What is the business of Business Architecture?

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Business architecture is about enhancing accountability. A business architect’s job can be compared to what an accountant does for an organization. A management accountant tracks an organization’s performance against a set budget and gleans insights in the process. The accountant shares these insights for management to take action. In the same way, a business architect highlights the traceability of business and IT initiatives against a set of performance targets. The organization’s strategic goals define these success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). Management can evaluate and adopt the insights gathered from this process.

Once a business architect identifies the baseline metrics, it’s easier for a decision-maker to identify gaps. A gap appears when you compare the accomplishment against the expected results. 

How else can a decision-maker identify gaps absent the business architect? Doing research on your own helps, but takes too much of your time.  You bank on intuition when there are incomplete data.  Guesswork becomes a norm because of lack of resources to do staff work.

Exposed to these risks of making decisions based on incomplete, inaccurate, or untimely information, the business architect comes to the rescue. A business architect’s toolbox includes a methodology replete with templates and research insights gathered from past engagements. A view of the future based on firsthand and vicarious experience plus an excellent sense of what’s valuable advice are the business architect’s essential skills.

Similarly, an accountant relies on a set of tools and skills to deliver results. This includes a methodology gained from schooling, a set of standards generally accepted by like-minded professionals, a keen awareness of the mission at hand, and the ability to spot and handle risks.

So, what is the business of business architecture? It’s about enhancing accountability across the enterprise using a set of tools and methods to improve decision-making. In one sense, a business architect, similar to a public accountant, comes into the picture after the fact. Both professionals deal with historical data and lay these out in standardized format for easy interpretation. Moreover, it’s about an accurate recording of historical data to inform the future.

But in a better sense, a business architect is similar to a management accountant. The accounting profession can be divided into public or financial accounting and management accounting. The former is all about accurate recording of financial data for purposes of government compliance and audit while the latter presents data as actionable information for management. Similarly, business architects present research results and analysis in a form that compels a decision-maker to act in the right direction.

No analogy or metaphor is perfect; our analogy falls apart if you stress it too hard. But it captures the art and rigor of who we are and what we do. Comparison with other professions can’t do this. At least, not easily.

Where does this lead us? The business of business architecture is about enhancing accountability.  Managers need business architecture to help them link day-to-day decisions to business strategy using a well-defined methodology. Business architecture, similar to accounting, is a discipline that decision-makers can forego at their own peril. Companies who are committed to growing shareholder value know the value of good accounting. Isn’t it time that they, too commit to a business architecture that enhances accountability in order to make better decisions for their shareholders?


Ralph Whittle
posted 9 years 30 weeks ago

Andrew, I agree with your

Andrew, I agree with your “accountability” metaphor and think that “engineering” is a big accountability issue with the Business Architecture! Enterprises have a necessary focus on implementing initiatives on time, within budget and in accordance with requirements. However, there is little focus on designing and engineering enterprises with architectures that are adaptive that can evolve over time. These initiatives seldom start with the analysis of the Business Architecture artifacts since in most cases, very few exist! Most likely there is no “accountability” for developing and maintaining these and other supporting engineering artifacts.

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