The Business Architecture Summit: Lessons from the Mountain

Posted March 28, 2018 | Technology |

Establishing business architecture within an organization takes passion, persistence, and patience. Inspired by over a decade and a half of helping organizations to mature their practices — combined with personal mountaineering experiences — this Advisor shares a few lessons for conquering the “business architecture summit” using mountains as metaphor.

The Business Architecture Summit

On the business architecture expedition, it is important first to envision what a mature business architecture practice (i.e., one that has metaphorically reached “the summit”) looks like — to guide your journey and give you a vision to aspire to. Briefly stated, a fully mature practice is one in which business architecture is fully embedded into the organization. For example, business architecture will be used to inform, architect, and plan strategies, business transformations, innovations, portfolio management, decision making, performance improvement, simplification, and business and IT alignment. Business architecture will be fully integrated with all related teams across the entire strategy execution lifecycle. Business architects will be highly skilled and become trusted advisors to executives, business, and IT. Business architecture may even become a competitive advantage for your organization, since it will allow you to execute your strategies and change initiatives much quicker and more effectively than other organizations.1

A Few Lessons from the Mountain

Mountains (physical or metaphorical ones) teach us about how to solve challenges, persevere, and achieve big goals — just like the journey to establish a business architecture practice.

1. Climbing a Mountain Takes Time. It Is a Journey. Love It.

Just like gazing at the summit of a mountain, the journey required to establish a business architecture practice can seem intimidating. There is only one way to get to the top, though, and that is one step at a time. Achieving any large goal is just a series of smaller goals that will eventually add up to get you there. Like climbing a mountain, establishing a business architecture practice requires know-how, but it especially requires patience, persistence, and passion. Keep in mind that our organizations can only change so fast because introducing business architecture is really about a new mindset for cross-organization collaboration and strategy execution, which may be different from how things have been working for decades.2

Have patience, don’t give up, and learn to love your business architecture vision and the journey. Know that every step and every win will bring you closer to your summit.

2. You Need to Know What Mountain You Are Climbing, But You Don’t Need to See It All to Make Progress.

When you are climbing a mountain, the summit is not always visible. It may take some time before it comes into view. You might even be close to the summit, but due to conditions, you still can’t see what you are climbing toward. You will likely not know exactly how you are going to achieve your business architecture summit, and that is normal. You chose to take this journey, realizing that it would not be easy, because something about it inspired you and you are a person that wants to make a difference in your organization.

Have faith that you’ve chosen the right mountain to climb and that the path to the business architecture summit will continue to unfold as you take the journey. Just keep stepping.

3. Know that the Journey Is Going to Be Uncomfortable Sometimes. Keep Climbing Anyway.

Mountain climbing can be really uncomfortable — hard climbing days, heavy packs, harsh weather, altitude sickness, even just the lack of a shower, clean clothes, or a clean dish can get to you after a while. It can be the same with establishing a business architecture practice. There will be people who do not believe in your vision for business architecture. There will be challenges like a lack of funding and resources to deliver what you’ve promised. There will be competing priorities. People will make decisions you may not agree with. However, if you adjust your expectations and assume that the journey will not be effortless, and if you actually look forward to addressing any challenges that come your way, it makes the journey more bearable — and even fun.

Embrace the uncomfortable. The business architecture journey will test you, but it will be worth it as you and your organization will reach new heights. Greatness and growth do not come from being comfortable.

4. Sometimes You Have to Go Backward to Go Forward.

On a big mountain expedition, one finds themselves frequently going in both directions during the ascent. As mountaineers say, “Climb high (carry high), sleep low.” In our organizations, we often use forward progress as our only gauge for success, but sometimes going what could be perceived as “backward” or “staying in place” for a while is just what is needed. Business architecture leaders and advocates may leave us for new opportunities. Mature business architecture practices can backslide sometimes. These are just normal challenges.

Remember that you are still on the journey, which will include ups and downs. Have faith that overall you’re still going up — and again, just keep stepping.

5. The People You Journey with Are Everything.

On a mountain, the importance of a team becomes really apparent. On long expeditions, you spend weeks (or months) together, share intimate moments, solve challenges, and triumph together. Things like competence, communication, and coordination quickly move from buzzwords to essentials for success and survival. In a corporate setting, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of a team, but cherish the architects, leaders, and advocates you work with. You are on a business architecture journey together to change your organization and you will become bonded through the experience as you trust each other, solve problems together, and triumph together.

Embody the spirit and efficiency of a climbing team as your own, and take care of your team members like your life depends on it. There will be nothing more rewarding than reaching the summit together.

6. Keep on Climbing.

While the promise of the summit anchors and inspires the journey, it is worth noting that comparatively speaking, very little time is spent there. In addition, the summit is promised to no one, sometimes for reasons beyond your control. When you reach the business architecture summit for your organization, celebrate with your team. This is a significant and rare milestone. You will still have much work ahead because in some ways this is just the beginning. With architectural thinking embedded into the fabric of your organization, you will be able to drive strategic changes and solve challenges bigger than you ever dreamed of.

Become a Sherpa for someone else to help them conquer their business architecture summit. Then, start planning your next mountain, whether it is a new challenge within your organization or helping to establish a business architecture practice in another organization. And just keep on climbing.


1See the Business Architecture Maturity Model (BAMM)TM in the BIZBOK® Guide for specific criteria which describe the maturity of a business architecture practice at multiple levels.

2For more information related to a new mindset for strategy execution, 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