I’ve been speaking to a lot of people from recruiters to hiring managers, and everyone seems to have their own sense of what business architecture is and what a business architect does. Let’s just say that there is no consensus, but most of these people are way off the mark, so I decided to create a quick primer.
Before I get started, I share a description from LeanIX:
A Business Architect is a strategic, senior role responsible for business transformation and overseeing critical deliverables; such as business capability models, business capabilities, and value streams.
In this image, I’ve chosen to focus on the ontology of roles and relationships to simplify the narrative. I also took some shortcuts on the presentment, but this should not materially affect the conclusion. Here, I am not generally concerned with operational IT functions except as noted.
At the highest level, we have an enterprise. This is the container all of this operates within. The enterprise operates inside a market environment that lays outside of the scope of consideration.
Foundationally, the enterprise can be divided as depicted left to right from strategy to operational planning to delivery and execution to operations. From top to bottom can be seen layers or tiers of responsibility. These are not exact, but they should help to illustrate relationships.
Strategy is situated at the top left. For the purpose of this article, we are concerned with operational transformation strategy, perhaps a digital transformation. Some companies have titled roles assigned to this function; some rely on third-party strategists to create strategy; still others assume that this function is inherently performed by a few top executives. Although not technically part of enterprise architecture, it is a presumed input. As many companies have no strategy or weak strategy, sometimes this role is taken on in some form or fashion by enterprise architects. by at least constructing a proxy strategy. In the event a third-party have created a strategy, business architects articulate and create processes to realise it.
A key goal of business architecture is about establishing enterprise-level process to ensure the promise of the operating model is realised. After they create protocols and best practices and ensure proper governance is in place, they can articulate the ‘business architecture’ and highlight weak links and locked value in order to prioritise value realisation. An artefact of this might be a roadmap of one sort or another.
A partner in a sort of yin-yang relationship is the solutions architect. Where the business architect is focused on the business, the solutions architect is focused on the technology. The business architect articulates the what and the why of the problem whilst the solutions architect conveys the how and the what of the solution. These teams operate like conjoined twins.
I’ve included business relationship managers because in some institutions, they act as conduits to bring business need to IT and translate technology-speak for business stakeholders. They also straddle the next pair.
Business engineers and technical architects are the next level down, working with smaller functional stakeholders. They stake out pieces of the enterprise map and create higher-level solutions. Like the business architect and solutions architects, these disciplines are paired with one side focused on the business and the other the supporting technology and infrastructure. This teams are focused on big picture challenges that are then parcelled out to the next teams and help to coördinate implementation, ensuring that existing operations are not adversely impacted.
Business functional analysts understand how the business operates. They elicit requirements from stakeholders at a project level. There may be dedicated process or information analysts, or the functional analyst may take on this role. Functional analysts from the business partner with IT their counterparts, technical analysts and perhaps data analysts.
Working with project managers, the resultant work will be performed by a solution team consisting of development managers, programmers, quality assurance resources, and so on, all of whom will work to get the applications and systems into production.
As noted, there are other roles such as portfolio and programme managers, product strategists, designers, and managers, service designers, and other functionaries.
Finally, let’s look that the relationship between architect, engineer, analyst, and solution delivery resources. It’s good to consider these in parallel with the construction trade.
Architects create the high-level blueprints and functional defintion.
Engineers validate the plan, but they provide additional details and specifications to ensure the plan is sound and won’t collapse.
Analysts dig down even deeper to determine whether this material might in practise be better than that, even if from the vantage of a structural engineer, it wouldn’t otherwise matter.
And then there are the solutions developers. These are the carpenters, electricians, and masons. These are the plumbers and painters. They make it real.
Just as you wouldn’t expect your architect to install your plumbing or electrical system, you probably wouldn’t want to see them code your solution.
Can an architect engineer or analyse? I’d hope so, but this is not their speciality. From a purely economics perspective of opportunity cost, why would you anyway? Could the CEO empty rubbish bins and clean the restrooms? Probably. Is that the best use of time and attention?
A business analyst cost the fraction of a business architect. Why would you pay for a business architect and task them with business analyst functions? And why would you ask either of these resources to manage the delivery of a project. Unless you are a 5- or 6-person organisation, it makes no logical sense.
In closing, if you are a recruiter or hiring manager, know what you are looking for. The people I’ve spoken with these past few weeks—and let’s be honest here, it’s been over a year—tell me they are looking for business architects, but the functions they say they need are those of business analysts. Sure, they may want a competent business analyst or a senior business analyst. If you are having trouble finding the right fit you may just be looking for the wrong thing.
If you don’t believe me, visit some organisations that help to define the discipline of business architecture.