Seven Skill Sets of Great Business Architects
by Daniel Lambert
Firms serious about their business and digital transformation understand the need of including business architects within their planning ecosystem to increase their odds of delivering successful transformative projects. Finding great business architects is not easy since they need to master many if not all seven skill sets mentioned above:
Most of our clients understand that their organization needs to become customer-driven, where different business units stop working in silos and independently from each other. They must learn to collaborate to deliver real innovative customer-driven products and services. In a customer lifetime value model, it’s not just about marketing push anymore, but more about marketing pull and collaboration. It requires more predictive insight data analysis, interactive & proactive services, individualized customer understanding using personas, inter-enterprise bundles between business units and departments, integrated and seamless channels, and the elimination of all functional organizational silos to become a customer outcome organization. Customer-driven business architects use methods and diagrams like business model canvas (as per Figure 1 below), customer value maps, customer journey maps, and value streams with their corresponding participating stakeholders, enabling business capabilities and required
information concepts, as described in this book entitled "Practical Guide to Agile Strategy Execution: Design, Architect, Prioritize, and Deliver your Corporate Future Successfully". Just linking your business capabilities to their corresponding supported applications and business processes is not enough.
2. Excel at Finding Value
Business architects may be good at finding cost reductions by examining, for example, redundancies in the number of applications that support a capability, but they need to also excel at finding and explaining value for their organization and customers. Business architects are proficient at using value streams with their enabling business capabilities (as shown in Figure 2 below) to understand if a business capability is providing tangible value or not to key stakeholders, usually customers or partners. It goes without saying that management should not concentrate their resources on business capabilities that generate little value for key stakeholders, but instead focus on the business capabilities that are essential in providing value, as explained in this article entitled "Providing Customer-Driven Value with a TOGAF® Based Enterprise Architecture".
3. Good Communicators
Business architects are extremely good listeners. The scenarios that business architects build for any initiative are the results of multiple meetings on both sides of the fence, business and IT. During initial meetings, business architects mostly listen and extract relevant issues and information that matters. This capability of listening allows them afterward to be good communicators both to business stakeholders and technical people.
On the business side, a lot like enterprise architects, business architects can be part of a business reunion and be offering value, insights, and guidance in plain words on digital transformation within weeks. They can do this with confidence by combining various company technical data in one place and then modeling and referencing relevant data for reuse in a way that can be easily understood by business stakeholders.
Furthermore, they can do the exact opposite. They know enough about the organization’s current business strategies, that they can be in a technical meeting and explain to CIOs, solutions architects, software architects, agile experts, and/or business analysts, what the business side of the company really wants.
Finally, business architects know how to sell themselves. Business architects need to be good at justifying their practice and at calculating the ROI of their practice. In an article entitled “What’s the ROI on Your Business Architecture Practice?”, seven good reasons are mentioned to use business architecture. At a minimum, business architecture allows tremendous time savings. Business stakeholders do not have to waste time as much doing interviews with business analysts for every agile project there is. On the other side, business analysts can gather the required information for their use case and agile projects much more rapidly, if they have access to the organization’s business architecture model. These time savings alone are most of the time a very good incentive to justify business architecture.
4. Not an Enterprise & Business Architecture Model Freak
An enterprise or business architecture model should be a simple question-answering device easily accessible internally with a browser. Aiming for a quick time-to-value, good business architects can build a model that contains as many details as needed to answer questions from both the business and technical side of their organization for a given initiative, but nothing more.
The alternative approach, which is to build an enormous and "comprehensive" data repository from the bottom up and then decide which questions it can answer is unhelpful and is usually counterproductive. More often than not, builders of these extensive data repositories lack the knowledge of current business strategies and current initiatives. Too many times, these repositories have mostly been built in silos away from the action.
Instead, a good business architect will build its business architecture model one initiative at a time, using and tweaking one of the many industry-based frameworks available out there, for example. With each new initiative where a business architect is involved, he (she) will reuse some of the information teammates have already created while being involved in previous initiatives and add relevant new data and information pertinent to the new initiative. Only over time will a business or enterprise architecture model cover most business units and activities of its organization.
5. Know Measurement Techniques Inside Out
A good business architect knows that building a business architecture model without measuring any of its key elements is a pure waste of time. A business architect also understands that measuring the maturity of capabilities is insufficient and that the use of strategic and tactical measurements including KPIs is imperative.
Diane Lebeau and Diana Krohn at United Airlines illustrate very well how measurements can be misleading in a presentation entitled “Using Business Capabilities to Make IT Metrics Meaningful ”. Their IT reliability metrics were often disconnected from business reality. Business feedback wasn’t trending with metrics used to measure IT systems and applications. It was unclear how application performance impacted business performance. Their reliability investment methodology was not consistent and their metrics were not business impact focused. Only by selecting measurements at the capability and value stream level was United Airlines able to align IT to business.
6. Meeting the Organization’s Objectives
Great business architects also know how to meet both the tactical and strategic objectives of their organization. Business architects can both advise on short-term questions or provide a long-term business-oriented roadmap for IT and its business systems.
A simple roadmap will suffice at the tactical level. It will be a straightforward heat map of business capabilities and system applications to show what is changing or needs to be done. It's something business architects can generate in a week or so. This tactical roadmap will answer questions and provide guidelines that will be very useful while delivering a project.
At the strategic level, more sophisticated portfolio initiative roadmaps become very valuable for long-range multi-year planning. These long-term roadmaps will typically set out multiple architectures, mapping current states, transition states, and various future states while including discrete options. Once decisions are made regarding which future state the organization is leaning toward, business architects will make sure that it is made available to those involved with the delivery both on the business and IT side of their organization.
7. Involved in Delivery
The business architect’s job does not stop at generating roadmaps and assisting corporate management in the selection of an optimal scenario. Still today, according to the Harvard Business Review, “Most digital transformations fail. Various studies from academics, consultants, and analysts indicate that the rate of digital transformations failing to meet their original objectives ranges from 70% to 95%, with an average of 87.5%.”. Business and digital transformation projects often fail short of their objectives and drag far too long, often because the coordination and architectural bridges between business and IT stakeholders are non-existent. This is why a good business architect will always make sure to make the details of their roadmap available to those involved with the delivery of tactical projects or strategic initiatives by providing access to the relevant portion of their business architecture model.
In brief, the success rate of your business and digital transformation projects can be improved significantly by including business architects within the planning ecosystem of your firm. Great business architects are very customer-driven, excel at finding value for their organization and customers, communicate well both with business and IT personnel, are not enterprise & business architecture model freaks, know measurement techniques inside out, meet their organization’s objectives, and are finally involved with the delivery of their firm's roadmaps.
Are you yet a good business architect?
 This presentation entitled “Using Business Capabilities to Make IT Metrics Meaningful” was made by Diane LeBeau and Diana Krohn both from United Airlines and the PDF file resides on the OMG Standards Development Organization website.
 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.