Gaining greater cohesion: Bringing business analysis and business architecture into focus

Summary:Many people face a challenge in building cohesion in a business — achieving the right balance between competing forces and bringing the business strategy and operations into harmony.

This guest post comes courtesy of Craig Martin, chief operating officer and chief architect at Enterprise Architects, which is a specialist Enterprise Architecture firm operating in the US, UK, Asia and Australia. He will be presenting the Business Architecture plenary at the upcoming Open Group conference in Sydney, Australia.

Having delivered many talks on business architecture over the years, I'm often struck by the common vision driving many members in the audience — a vision of building cohesion in a business, achieving the right balance between competing forces, and bringing the business strategy and operations into harmony. However, as with many ambitious visions, the challenge in this case is immense. As I will explain, many of the people who envision this future state of nirvana are, in practice, inadvertently preventing it from happening.

Standards silos

There are a host of standards and disciplines that are brought into play by enterprises to improve business performance and capabilities. For example, standards such as PRINCE2, BABOK, BIZBOK, TOGAF, COBIT, ITIL, and PMBOK are designed to ensure reliability of team output and approach across various business activities. However, in many instances these standards, operating together, present important gaps and overlaps. One wonders whose job it is to integrate and unify these standards. Whose job is it to understand the business requirements, business processes, drivers, capabilities, and so on?

Apples to apples?

As these standards evolve, they often introduce new jargon to support their view of the world. Have you ever had to ask your business to explain what they do on a single page? The diversity of the views and models can be quite astonishing:

The list goes on and on.

Each has a purpose and brings value in isolation. However, in the common scenario where they are developed using differing tools, methods, frameworks and techniques, the result is usually greater fragmentation, not more cohesion — and consequently, we can end up with some very confused and exacerbated business stakeholders who care less about what standard we use and more about finding clarity to just get the job done.

The convergence of business architecture and business analysis

Ask a room filled with business analysts and business architects how their jobs differ and relate, and I guarantee that you would receive a multitude of alternative and sometimes conflicting perspectives.

Craig Martin. (Image: LinkedIn)

Both of these disciplines try to develop standardized methods and frameworks for the description of the building blocks of an organization. They also seek to standardize the means by which to string them together to create better outcomes.

In other words, they are the disciplines that seek to create balance between two important business goals:

  • To produce consistent, predictable outcomes

  • To produce outcomes that meet desired objectives

In his book, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, Roger Martin describes the relationships and trade-offs between analytical thinking and intuitive thinking in business. He refers to the "knowledge funnel", which charts the movement of business focus from solving business mysteries using heuristics to creating algorithms that increase reliability, reducing business complexity and costs and improving business performance.

The disciplines of business architecture and business analysis are both currently seeking to address this challenge. Martin refers to this as "design thinking".

(Click here to see an illustration that further explains these concepts.)

Vision vs. reality for business analysts and business architects

When examining the competency models for business analysis and business architecture, the desire is to position these two disciplines right across the spectrum of reliability and validity.

The reality is that both the business architect and the business analyst spend a large portion of their time in the reliability space, and I believe I've found the reason why.

Both the BABOK and the BIZBOK provide a body of knowledge focused predominantly around the reliability space. In other words, they look at how we define the building blocks of an organization, and less so at how we invent better building blocks within the organization.

Integrating the disciplines

While we still have some way to go to integrate, the business architecture and business analysis disciplines are currently bringing great value to business through greater reliability and repeatability.

However, there is a significant opportunity to enable the intuitive thinkers to look at the bigger picture and identify opportunities to innovate their business models, their go-to-market, their product and service offerings, and their operations.

Perhaps we might consider introducing a new function to bridge and unify the disciplines? This newly created function might integrate a number of incumbent roles and functions, and cover:

  • A holistic structural view covering the business model, and the high-level relationships and interactions between all business systems

  • A market model view in which the focus is on understanding the market dynamics, segments, and customer need

  • A products and services model view focusing on customer experience, value proposition, product and service mix, and customer value

  • An operating model view — this is the current focus area of the business architect and business analyst. You need these building blocks defined in a reliable, repeatable, and manageable structure. This enables agility within the organization, and will support the assembly and mixing of building blocks to improve customer experience and value.

At the end of the day, what matters most is not business analysis or business architecture themselves, but how the business will bridge the reliability and validity spectrum to reliably produce desired business outcomes.

I will discuss this topic in more detail at The Open Group Conference in Sydney, April 15-18, which will be the first Open Group event to be held in Australia.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Software

About

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Gardner, a leading identifier of software and cloud productivity trends and new IT business growth opportunities, honed his skills and refined his insights as an industry analyst, pundit, and news edito... Full Bio

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