Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Business Architecture

Posted June 16, 2021 in
Mistakes to Avoid when Creating a Business Architecture

A business architecture function can be a sustainable option to design and implement transformation opportunities. Once an organization decides to take this path, it needs to ensure that the journey is smooth. In this Advisor (and in Figure 1), we highlight some pitfalls organizations should avoid when starting up the business architecture function:


Figure 1

Figure 1 — Pitfalls to avoid while starting up the business architecture function.


  1. Lack of a clear vision and strategic goals. Before forming a business architecture function, the organization should outline a clear vision and strategic goals for the function. The vision and goals should be in line with the organization's strategic vision and should be aimed at supporting the organization's objectives. Investing in a business architecture function simply because it is an "in thing" or because the competition is doing it, and the inability to explain why this path has been chosen, shows clear misalignment with the organization's objectives. A steering committee should define the strategy and goals, outline the charter, create a business plan, and be responsible for providing governance in the performance of this function.

  2. Undue deference to seniority. Most organizations already have other architecture functions, including application architecture, information architecture, and technology architecture in some form or other -- either integrated or fragmented. Senior employees in these functions may vie for leadership roles. The business architecture function requires a completely different skill set. Organizations should not shy away from hiring or partnering if they do not already have people with relevant skills.

  3. Installing a temporary consultant in the chair position. The steering committee appoints a head for the business architecture function: the chief business architect. Ideally, this person should also be a member of the steering committee. Whether the chief business architect is recruited from inside or outside the organization, the person should be hired as a permanent employee in a permanent role. A temporary external consultant is unlikely to have a high level of familiarity with the organization's structure, culture, and resources, and this may delay the effective functioning of the new team. A temporary consultant may also lack visibility into available resources (reusable capabilities and artifacts) in the organization that can be leveraged to set up the function. A temporary consultant in the chair position would tend not to exercise sufficient control over senior architects in other architecture communities within the firm, resulting in the senior architects working in a nonintegrated fashion until the business architecture function is set up. The steering committee and organizational leadership should make a concerted effort to recruit a chief business architect of the highest caliber.

  4. Unnecessary crowdsourcing. During the startup phase, the chief business architect and the steering committee should create the business architecture charter. Once that is complete, they should disseminate the business architecture charter to the members of the business architecture team and the other architecture communities. They should avoid seeking input into creating the charter from the larger architecture community at the startup stage, to avoid the appearance that the steering committee has failed to do its due diligence or is unclear on the strategic goals and objectives of the function, or that it lacks the relevant skills and capability to develop and operate the function.

  5. Weak change management. Although business architecture is about absorbing change, setting up the function also introduces a set of changes to the organization. It is important to perform a change impact analysis at the beginning and execute effective communications by identifying, engaging, and informing the right stakeholders. There will be changes in the way portfolios and projects execute engagements in adherence to the new business architecture standards and frameworks. In addition, there will be some level of governance from the business architecture team. To minimize resistance, reduce change impact, and mitigate risks, it is vitally important to employ effective change management. Having a change manager as part of the steering committee will help smooth the startup journey.

  6. Reliance solely on internal expertise. The steering committee should not make the mistake of assuming that all the skills necessary to develop and operate the function are available in the organization. Recruiting a chief business architect alone will not suffice; developing and operating the function will require different sets of skills and some entrepreneurial chutzpah. The organization can look at external consulting partners and draw on their experience in developing the function and making it operational. Organizations need to have the right procurement strategy in place to rope in the right consulting partner based on skills, experience, and cost to set up the function efficiently. The right value proposition, rather than cost, should be the deciding factor. Not choosing the right consulting partner may lead to delays and inefficiencies. Also, organizations should take care that, once the function is set up, there be a proper hand off and a clear exit point to decrease the organization's dependency on the consulting partner.

  7. Unsuitable steering committee demographics. To supplement the entrepreneurial assurance required to start up the business architecture function, it is important that the steering committee has the right demographic mix in terms of age, skills, and experience. The steering committee should be a mix of highly experienced and qualified individuals along with some new blood to promote fresh thinking. The steering committee should be willing to take risks and be empowered to make strong decisions. From a qualification perspective, the committee members should have professional degrees in business management or engineering with an appreciation for the amalgamation of business and technology — a key aspect of business architecture. Absent these characteristics, the startup might not be aligned and in sync with the organizational strategy.

  8. Unrealistic budget and income expectations. An approved and flexible budget is essential. Organizations should treat the startup of the business architecture function as a capital expense that will take around six months to two years to begin operations and recover costs, depending on the organization's size. The finance organization might question the need to invest so much in a cost center. Although the function entails all the initial costs of a startup, it will be offset by the benefits the entire organization will realize after a few months of operations. To emphasize — spending should be wise, not lavish, and cost reduction should not be a key parameter.

  9. Inability to effectively resolve the "build-or-buy dilemma." Pitfalls 4, 6, 7, and 8 lead us to the traditional dilemma: whether to build the business architecture function organically from scratch or build it inorganically by acquiring a team from a consulting organization that specializes in business architecture. A temporary chief business architect without the right qualifications will not have enough information, skills, or visibility to own the decision. Ruling out consulting firms as part of the business architecture journey means the organization will not be able to draw upon a consulting firm's experiences with build-or-buy recommendations. Budget should not be an impediment in making build-or-buy decision. The primary focus should be on what is required for the firm.

  10. Seeding instability and unsustainability. Stability and sustainability have to be built into the function right from the start. An organization that is undergoing massive structural redesign, especially at the senior management level, will continuously need to emphasize the concept behind this function and remind the new management of it. This can be time-consuming and lead to many overheads. Attrition of senior executives in IT and business functions results in constant recalibration of vision — business architecture may even fade from the roadmap. New executive committees might go on a cost-cutting spree and not appreciate the importance of the business architecture. To avoid this, the business architecture should be tightly integrated with the CIO office and other architecture communities, such as information, application, and technology. Making these four functions inseparable and having the right performance measures will showcase business architecture as an indispensable enabler of business.


About The Author
Amit Temurnikar
Amit Temurnikar is a Lead Journey Expert focusing on digital, open banking, and banker experience. With over 20 years in the IT and consulting space, Amit has delivered complex programs and managed various client relationships by facilitating their business strategy and leading the implementation of unique technology solutions. Amit has an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is also certified in AWS, TOGAF and SAFe. He can be… Read More