The New Normal

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It has been several months since my last article. No, wait - I am wrong! As I flip through my folders I realize it has been a full year. A full year… The end of 2019 caught me busy with settling into a new job. That was followed soon after by the hustle and bustle of the holidays, which, in due time, gave way to the traditional post-holiday ennui. No energy left and no time to spare pondering the ponderous business of business architecture.

But that was fine, I told myself. A brand-new year lay ahead of me, sunny and full of promise like the yellow brick road in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Plenty of time to think, read, talk to colleagues, work on interesting new projects, attend conferences - and put pen to paper.

Of course, things didn’t quite turn out that way. I have not seen my colleagues in more than six months now (other than on Zoom, naturally). All the industry events which used to give rhythm to the passing of seasons and triggered the pleasant anticipation of intellectual exchanges - they have all moved online. Everything that has moved online has been put in the same queue with everything else that was already online, and reprioritized accordingly. And there has been no dearth of high-priority items this year. Back in 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin wall, R.E.M. released It’s the End of the World as We Know It - a song for all times, it seems, as this year the “old normal” has disintegrated and, as the media and public discourse reassure us, we now live in the “new normal”. A “new normal” marked by a pandemic, by countless deaths, by families unraveled, by jobs lost, and by social and political discontent.

So, I ask myself – how has this “new normal” come about and what is the path forward from here? And how can we architect that path forward?

These are not simply rhetorical questions. While our politicians fight over laws and policies and appropriations, business architects are ideally equipped to assess implications and consequences at the business model level. Business architects have the professional qualification necessary to evaluate the government’s strategic plans from multiple angles and find omissions – or, connect the dots between business functions and processes shared across government agencies. Business architects can assess market trends, and interpret and reflect them into their private sector clients’ growth plans. Business architects can then translate plans into actions, by devising the changes needed to the value chain and propagating them throughout an organization’s business architecture.

There is a lot of leverage that comes with this ability, but there is risk, too. The risk of being ignored, the risk of sticking out like a sore thumb, and everything in between. But times of distress and upheaval are also times of opportunity, and this is one of those times. The stress on the people and on the business fabric of our country is so great, that organizations are willing to try any methods to continue to grow, to stay relevant, or to just survive – up to and including business architecture methods. I have had more success disseminating and using business architecture constructs and techniques to drive executive business decisions this year than at any other point in my career. I have been able to draw on business architecture practices to inform my company’s approach to the pandemic, to evaluate potential new lines of business, and to assess acquisitions. With each such exercise, the logic and benefits of adopting a business architecture-driven approach have gained in visibility and in credibility. This is the right time to take the leap and become a loud and unabashed advocate for the benefits of business architecture.

There is a corollary though – whatever it is we do, it has to be usable and useful in very short order. It can’t be about creating perfect diagrams, gaining global consensus on the finer points of a naming convention, or iterating for years on industry reference architectures. In a rapidly-changing world, immediacy is more valuable than perfection. This is something that goes against the very nature of us business architects, but to architect our way out of the new normal and into the next normal - we, too, have to change and adapt.

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