Business Architecture in Practice: Lessons from the Trenches -- Opening Statement

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Business Architecture in Practice: Lessons from the Trenches -- Opening Statement

Posted November 15, 2011 in Business & Enterprise Architecture, Business Technology & Digital Transformation Strategies

In this issue:

The Narrow View

Business architecture is just another way to improve the way we build IT requirements. It blends business analysis and business architecture concepts to help IT design technical solutions.

The Broader View

Business architecture is a strategic discipline. It delivers holistic views of the business, thus enabling a wide variety of business planning efforts and the crafting and deployment of transformation strategies.

"Business architecture has gone mainstream, with discussions of the discipline now focusing on deploying standard approaches, sharing lessons learned, and building on a growing number of success stories."

-- William Ulrich, Guest Editor

William Ulrich



Over the past year, business architecture crossed a major threshold in terms of standardization, industry awareness, and business engagement. It is now viewed as an important business discipline that executives should pursue. While early efforts emphasized capability mapping and value stream analysis, other aspects of business architecture are now being incorporated into more and more projects. In addition, business architecture in practice is currently being leveraged by a growing body of business professionals, such as planning teams, business analysts, portfolio managers, and management teams.

Business architecture is being used to enable a variety of business solutions that range from ongoing operational improvements to major transformation scenarios. Business architecture has gone mainstream, with discussions of the discipline now focusing on deploying standard approaches, sharing lessons learned, and building on an increasing number of success stories. These discussions revolve around the following topics:

  • Capability, value, organization, and information mapping. Organizations are creating capability, value, organization, and information maps as foundational aspects of their business architecture. A complete view of business architecture leverages these foundational views and incorporates strategies and goals, products and services, stakeholders and business partners, and a variety of business initiatives.

  • Use of business architecture in strategic transformation initiatives. Business teams use the business architecture to articulate business priorities, establish transformation roadmaps, and drive funding for large-scale initiatives from a business -- not just an IT -- perspective. Because business architecture offers a holistic view of the business ecosystem, it becomes an invaluable resource to planning and deployment teams, particularly as they cross organizational boundaries.

  • Leveraging business architecture in ongoing, day-to-day work. Business architecture is being leveraged in areas such as operational improvement and productivity enhancement. It is being used to deliver a wide range of solutions, including the improvement of ongoing requirements communication for smaller issues across the business and between business and IT. The good news is that organizations can leverage the same underlying business architecture for both strategic transformation and tactical initiatives, ensuring synchronization at every stage of a given effort.

By allowing an organization to analyze and visualize the entire business and apply business blueprints to both strategic transformation initiatives and ongoing business challenges, business architecture becomes an enabler of critical business strategies. This issue of Cutter IT Journal brings these factors to light through five articles by business architecture practitioners. These articles discuss business architecture in the context of strategic planning, requirements analysis, holistic business analysis, strategic transformation, and organizational transformation.


Dan McClure and Carlos Villela lay the groundwork for the issue by discussing the need for innovation, customer focus, cross-channel integration, and enabling creativity to flourish across a business. The authors begin with a focus on innovation, stating that a business should view itself as an "integrated ecosystem where original ideas naturally emerge and are taken to market." The authors present urban theorist Richard Florida's concept of the three Ts -- Talent, Time, and Technology -- as essential factors in developing such ecosystems, or "creative ecologies." They make a strong case that business architects are uniquely suited to "tak[ing] the role of a town planner, enabling the emergence of city-like creative ecologies suited to the demands of today's marketplace."

In our second article, Andrew Guitarte introduces the concept of the business use case (BUC) model, aligning the concept of business architecture and requirements analysis. Like McClure and Villela, he encourages product teams to view issues from a customer perspective, which in this case includes business users and actual customers. Guitarte links the requirements concept to business architecture when he says, "The easiest way to tie a requirement to the business and not to system or IT concepts is to align requirements with a common business architecture concept such as a business capability or a value stream." Capabilities and value streams are two core components of the business architecture. Finally, Guitarte views the business architect as playing the role of business analyst, which blends the concepts of architecture and analysis. This position highlights the need for clear role definition within the context of architecture and related project initiatives.

Our third article, by Neal McWhorter, broadens the discussion of business architecture and business analysis, expanding the use of business architecture well past the bounds of IT requirements. McWhorter discusses how the business analyst can leverage business architecture to fundamentally improve the value proposition for and delivery of business analysis. For example, he says that in many organizations, "efforts to improve an organization's business analysis capabilities are based on the idea that the key to improving a business analysis practice is largely about building better skills to execute the existing approach to the role." McWhorter argues that more is needed, including rethinking the basic value proposition of business analysis so that it goes beyond simply tying business needs to technology designs. He cuts through to the very issue many organizations are currently wrestling with in regard to business architecture: Is business architecture just a tool for doing better IT requirements or a new and unique way to deliver a wide range of business value? He contends that business architecture enables the business analyst to move beyond the role of "interpreter" -- merely a cost of doing business -- to become a vital contributor of business value. Finally, McWhorter discusses the use of value streams in enabling business analysts to step out from their traditional role into a much more strategic position for an organization.

Next, Diana Krohn explains how to leverage business architecture in major business initiatives. In her practice-based article, Krohn discusses the use of capability mapping as an essential element in major transformation efforts. She talks about the need to have a well-articulated, business-focused capability map represent the whole business and not just particular divisions of it. To demonstrate one use of capability mapping, Krohn shows how to map various capabilities to strategic initiatives, such as SOX compliance, which puts the concept of business architecture at the forefront of business planning. While some argue that good project teams may be able to derive the same sort of information about the overall business that the capability map offers, Krohn maintains that "for a transformational initiative, it is too risky to assume everyone has a common understanding of the business." She offers a crisp, straightforward discussion of how capability mapping provides planning and deployment teams with a way to work collectively across complex challenges and ensure that everyone is working toward a common strategy.

In our last article, Dr. Steven Libutti and Ron Zahavi provide a case study about how business architecture enabled the creation of a multidisciplinary, specialty-focused cancer center. The authors show how business architecture can further business initiatives in complex, redundant environments while providing a baseline for delivering solutions using an iterative approach. They also broaden the discussion to incorporate business capabilities, value, organization, and information, the four foundational business architecture concepts mentioned above. Libutti and Zahavi augment these concepts by viewing capabilities through various healthcare services to be offered in the new cancer center. The project also aligned the important business concepts of strategy, goals, and initiatives with the four foundational business architecture concepts, demonstrating how a relatively complete view of the business can be achieved through business architecture. The success of this full lifecycle case study proves that business architecture can be used for a variety of business scenarios that go well beyond simple IT requirements analysis.


In our five articles, we see how business architecture is in a unique position to deliver real value to businesses. And while business architecture certainly provides new and creative ways to leverage business requirements for IT-related design and deployment efforts, the discipline has far broader implications for businesses today. Executives who are considering or have undertaken business architecture efforts should know that business architecture is good for more than just IT requirements analysis -- it offers game-changing opportunities for businesses far and wide.

In my consulting work, I have seen numerous mature, maturing, and fledgling business architecture efforts. How a given enterprise positions business architecture early in its lifecycle will set the stage for the value it delivers long-term. Many early business architecture programs began as IT efforts, largely focused on IT requirements analysis for the benefit of IT. In these organizations, business teams viewed the business architecture as just one more of the many IT gimmicks they had seen come and go over the decades. Business had no ownership of, stake in, or intent to leverage what they viewed as an IT artifact.

This lack of respect for the business architecture by the business meant that it could not be deployed for the kind of strategic and organizational transformation our last two articles describe. Nor was the IT-owned business architecture apt to encourage the "town planning" approach McClure and Villela discuss. Over the past few years, some organizations have graduated to a more mature view of business architecture, taking a more business-focused, strategic perspective. Other organizations are stuck in the IT-owned model of business architecture deployment, which continues to constrain and devalue business architecture's role within business planning and transformation efforts.

This is not to say that we should entirely blame IT for the situation. Early-stage business architecture deployments had little history to lean on in terms of establishing a business architecture that is created, owned, and used by the business as an essential baseline for analysis and planning of a wide variety of business scenarios. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. As our practice-oriented articles show, business architecture is more than a requirements analysis tool for IT. If you are in the early stages of business architecture deployment, avoid the trap of IT centricity. A growing body of case studies demonstrates that if we take a broader view of business architecture, it can be a key contributor of value to business executives, planning teams, portfolio managers, and a wide array of other business professionals.

About The Author

William Ulrich's picture

William M. Ulrich is a Fellow of Cutter Consortium's Business & Enterprise Architecture practice and President of TSG, Inc. Specializing in business and IT planning and transformation strategies, he has more than 35 years’ experience in the business-IT management consulting field. Mr. Ulrich serves as strategic advisor and mentor on business-IT... Read More