Who Needs a Business Architecture?

I was reading an article on Business Architecture recently, thinking how off base it was, when I thought to step back and ask a broader question:  Who was the author of this article targeting? Who did he or she think would use the kind of business architecture that was being proposed?

I suppose to be fair, we must all admit that there are at least three potential users of a business architecture:  Business Managers, IT people, and Process people.  Each have different concerns.

Business Managers.   It's not clear that most business managers need a business architecture, in any form.  Obviously business managers need an overview of their organizations, but high level abstractions like organization charts, or maybe a single page graphic that shows a systems view of the flows into and out of the organization, with a few departments shown on the inside.

One obvious exception is when supply chain managers meet and develop Supply Chain Council (SCC) SCOR diagrams.  SCC is popular with the supply chain executives of large organization, who create diagrams of supply chain processes, capture data, and use this data to identify problems and focus improvement efforts.

IT People.  In fact, this should probably read Enterprise Architects (EAs).  As a strong generalization EAs are concerned with managing the organization's IT resources.  How many applications does the organization support?  Which depend on which databases or which hardware? Etc.  For EAs, the business architecture is what defines what the business people are trying to do.  It might picture process flows, or lists of organization goals, or the currently popular competencies.  In an ideal world it ought to be something that business managers can view and approve, since IT claims to be supporting the business.  In many cases, however,  its really an abstraction created by IT and claimed to be derived from conversations with business managers.

Process People.  This can be a vague term, but as I am using it, it is meant to refer to Business Analysts (BAs), Lean or BPM consultants, who are involved in redesigning business processes and who would operate any Business Process Center of Excellence established in an organization.  These individuals are involved in lots of process change projects, and are interested in saving data from one intervention to the next to improve response time and to support ongoing improvement efforts.  These people often define business process architectures and use them as ways of organizing data about ongoing process results.

Obviously, in an ideal situation, we might hope that all of the business architecture concerns would come together, but its not likely to happen anytime soon.  It all comes down to who pays the bills and why they put of the money.  Supply Chain executives aren't primarily interested in IT support, but in moving supplies efficiently.  They tend to focus on human problems and on inter-organizational communication, and competition issues.  IT executives are primarily concerned with a view of the business that provides a context for cataloging IT resources, and Process people are primarily concerned with a view that identifies process relationships, helps focus process teams on business problems and saves information about process changes.

In today's environment, different groups are developing different business architectures for different groups of clients. Given this situation, there isn't much use in arguing about which approach is best — each serves different goals for different audiences.  What's probably more important is not wasting time arguing but to focus on improving each of the three independent approaches.

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