Business Architecture: Looking Back and Looking Forward to 2018

Posted December 6, 2017 | Technology |
Whynde Kuehn

The adoption of business architecture has continued to increase globally — and at a faster pace than ever — demonstrating that the discipline is here to stay. This Advisor provides a brief reflection on the state of business architecture to date and a glimpse into the future.

The State of Business Architecture

While much work still lies ahead, the business architecture discipline has much to celebrate.

Practitioners and Organizations

The global body of business architecture practitioners is growing, and those who have been practicing the discipline for a while are advancing. Though of course there is a spectrum of maturity, many organizations are using business architecture in strategic ways such as for translating strategy, driving business transformation (including digital transformation), and supporting mergers and acquisitions. The level of transformation, customer transparency, and sheer amount of change necessary has arguably accelerated the adoption of business architecture because the discipline helps to facilitate a cross business–unit perspective and increase the effectiveness of strategy execution.

The Discipline

From an industry perspective, more and more, the business architecture discipline is becoming recognized in the market. Research analysts have long been writing about it, and the number of vendors that are including business architecture in their offerings is increasing. With the Business Architecture Guild® becoming the focal point for all things business architecture, there is now a standard body of knowledge (BIZBOK® Guide) with a corresponding certification program (Certified Business Architect®), training accreditation program (Guild Accredited Training Partner®), and standards work. These efforts are all contributing to more consistent business architecture practices among practitioners, training providers, and tool vendors. The days of organizations and practitioners defining their own versions of business architecture are thankfully soon behind us, though it will take quite a number of years for full alignment.

There have been other notable business architecture achievements as well, such as developing industry reference models (created by actual practitioners), facilitating business architecture-specific events and education, building global and local community across the world, integrating with other disciplines and related professional associations, and bringing together executives into an advisory council.

Looking Into the Future: Business Architecture Focuses and Trends

Based on the current business architecture state and trends, here are a few “predictions” for how the discipline will unfold over the next horizon.

Practitioners and Organizations

While the collective maturity level of business architecture practices still has a long way to go, there is growing evidence of and momentum for the trends below:

  1. Business architecture adoption will continue at an increased pace. Business architecture is continually being adopted by different types of organizations (e.g., for-profit, non-profit, government), in different industries, and in different geographies. There is some adoption within universities as well. At this point, the momentum is only increasing.

  2. The business architect role will shift more focus on “architecting the business” versus developing the business architecture knowledgebase. The ultimate value is in applying the architecture, not just building it. The industry reference models that are emerging will certainly accelerate creation of an organization’s knowledgebase, and in the future they may even “commoditize” some of the mapping skills needed by an architect.

  3. Organizations will increasingly leverage business architecture for strategic purposes and position business architecture teams to work up front in the strategy execution lifecycle.1  Business architects will become the focal point for strategy translation and prioritization, as well as key leaders in business transformations. In order to do this, in existing organizations, the business architecture team may shift “upstream” in the lifecycle to work more closely with leaders and strategy teams, where new teams will likely be positioned there from the beginning. The trend of business architecture teams reporting to a leader within the business will likely continue and increase.

  4. The role of the business architect will elevate. Based on the focus and usage of business architecture per trends 2 and 3, the business architect role will continue to increase in the level of responsibility and respect it receives, the talent it draws, and its desirability as a career.

  5. Business architecture may be deployed in new ways across organizations. As business architecture becomes better understood and embedded within an organization, the function may be deployed in new ways, such as where business architects work as part of a cross-functional design team or aspects of business architecture become part of multiple peoples’ roles.

  6. Organizations will architect across their boundaries. The scope of organizations’ business architectures should represent their entire ecosystem (e.g., including aspects that may be performed by external partners), but some are beginning to actually work with those partners to architect or rearchitect together toward a common goal. This type of collaboration will likely increase in the highly connected world.

The Discipline

Multiple enterprise architecture industry organizations are advancing the discipline, both individually and together in partnership, with the following trends:

  1. Significant progress will continue to be made to advance the business architecture discipline. There is evidence that industry organizations will continue advancing the discipline in all directions, from content to standards to integration, at the continued pace.

  2. There will be an increased focus on business architecture as a profession. Up to this point, there has been an intentional focus on defining the practice of business architecture first, but industry professional organizations are now shifting their focus to also include the profession. This will lead to further clarity around the business architect role, competencies, and career path.

What It Means

Business architects should continue to aspire to practice the role strategically and focus on delivering business value. While building the business architecture knowledgebase is a critical foundation, some of the accelerators that are emerging will help business architects to put one in place for their organizations quicker. Business architects should challenge themselves to be not only architects, but also leaders and change agents, and develop value-added skills that complement the business architect role. With the level of transformation occurring globally, it is a unique time in history that architects can leverage to their advantage if they have the courage and ability to do so.

The industry organizations and practitioners that have led the way in formalizing the business architecture discipline deserve a lot of credit for how much has been done in a short time, and done well. These organizations will need to continue the pace or increase it to keep up with — and keep ahead of — practitioners’ needs and the new momentum that the discipline is experiencing.

Finally, we need to build stronger partnership between business and IT architects. This applies to all of us as architecture practitioners, organizations, and industry organizations. Business architecture has somewhat reinvented itself to have its own identify outside of enterprise architecture, where it has become much closer to the business, and to some extent this had contributed to its success. This is very positive, but it has seemed to have created a separation between some business and IT architecture teams, which should be working closely together, especially as the lines between business and technology blur. In addition, business and IT architecture industry bodies may consider coming together to create a common foundation for a true architecture profession (with specializations by domain) to emerge with characteristics such as accountability, institutional preparation, and ethical constraints.

Here’s to an exciting journey ahead!

1 For more background on what this means, see “A New Vision for Strategy Execution.”

About The Author
Whynde Kuehn
Whynde Kuehn is a Cutter Expert, a member of Arthur D. Little’s AMP open consulting network, and Managing Director of S2E Transformation Inc. She is also a Fellow at the Institute for Digital Transformation and author of the book Strategy to Reality. Ms. Kuehn is passionate about bridging the gap between strategy and execution. She has extensive experience in enterprise transformation and planning and was a key player in one of the largest… Read More