that clearly have a financial sponsor. Most are either imbedded in the EA program or are part of a larger project.”

Daan: “Which competencies must a business architect have?”

Jeff: “Unfortunately, business architects need such a variety of skills that no one will ever have them all.

Successful business architects will need:

  • A good conceptual understanding of how the business works. I am not talking business process here. I am talking about how the business creates value.

  • A very strong ability to make the complex simple from both a business and technology perspective.

  • A good working understanding of IT systems, both applications and the underlying technologies.

  • An appreciation for organizational change and how to affect it.

  • The ability to influence others.”

Daan: “Which tools do business architects use? I mean tools like BSC, SWOT, Business Capability Model, or Mind Mapping?
Are there also more technical tools needed such as ARIS for instance?”

Jeff: “In addition to the tools you listed I would add value streams, value chains, and strategy maps. More technical tools such as modeling tools like ARIS can be helpful for the more process focused business architects but I would caution business architects against creating too much detail. In general I recommend architects use light weight tools like Microsoft Office until they have a very clear value proposition for a more robust tool set. I don’t want the tool to get in the way of the thinking.”

Daan: “Can you tell me some bad habits of business architects? Or to put it another way; which kind of activities should business architects stop doing according to your opinion?”

Jeff: “

  • Trying to translate IT architecture models and methods to business architecture. IT/technical architecture is detail heavy. Business architecture needs to be detail light and insight rich.

  • Architects should not try to sell business architecture (or any other architecture for that matter) as a concept. They should talk about delivering value. Business architecture is just a tool to do that.

  • Worrying about what business architecture should be or where it should report. There is no ‘should’ only what is and what can be.”

Daan: “Which education and which working experience should an architect have before he/she can become a business architect?”

Jeff: “We are currently seeing successful business architects with a variety of backgrounds including: business analyst, operations analyst, enterprise architect, IT or business strategist, and business manager. We haven’t looked at the education angle yet, but I think an MBA would be the most beneficial educational experience for a business architect.”

Daan: “Which books would you advise junior business architects to read and which background literature?”

Jeff: “I don’t find the few books written specifically about business architecture to be overly helpful so I recommend reading business books your business leaders are reading as well as some of the business classics. I also recommend regularly reading magazines like Fortune and Fast Company to stay abreast of current business events and business thinking. Most importantly though is that architects need to read what interests them. Amazon has almost two million books under the business heading. Anyone serious about business architecture should plan on reading a business book a month for the rest of their career. You can find Forrester’s reading list for architects here:">

Daan: “Jeff, thank you very much for giving us a glimpse in your insight in business architecture and the knowledge of Forrester about this emerging discipline. Is there a final message you want to give to the CIO or the Chief Architect about business architecture?”

Jeff: “Don’t forget that IT is a business unit too; a very important and powerful one. Creating a business architecture specifically for IT will clarify IT’s business model and identify new opportunities for IT to improve its service to the business.

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