A New Order of Things with the Business Architecture

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The Business Architecture (BA) is a bold and challenging initiative, that when undertaken by visionary and innovative leaders of the enterprise brings about a “new order of things.” Nicolo Machiavelli an Italian philosopher/writer wrote, “And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new(1)."

Contrary to some thinking in enterprises today, the Business Architecture is NOT merely an extension of IT; and by the way, it is NOT merely an extension of BPM either! Some early BA practitioners simply dressed up commonly used terms, ideas, approaches and concepts with colorful “BA like” descriptors, finishing the so called “BA project” without really changing corporate behavior or introducing a “new order of things.” It was simply business as usual, but with some different acronyms, buzzwords and descriptions; it was really nothing new! While BA concepts, approaches and standards are still emerging, one can rest assured that it will represent a new paradigm rather than merely accessorizing IT or BPM. So, what is this real change in corporate behavior and this “new order of things” with the Business Architecture?

Many strategic initiatives have an “inside-out” perspective, focusing on costs, products, sales, and the organization itself. For example, fiscal fitness type initiatives have an “inside-out” perspective focusing on the internals of the enterprise. However, a Business Architecture initiative takes an “outside-in” perspective in that it measures success in customer terms which is remarkably different from fiscal fitness type initiatives. Sarah Jane Gilbert in a Harvard Business School article states that companies with an “outside-in” perspective aim to provide solutions for customers(2). Excellent customer service is not just a company slogan found displayed near the entrance of the corporate cafeteria, but it represents tangible results delivered to customers each day by the enterprise. Customer centric behavior is far more than just general awareness presented in colorful break room posters; it is the underpinning of the Business Architecture.

The manifestations of the aforementioned customer solutions are found in the purposeful integration of cross-functional processes and activities designed to deliver results to customers. Collectively, the BA represents that purposeful integration of customer centric cross-functional processes and activities! It is a newly realized and developed architecture based on an elegant design, not one “patched up” with duct tape and bailing wire, or “marked up” with colorful catchphrases. The BA expands up from the typical functionally focused, hierarchically managed “Industrial Age” enterprise, creating a customer centric “Information Age” enterprise, and along the way, initiating a “new order of things;” the enterprise puts customers first!

Perhaps a question comes to mind. Why is this “new order of things” so important and why is it necessary? Assume for a moment that the enterprise remains steadfast in its function based, silo structured, “inside-out” paradigm. And assume that the enterprise’s competitors also remain determined to stay put as well. Most likely in this environment, marketplace leadership will reside with the lowest cost provider! Perhaps, one enterprise may “leap frog” the others, lowering its selling prices while accepting smaller profits, expecting to recover with higher sales volumes and greater market share; and the game of “leap frog” continues. As long as these meager opportunities are acceptable to all enterprises in a particular market, then so be it! If however, one enterprise wishes to differentiate itself in the current marketplace and decides to undertake a series of customer centric initiatives, then creating the Business Architecture makes perfect sense. This visionary enterprise aspiring to gain a competitive advantage and differentiating itself by delivering superior customer results and outcomes will outdistance its competitors who are selling products and/or services at the lowest price in a commodities bazaar. The enterprise undertaking this customer centric strategy will disrupt the marketplace and when successful, will bring about a “new order of things;” the enterprise achieves marketplace leadership!

The Business Architecture as envisioned by the early practitioners, is not a typical one-time project that is budgeted, funded, staffed and assigned with a start and end date. The BA cannot simply be built and expensed as one would office supplies, using it once and having little influence on corporate behavior. The Business Architecture is an asset, similar to a high-tech, sophisticated manufacturing device, used over and over again, and improved over time. Used as an asset, the Business Architecture changes corporate behavior, creating a new unifying structure seeking to delight customers and to deliver a competitive advantage. And paraphrasing Machiavelli, The Business Architecture is a bold and challenging initiative led by visionaries and innovators seeking to bring about a “new order of things.”

References

1. 1. Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. 1994).2. Harvard Business School, “The Outside-In Approach to Customer Service” http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6201.html.

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