For this week’s first post we review the definition of Business Architecture (BA) and then dive into the evolution of major trends in enterprise architecture in it’s approximate half-decade history. We examine some of the drivers for the change of EA focus through the years, most recently trending towards Business-Outcome-Driven EA (BODEA). While BA and BODEA are related, BODEA is more broad and encompasses other layers of the architecture, and should provide more reliable and substantial returns on investment for businesses.
Definition – Business Architecture (BA).
Common definitions for IT architecture models and layers are tough to make because there’s so many frameworks – each with it’s own set of models and definitions – but here we’ll use the Business Architecture Guild’s model of business architecture (https://www.businessarchitectureguild.org/). In that framework, BA is composed of (a) capabilities, (b) value streams, (c) organization, and (d) information. For those enterprises adhering to the Guild’s framework, business architects model the enterprise IT architecture from these four dimensions. This architecture is a complementary part of the Overall Enterprise architecture (EA) and complements the other, generally more IT-focused, technical layers.
Key Personal Take-Aways.
1) Diverse, Cross-Functional Models Help the Enterprise See the Big Picture.
Business architects and enterprise architects add value to the organization by producing cross-functional models which tie together various parts of the business – “allowing the same problem to be seen from different viewpoints.” Often, functions in an enterprise are siloed and unaware of other functions; while this is OK for tactical-level operations, management and executives of each operational area need to have visibility across the enterprise. First, this helps them optimize their operations within their functional area by synchronizing with the rest of the enterprise. Next, cross-functional models help management and executives to better visualize the business as a whole – minimizing unnecessary internal competition. While some level of internal competition within a business is healthy, excessive levels (for example, excessive prioritization of metrics within any single department) can be counterproductive for the enterprise as a whole. Cross-functional models produced by BAs, EAs, business process analysts, and others help the enterprise to put higher organizational goals first by creating a common picture which “provide[s] insight into the complex, interrelated and interdependent parts of the organization to engage senior executives in design and investment decision making.”
2) Best-Practice Enterprise Architecture has Evolved from IT-centric (“Traditional EA”) to Business-Outcome-drive EA (BODEA).
2.1) Historical Context of EA. This post isn’t intended to be a complete definition or historical review of enterprise architecture. However, below we define some of the major historical time-bound trends in the evolution of EA as a field:
2.1.a) Framework-Driven EA.
EA in brief historical context EA began as an IT-centric activity to identify, depict, and ultimately improve IT systems throughout a business or ‘enterprise’. Labeled by Gartner as a period of “Framework-driven EA”, it was primarily focused on identifying and depicting of existing IT infrastructure and processes, and creating models (“artifacts”) to represent them. This focus endured approximately 15 years, from 1987 with the publication of the Zachman framework to TOGAF’s framework in 2002.
2.1.b) Process-Driven EA.
The next phase of EA evolution (roughly 2002-2012) focused on ‘Process-Driven EA’, incorporating the modeling/artifacts components of earlier periods but focusing more on development of new solutions and execution of identified improvements. Process-driven EA is/was primarily focused on technology and solutions architecture.
2.1.c) Business-Outcome-Driven EA.
More recently, beginning in approximately 2012, best-practice EA evolved to a business-oriented approach in order to become more relevant to the business. Best-practice EA as an overarching professional should now begin with a strategic-operational focus to better integrate all aspects of IT and business. This is because, according to Brand & Blosch (2020), “starting with, or focusing on, traditional enterprise architecture — solutions and technical-only architecture — will not meet the demands of digital business and will deliver little business value.” In the next section, we examine why these changes occurred and why the newest evolution of EA has benefited the overall organization and executive decision-making.
2.2) Driver for a Transition to BODEA.
Brand and Blosch cite the main driver for transition away from traditional IT-centric EA to BODEA as a lack of demonstrated business value from traditional EA products. While that might initially indicate EA is a not a critical activity, their study found the opposite – in 76% of surveyed organizations in 2020, Brand & Blosch found EA programs were “starting, restarting, or renewing.” The potential value of EA is clear, but as the Gartner study indicates, that value can only be realized when architects and senior IT executives focus first on gaining “insight into business strategies and outcomes … then linking IT efforts to business direction and strategy.”
Summary & Transition to Post 6.2 (Business Architecture Landscape).
In the next post, we examine one of the modern frameworks for BODEA known as the Business Architect Landscape (BAL). This framework helps architects and executives model and understand the enterprise architecture in context with internal operations, financial and economic considerations, and a service (or product) perspective.
Source: The Future Direction and Evolution of Business-Outcome-Driven Enterprise Architecture, Brand & Blosch, Gartner, 18 September 2020.