Understanding the Enterprise Business Architecture

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During the past several years, many companies have implemented Business Process Management (BPM) initiatives with great success.  You can find several web sites and research companies providing excellent information about BPM frameworks, methodologies and approaches. Some provide monthly bulletins and newsletters which can keep you current on the progress of these initiatives and their emerging capabilities.  Concurrently, Enterprise Architecture (EA) frameworks, methodologies and approaches are also maturing and achieving success, too.  Software products, tools and support in both BPM and EA domains are available and are continuing to come into the marketplace.

Many are starting to understand that a common architecture exist between the BPM and EA domains, the Enterprise Business Architecture (EBA).  This architecture, which is integrated with the corporate strategy, provides the common ground for people, processes and technology; a shared domain from which all strategic initiatives are linked.  This provides an opportunity that you can not afford to overlook!

Obviously, the EBA is not new and it is maturing just as BPM and EA have over the past several years.  The EBA must enable strategic alignment and integration of the business processes with the enterprise architecture.  In context, it exists between the corporate strategy and its strategic initiatives.

The EBA is a model built with rigor and discipline, the same that is applied in the fields of engineering and construction.  It is a formal model representing the business as a manifestation of the strategy.  An Enterprise Business Architecture defines the enterprise value streams and their relationships to all external entities and other enterprise value streams and the events that trigger instantiation.  It is a definition of what the enterprise must produce to satisfy its customers, compete in a market, deal with its suppliers, sustain operations and care for its employees.  It is composed of architectures, workflows and events.1  A value stream is an end-to-end collection of activities that creates a result for a “customer,” who may be the ultimate customer or an internal “end user” of the "value stream."   The value stream has a clear goal: to satisfy or to delight the customer.2

Structuring the enterprise around a core set of building blocks, called “value streams”, is one of the key enablers or precepts to enterprise wide integration.  The value streams (sometimes called core processes) contain the cross-functional processes and ordered sequence of activities that produce results from functional organizations.  The value streams are customer centric and designed around the effective and efficient delivery of results, outcomes, products or services.  A capability not afforded by viewing the enterprise in terms of its functions.  The values streams are purposeful encapsulations of the results of optimized processes that are connected by the balanced and leveled, inputs and outputs of the processes.  You connect and integrate business processes in an architecture model by using the inputs and outputs as the nexus or “causal link.”  Ultimately, the results of the value streams are linked to the defined and measurable outcomes of a strategic objective.

Having connected the EBA to the corporate strategy we must continue its integration with any major initiative that is defined in the strategy.  The strategic initiative may require process improvement, IT architecture build-out, software development, package software configuration, security architecture analysis and organizational architecture development.  The EBA approach lets the business person define all of their requirements and business rules in one model and in terms that business people understand and use.  It requires the process analysts, software developers or enterprise architects to extract their information needs from this base of shared knowledge rather than having the business person create different sets of specifications or views for each strategic initiative or project. We must understand the EBA’s role in the enterprise, and treat it as part of a unified whole rather than as an isolated component.  As previously noted, The EBA is shared between the BPM and EA domains.  

From the holistic perspective, we can build the Enterprise Business Architecture, which contains all of the enterprise value streams that integrate people, processes and technology.   These value streams are tied to the strategy and corporate objectives through the various metrics and measures that determine success.  From the efficient workflows found in the value streams, you link to any strategic initiative using a common model built with an architectural discipline.  Used properly as a management tool, the EBA can create opportunities for improving enterprise performance.  An approach worth serious analysis!

References:

1.       Ralph Whittle and Conrad B. Mryick, Enterprise Business Architecture:  The Formal Link between Strategy and Results (CRC Press 2004), 31.

2.       James Martin, The Great Transition: Using the Seven Disciplines of Enterprise Engineering to Align People, Technology, and Strategy  (American Management Association 1995), 104.

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