Business Architecture – the first step in decluttering the messy middle

Our previous articles focused on digital strategy and defining a framework to ensure the success of a business transformation. However, we need a lossless, tactical way to translate strategy and vision into execution. In other words, we need a flow-based approach to connect the overall enterprise strategy and value stream into product development. We believe that this connector is business architecture.

It is well-known that 70% of digital transformation programs fail even though most of these organizations embark on their digital journey with all the right intentions and initial planning. Our previous article presented the importance of visualizing a transformation and how crucial it is to have connectivity between strategy and operational details. The absence of this clearly defined relationship within enterprises results in ambiguity, conflicting initiatives, and friction within the organization’s value streams.

Messy Middle

We call this the messy middle. Predominantly, the complexity of strategic planning and singular focus on technology to solve for behavior are the primary reasons for the messy middle to appear. However, organizational culture, organic process overhead, and industry vertical also are contributing factors to making the middle messier.

We believe that the messy middle is the primary reason for the failures or creates significant delays of value generation of digital programs. We need a connector to translate strategy into operations, and business architecture helps as the entry point to solve this problem.

Dispersion and recombination

Remember the school experiment that taught us dispersion and recombination of white light? Bringing order to the messy middle is a similar approach. Once the digital steering committee (or a variation of this strategic group) starts working on strategic priorities using an outside-in method, consumer needs and business objectives derived from the business model feed into a value-based architecture called business architecture. When business architects flush out these outcomes into epics and stories, the requirements will move to a level that technical architects and team leads can create architecture epics.

 This activity connects organizational strategy and outcomes with the business model and execution model. The business architect’s responsibility is to map the business model, while product managers will take over the execution derived from the operating model with the domain architects.

Even though the diagram shows this as a sequential flow, it operates iteratively by taking feedback from each stage. Being iterative and agile is critical in the business architecture stage. However, a business architect cannot gather all the requirements and then define the epics and stories. Trying to aspire for comprehensive and perfect requirements upfront and documenting them is the primary reason digital programs fall into waterfall agile. Iterative development, fast feedback loops, and continuous improvement are the success measures of business architecture.

Defining Business Architecture

Business architecture is an essential blueprint for an organization’s transformation. It represents a multifaceted view of an organization’s capabilities and provides insight into its competencies, value stream management, and organizational structure. It also highlights relationships between business, product, and technology strategies. Business architecture aligns corporate strategy with business outcomes to ensure connectivity and alignment through the organization. It, in essence, becomes the guiding light to ensure that execution drives to desired outcomes and key results (OKRs). 

Benefits of Business Architecture

Many organizations are yet to grasp the immense value of business architecture, especially when planning a transformation journey. 

There are several benefits to having a well-defined and robust business architecture:

  • Drive towards business processes that facilitate seamless system integration, shared components, and reusability of application, platform, and data components across the enterprise
  • Ensure strong alignment between corporate strategy and active initiatives within the organization
  • Prioritize the right initiatives that promote desired business outcomes
  • Induces clarity to an organization’s structure, people, process, and technology

Focus on Business Architecture is critical

Business architecture is the entry point of an organization’s transformation journey, similar to entering the destination on a phone or GPS. Therefore, it is critical to pay attention to the business architecture and employ a good business architect to execute this phase of the journey. 

Business architecture becomes the cornerstone of enterprise architecture as the connector between the business model and execution model. Even though digital strategy defines the value stream, business architecture considers more tangible definitions and enhances the objectives and key results. Moreover, since the business architecture feeds into the operational model, it can influence and modernize the activity flow. In addition to that, the business owners who fund digital initiatives are interested in comprehending their return of investment (ROI); therefore,  business architecture clearly defines the business value using the value matrix and prioritizes activities by considering their impact over effort. 

We will unite business architecture with enterprise architecture in the next post and look at different streams decoded from the business model prism.

Asanka Abeysinghe

Asanka’s goal is to connect humans and technology by helping organizations implement digital transformation programs that result in consumer-driven digital applications. In his current role as the Chief Technology Officer, Asanka drives efforts to create, refine, and enhance WSO2’s corporate reference architecture and is responsible for spearheading a thought leadership outlook that defines WSO2’s corporate reference methodology for development, customer success, and implementation. Working closely with customers, partners, and analysts, he evangelizes WSO2’s technology vision. Asanka has over 20 years of industry experience, which includes designing and implementing highly scalable distributed systems, SOA, and microservice architectures in the financial domain, mobile platforms, and various business integration solutions. He is also a committer of the Apache Software Foundation. Asanka is a regular speaker at numerous global events and many tech meetups in San Francisco Bay Area.