Improving the Business Operation - A Mixed Job

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Business operations and their IT support are built to deliver effective outcomes from a variety of activities. Although, most companies have used focused projects to improve the cost and quality of different parts of the business, many managers believe that operations are not really designed for efficiency. Part of the problem is that over years of efficiency driven piecemeal change in both business and IT areas, the overall processes have often deteriorated and their effectiveness has often become questionable. This is simply fact and through heroic effort and management push, things get done – often in spite of the roadblocks, lack of adequate applications support, and the ever present white space activity that is largely under everyone’s radar. But management holds the operation together and things get done. But, the steps management takes are often workarounds rather than the long term improvements that are actually necessary.

The Need to Change

The need to change is nothing new. The problem is that both the pace of necessary fixes and the lack of truly integrated tools have made it extremely difficult to integrate a culture of planned change into the culture of the company. Without this, it has been difficult to implement continuous improvement or to realize its potential benefits. To be competitive, we all need to finally get this right.

In the past some people have gained notoriety by claiming that the solution was to start over and redesign the company. But, that hasn’t worked and many now believe that approach is not really feasible. You cannot destroy the company and then magically have it rise from the ashes like the mythical phoenix. Business operating procedures are simply too complex in most companies and few people have the background or experience to consider all that must be put in place and integrated.

Another popular response to this situation has been to simply outsource the work. But, time has proven that unless the work is redesigned and changed before it is outsourced, the results are seldom what were hoped for. Again, the complex interaction of activity in processes and in business capabilities requires careful consideration when pulling business functions apart and reassembling them in a manner that addresses identified challenges.

The issue of complexity creates the need to consider more of the business than may initially meet the eye when looking at significant changes to the operation, or to how work is done. Today, the business operation’s complexity is increased by globalization and by the technology that supports it. This includes a wide range of business considerations for local markets and technical support as well as legacy applications, the internet, collaborative processing, and much more. Because of this the business and IT cannot be considered separately in any change. They have become joined at the hip and are the front and back sides of the coin. Similarly, strategy formulation must now consider changes to process, operational workflow, IT infrastructure, IT applications and more. The reason is that these aspects of the business are all intertwined. The impaired ability to support a given direction in a reasonable time frame at costs that can be afforded now limit flexibility and the capability for many companies to respond to market pressure, opportunity, or legislative issues.

So, change today must be viewed as a complex interaction of operating capabilities that each provide a specific functional outcome, processes which define how work is really done, and IT support. The skills, methods, techniques, and disciplines needed to control, redesign and then evolve each of these together is vital to consistently successful broad change in companies today.

Addressing the Need to Change

The complexities of business operations and technical support require a new mix of experience, competency, and skills. This mix is evolving into refined roles for the Business Architect, the Process Architect, and the IT Architect. Each of these specialties provides a part of the detailed knowledge needed to perform the entire change activity. Together these roles deliver an Enterprise level view of the company and address all major components of the operation and its support.

These roles are themselves evolving in most companies and are new to many others. Professional Organizations are wrestling with the definitions of these roles and trying to set the boundaries that define how each will work together. While this is worked out, businesses are also trying to determine the support that each of these roles will provide and where they will fit in the business or IT operations. As a result, each can presently be found in different places, with different titles, and with different functional duties.

But, the need to define and manage change at this level is being recognized in more advanced companies who are starting to form Process Transformation Centers of Excellence that can include both Business Architecture and Process Architecture. In addition, these Centers of Excellence usually work closely with IT to deliver a solution that includes all three disciplines.

Aligning Business Architecture with Business Strategy - Leading Enterprise Change

To a large degree, Business Architecture was created to define and lead broad based strategic change. To do this, the Business Architect is responsible for translating strategy into a set of business change requirements that will allow a new business model to deliver the goals of the strategy. The role of the Business Architect is to look at the overall business operation and try to redesign it as a system and not as separate independent parts. This is really a conceptual activity – at least it must begin that way.

Once the operation has been viewed as a whole system (with business activity, computer applications, components/raw material, etc.) the operational picture changes. The first concern becomes “Is the overall business system effective?” and the second is “Is the overall business system efficient?” Beyond these higher level considerations, more focused concerns can be addressed, but they must be addressed with an overriding concern regarding their impact on the entire business system that they are part of.

Once this business system view has been dealt with, the focus shifts to a Process Architect focus. Business systems are an aggregation of process and/or process components. Processes actually define the company – how it works, why things happen, when they happen, where they happen, what is produced, and when anything is produced. Theoretically business systems and their processes align to strategy and product delivery to provide an optimal result. In many companies this optimization definition now includes both business operation and customer perspectives. But, without attention to the business system level design and the alignment and design of the processes, that optimization cannot be produced.

For this reason, it is imperative that the Business Architects and the Process Architects work together to create the view needed to optimize the operation and then keep it optimized. It is also important that both work with IT to make certain that the technology infrastructure can provide a different level of support than in the past. This level is based on an integration of the applications into the business operation – from a process perspective and not simply a function specific perspective. This requires an alignment of the applications and technology delivery capability with the needs of the business – today and as planned.

Roles

The Business Architect thus cannot deliver broad scale or fundamental change to the operation alone. This delivery requires close interaction with Process Architects and IT Technology Architects. As proposed, meaningful change requires the active involvement of all three.

The Business Architect looks at broad scale change using conceptual entities called business capabilities. He or she also looks at the IT capabilities that are needed to drive the business capabilities. This is conceptual and the design cannot be implemented in this state. The fact is that capabilities are delivered through parts of processes – processes seldom line directly with business capabilities and must be broken into activities that become aggregated to deliver the outcome(s) of the business capability. This need to consider the physical implementation of a capability is the boundary between the conceptual new design and the functional design that is based on the aggregation and change of work activities or functions. Process Architects deal at this level and look at how the processes and the business workflows that contain the capability’s activities will need to be redesigned to deliver the business change. This is now at the operational and physical level. Because at this level, activity is supported by IT applications, the IT Architect must now get involved to look at possible IT infrastructure change, interface changes, network changes, and legacy application changes. At this point, the approach now considers each of the main business operation components that are needed in any broad based change.

Roles needed to deliver broad based business change include:

Business Architect: A senior level business professional who translates strategy into new business operating designs and defines the initiatives that will be needed to build this new operation. Business Architects thus deal at the “WHAT” level in companies. As part of this design, the Business capabilities and supporting Technical capabilities will be defined, inventoried, and modeled to show relationships and flow. Because this level of design deals with Business capabilities, it is a conceptual new design. The Business Architect also identifies the initiatives and project that will be needed, who will need to be involved, and determines what each department will need to do to deliver the initiatives.

 

Process Architect:

Process Architects deal with the “HOW” level of change. This includes designing, building, and evolving both broad based and smaller business improvements. The “how” level is supported through BPM and related approaches and by BPM tools. This role leverages techniques like Lean and Six Sigma to help focus attention and a BPM technology framework to deliver rapid change.

Enterprise Technology Architect:

The Enterprise Technology Architect determines the impact on the IT infrastructure and applications. This role is responsible for coordinating the designs and evolution of the technology infrastructure, the network, IT support, the use of the Internet, application acquisition, application evolution, BPM technologies, existing architecture, emerging technologies, and trends. The people filling this role will be concerned with technology use and not implementation or technology optimization.

Business / IT Collaboration

Although some Business Architects and Process Architects that I have talked to believe that a business can be redesigned without regard to either tools or technology, I firmly disagree with them. As stated earlier, I believe that they cannot be separated. Collaboration with IT Architects is a critical activity in any meaningful redesign. Without this collaboration it is very possible to create a design that cannot be implemented, that will be cost prohibitive, or take years to implement and cannot be sustained if it is implemented.

A Culture Incorporating Change

Companies that employ all three roles are well on their way to creating a corporate environment where change is embraced as a basic underlying business component. As the three roles become coordinated and interrelated, change related activities reach every corner of the company; strategies, tactics, logistics, and technical support are all impacted on an ongoing basis. Ongoing activities reinforce this culture as do the tools that support the activities. The end result can truly be a transformation and one that is self sustaining.

Summary

Broad based business redesign is growing as companies look at business transformation as a key to delivering operational flexibility. This redesign requires the close interaction of Business, Process, and IT Architects to create a composite new design that will deliver the goals of business strategy or legislative requirement. Complexity and feasibility simply will no longer allow these roles to function independently.

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