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Crafting Valuable Requirements Using Business Architecture and Artificial Intelligence

Crafting Valuable Requirements Using Business Architecture .png

by Daniel Lambert

Planning, managing, and delivering business requirements are daunting undertakings in any organization. It requires a lot of human resources and despite great efforts, the success rate of digital transformation project delivery is usually very low in most organizations, according to Boston Consulting Group and the Harvard Business Review. In this article, we’ll touch base on two methodologies that address today’s challenges of managing and crafting valuable business requirements, one of which is based on generative artificial intelligence.  

 

Requirement Management in TOGAF Enterprise Architecture

Requirement Management is at the center of enterprise architecture as shown in Figure 1 below. In The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), a requirement is defined as a statement of need that must be met by the architecture. It typically represents a high-level capability that must be met by the system or enterprise architecture to satisfy a contract, standard, specification, or other formally imposed document. Requirements in TOGAF serve as the basis for planning, defining, designing, and realizing architectural solutions at the business, application, data, and technology levels. They play a crucial role in guiding the development of the architecture to be delivered, ensuring that the final outcome aligns with the strategic goals, stakeholder needs, and operational demands of the organization.

Figure 1 - The TOGAF® Architecture Development Method, 10th Edition.png

Requirements in TOGAF are categorized into different types, including:

  • Business Requirements. These describe the needs of an organization, including business processes, roles, organizational units, and business goals that the architecture must support.

  • Stakeholder Requirements. These are derived from the needs of stakeholders involved in the architecture project. Stakeholders can include anyone with an interest in the project, such as business users, customers, partners, and regulatory bodies.

  • Architecture Requirements. These include more specific statements related to the architecture work, such as principles, constraints, assumptions, and standards that need to be adhered to during the development of the architecture.

  • Solution Requirements. These detail the specific functionalities, features, and characteristics that the solution components (software, hardware, and processes) must possess to meet the business and stakeholder requirements.

 

Requirements are somewhat similar but more grounded with BABOK.

 

Business Requirements According to BABOK

 

The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) Guide defines more concretely a business requirement as a high-level need of the organization, business unit, or project that must be met to achieve specific goals and objectives. Business requirements focus on the business objectives and the reasons behind the project, providing context for what needs to be achieved through any changes or implementations. Business requirements are usually decomposed into several more detailed types of requirements to ensure a comprehensive understanding and effective solution design. Business requirements are typically decomposed into stakeholder requirements, functional and non-functional solution requirements, and transition requirements.

Figure 2- Business Requirement Breakdown.png

In Agile methodologies, requirements follow a more iterative, incremental approach compared to traditional methods. Agile requirements are very often decomposed into epics, features, user stories, and tasks, as shown in Figure 2 above. An epic is a large, broad requirement or goal that is too big to be addressed in a single sprint. It represents a significant piece of work that needs to be broken down into smaller, more manageable parts. Epics are often used to capture and organize high-level business or customer needs. Features are sizable chunks of functionality that sit under epics. They are still too large to be completed in a single sprint but are more defined and closer to what needs to be built. Features provide a clearer picture of the solution and how it will address the epic or business requirement. As far as user stories go, they are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the user or customer who desires the new capability. Each user story is concise and focused on delivering a specific piece of value to the user. User stories are the primary vehicle for expressing requirements in Agile projects and are meant to be completed within a single sprint. Finally, tasks are the smallest units of work and represent specific activities that need to be completed to fulfill a user story. Decomposing user stories into tasks helps the development team organize and distribute work effectively. Tasks are very concrete and actionable, making them ideal for tracking progress within a sprint.

Challenges with Business Requirements

Business requirements are critical components of project management and systems development, involving the identification, documentation, analysis, prioritization, and agreement on requirements. Despite its importance, the process faces several key challenges, as shown below.

  • Stakeholder Engagement. Identifying and engaging the right stakeholders can be difficult, especially in large or complex projects. Failure to engage all relevant stakeholders can result in missing or misunderstood requirements.

  • Requirements Intelligibility. Gathering requirements from stakeholders involves understanding their needs, which can be complex and difficult to articulate. Stakeholders may have conflicting requirements, or they may not fully understand their own needs.

  • Changing Requirements. Business environments and stakeholder needs are constantly evolving based on their environment, leading to changes in requirements even after they have been defined and agreed upon. Managing these changes without causing delays or budget overruns requires agile and flexible project management approaches.

  • Requirement Prioritization. With limited resources and time, not all requirements can be addressed at once. Prioritizing which requirements to focus on, based on factors like business value, cost, and risk, is challenging but critical for project success. Balancing stakeholder interests and strategic objectives during this process can be complex.

  • Lack of Clarity. Requirements may be documented in a way that is open to interpretation, leading to ambiguity. Ensuring that requirements are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) is essential for clarity and successful implementation.

  • Complexity. Projects, especially in technology and software development, can be highly complex, making it difficult to fully understand and document all requirements at the outset.

  • Resource Constraints. Limited time, budget, and personnel resources can constrain the ability to meet all identified requirements.

 

Because of these challenges, it is not surprising for the Boston Consulting Group and Harvard Business Review to assert that the success rate of digital transformation project delivery is usually very low in most organizations. According to the Boston Consulting Group, only “35% of digital transformation projects meet or exceed their target value.[i]” As for Harvard Business Review, they claim that “the rate of digital transformations failing to meet their original objectives ranges from 70% to 95%, with an average of 87.5%.[ii]

Defining and Prioritizing Requirements Using Business Architecture

There are two main reasons why digital transformations fail to deliver in many organizations. First, when organizations establish their goals and objectives (if they do), they are inclined to be over-optimistic in the timing and the scope of their business outcome. The second reason behind unsuccessful digital transformation is inadequate execution, including the absence of communications between the various teams involved in the planning ecosystem of an organization, and prioritizing technology deployment instead of user adoption through change management.

Figure  3 - Five Agile Strategy Execution Steps with Enterprise Architecture.png

By following the five “Agile Strategy Execution Steps” suggested in Figure 3 above, organizations will tend to prioritize and fix more realistic goals and timeframes for their digital transformation projects and collaboration between all teams participating in the planning ecosystem of their firm will increase significantly from business strategy to agile delivery execution. These stages are explained in detail in this book entitled “Practical Guide to Agile Strategy Execution: Design, Architect, Prioritize, and Deliver your Corporate Future Successfully”.

 

Following more agile strategy execution steps requires proactive planning within the entire planning ecosystem of an organization, as shown in Figure 4 below. After strategies are laid out by business managers, business architects need to be involved to interpret and disseminate them throughout the organization and identify the problematic capability-based gaps. Problematic capabilities have usually a low maturity, an insufficient performance, and are of high priority. Business requirements need to be defined based on these problematic capabilities. Organizations that have a low success rate of digital transformation project delivery usually plan reactively. Their business requirements are directly derived from their strategies and only then are mapped to impacted capabilities.

Figure 4 – Proactive Planning with Business Architecture.png

To increase the odds of success of your digital transformation projects, you need to plan your digital transformation projects and craft valuable business requirements through the lens of business architecture, as shown in Figure 5 below. Once business managers have identified their strategies, business architects can be instrumental in refining them by deriving specific tactics with the validation of lower-ranking managers. A well-elaborated strategy will involve a business unit or an important stakeholder involved with your organization for whom you need to provide a value proposition delivered by one or several value streams, as explained in this article entitled “Providing Customer-Driven Value with a TOGAF® Based Enterprise Architecture”.  

Figure 5 - Crafting Valuable Business Requirements.png

The examination of value streams will enable you to craft a more grounded and detailed capability map, relevant information map, and involved stakeholder map. This crucial step of business architecture is explained in detail in this article entitled “How to Build a Grounded Capability Model”. Exploring well-articulated value streams complete with their enabling business capabilities, required information, and participating stakeholders allows business architects to detect gaps in providing value and assist business analysts in defining valuable business requirements, epics, the right features, and relevant user stories. Only then should the business processes that operationalize the enabling capabilities of a value stream be examined with lean methodologies and automized to deliver a successful solution for your digital transformation project.

Crafting Valuable Requirements Using Artificial Intelligence

The process of meticulously planning, crafting, and detailing valuable business requirements, as outlined in Figure 5, typically spans several months. This phase demands a significant commitment of time from a limited pool of key personnel, including business managers, subject matter experts, product managers, financial analysts, business architects, enterprise architects, solution architects, process experts, and agile specialists. The task of identifying all pertinent user stories and business requirements is notably painstaking and can often be perceived as tedious.

 

It's quite groundbreaking that a start-up I'm involved with has developed a tool and methodology that harnesses the principles of TOGAF, BIZBOK, and BABOK to automate numerous planning activities essential for generating valuable requirements and comprehensive user stories through artificial intelligence. This tool is very complementary to current EA tools already in place in most organizations. To utilize this secure product, users simply need to input their strategies, products, and organizational frameworks initially. For enhanced outcomes, users can also import their capabilities, value streams, and other enterprise architecture artifacts. Leveraging generative AI, the tool can swiftly produce detailed requirements and user stories. A brief training period of a few weeks is all it takes for users to begin crafting effective generative artificial intelligence prompts. While the tool is innovative, it is not infallible and may occasionally go astray. Therefore, it is crucial for users to review and refine the outputs it generates. Trials to date have shown that this AI-enabled product can significantly reduce the workload of digital transformation planning teams, condensing several months of effort into just a couple of weeks. Further details are expected to be released shortly.

 

Today, executing successful digital transformation projects within the desired timeframe remains a very challenging endeavor. To enhance their chances of success, an increasing number of organizations are turning to business architecture. This approach enables them to interpret and distribute their strategy throughout their organizational structure with greater precision while enabling them to define more valuable business requirements. Soon, these forward-thinking organizations are poised to integrate artificial intelligence into their enterprise and business architecture practices. This integration aims to automate and optimize segments of their digital transformation projects, signaling a new era of efficiency and innovation in how projects are conceived and executed.

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[i] This quote is extracted from the article entitled “Performance and Innovation Are the Rewards of Digital Transformation” written by Patrick Forth, Romain de Laubier, Saibal Chakraborty, Tauseef Charanya, and Matteo Magagnoli in December 2021 and published on the Boston Consulting Group’s website.

[ii] This quote is extracted from the article entitled “3 Stages of a Successful Digital Transformation” written by Didier Bonnet in September 2022 and published on the Harvard Business Review website.

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