Business Architecture Rising at BBC

Recently, I attended the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference in Las Vegas. I was tempted mainly by the Business Architecture track as I was curious to learn more about the current state of affairs in that field. Here are some of my observations, and conclusions after attending the event.

  • Confusion about Enterprise Architecture and its scope is further magnified by more confusion around Business Architecture. Various speakers made different pronouncements about the relationship between the two. Most saw Business Architecture as a component of Enterprise Architecture but some attempted to present Enterprise Architecture as being about IT and Business Architecture being about business. Another speaker suggested that Business Architecture overlaps with Enterprise Architecture but still is a distinct discipline that must “interface” with the Enterprise Architecture.
    I agree with the majority that sees Business Architecture as a component of Enterprise Architecture. As to other views, well…, I find it fascinating that some people need to complicate things. Of course, Enterprise Architecture is about the enterprise, and the enterprise is about business, DUH! Need we say more? Presenting Business Architecture as something separate from Enterprise Architecture only increases confusion and…just wait, will lead to more frameworks. God knows we don’t need any more architecture frameworks. If you insist, then let’s fix the ones we have by giving them more business focus (…looking at you TOGAF…) instead of inventing new ones. In any case, enough with inventing more distinct “architectures”.
  • Traditional roles of Business Analysts and Architects are evolving. Both roles are pushed to pay more attention to business value and business differentiation. Currently, in most organizations Business Analysts are relegated to requirement gatherers for IT projects. Their main focus is to translate requirements received from business into specific definition of IT deliverables and to perform validation of those requirements upon completion of implementation. There is very little going on there in regard to actual business analysis, not to mention Business Architecture. As Business Architecture rises to more prominence, Business Analysts must assume a role of true analysts and partner with Enterprise Architects in a comprehensive approach to Enterprise Architecture. At the same time Enterprise Architects are pushed to reach out to business and expand their role in the Business Architecture realm to make Enterprise Architecture more business-centric and thus more relevant to generating business value. This will likely lead to interesting dynamic with career paths. Both Business Analysts and Enterprise Architects are told that being Business Architects  is in their future. However, Enterprise Architects also consider themselves well versed in technology, while Business Analysts not necessarily so. So where does this leave us? Will Enterprise Architects become generalists who rely on Business Architects, specialists, for the Business Architecture part of Enterprise Architecture? Or perhaps Enterprise Architecture  will be pushed back to being again only about IT and Business Architects from Business Analyst ranks will direct Enterprise Architects how to shape the IT side of the enterprise?
  • Business Capabilities emerge as the way to provide a common taxonomy that can bridge the gap between business and technology. Capabilities allow architects to focus on “what” rather than “how”. They provide an anchor to relate systems and their underlying technologies to the business context, which includes organization, people and processes. Furthermore, they help break the silos, ever prevalent in larger organizations, which often represent the obstacle to effective Enterprise Architecture.
    Some can argue that capabilities and capability models have been around for a while and there is nothing new here. For me, the new thing was the evidence that companies start registering real successes with capability approach to Enterprise Architecture. It seems that capability models are finally taking off, coincidentally  at the time when Enterprise Architecture, after some soul-searching, is beginning to focus on business value.

Overall, BBC was an interesting conference. Not great, just good. I found that too many speakers were contradicting each other, but truth be told they were simply expressing their own opinions and there is nothing wrong with that. I suspect that the conference was of most value to Business Analysts especially with several BA-oriented tracks. Business Architecture track was messy but it is probably due to the fact that most of us still try to wrap our minds around how it fits with everything else. 🙂 I will consider attending next year, if only to watch the further evolution of the Business Architecture concepts.

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After the love is gone…

Interesting observation published by Forbes: “CIOs And Cloud Computing: How IT Can Get Back In The Driver’s Seat“. While the article appears to apply to management of infrastructure in the world of cloud computing, it is symptomatic of a larger trend.

We have heard of the looming demise of IT for some time now. It started with outsourcing and globalization and intensified with the advent of cloud computing. The trend of “lost love” between Business and IT and illustrated in this article is not uncommon. I think it stems from factors like these:

  • Business sees IT as an inhibitor rather than enabler of achieving business goals faster. The technical debt accumulated over the years starts to demand the interest payments. Delivery takes longer because complexity was not dealt with on ongoing basis. Desperate IT departments try to please the Business and they cut corners, leading to more technical debt. The vicious circle continues.
  • Business sees IT as cost, which ever increases without generating more value. It’s like dealing with a cable TV company. The bill gets bigger every six months but the programming remains the same or gets worse.
  • Business believes they can do IT themselves. Why wouldn’t they? Anyone can build a web site (okay, okay, maybe with the exception of the US government), anyone can buy cloud storage, anyone can write an app or commission writing one for pennies… Of course it is not that simple, but many on the Business side believe it is and droves of cloud service  providers do their best to reinforce that belief.

Having IT relinquish some of its Implementation role in favor of the Advisory role is a good advice. Easier said than done though. It’s like with human relationships. After the love is gone it’s hard to get the flame going again. Is Business predisposed to seek advice from its IT Department, especially when there are so many advisers out there, who are eager to say “yes” to every request? Let’s hope so… This is where the Enterprise Architecture (EA) can lead. Stop talking to Business about interfaces, gigabits, servers, and tools. Instead, start talking about total cost of ownership, speed to market, competitive advantage, quality etc. In other words, speak the language of Business, not the language of IT. But more importantly, don’t just speak that language but start thinking that way too. Business really doesn’t care how IT is done anymore. They want us geeks to figure it out and not to bother them. For us however, it is a matter of survival. In order to serve Business better we must understand what it wants, or… fade into oblivion. We can only understand it if we think like business people.

So yes, again, it is all about the business. Adapt or prepare for extinction!