Thursday, June 13, 2024

IT-Business Alignment and the Business Architect: Changing Roles

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This article is republished from tech analyst Dana Gardner’s BriefingDirect blog. It was sponsored by The Open Group, a global consortium of more than 350 member organizations that enables the achievement of business objectives through IT standards.


We’ve assembled a distinguished panel in conjunction with the recent Open Group Conference in Austin, Texas, to explore the impact, role and opportunity for business architecture.

We’ll examine how the definition of business architect has matured, andwe’ll see why it’s so important for this new role to flourish intoday’s dynamic business and IT landscapes. We’ll also see howcertification and training are helping to shape the businessarchitecture leaders of tomorrow.

Here to help better understand the essential impact of business architecture on business success is Harry Hendrickx, the Chief Technology Officer, CME Industry Unit, HP EnterpriseServices and a Certified Global Enterprise Architect; Dave van Gelder, Global Architect in the Financial Services Strategic Business Unit at Capgemini; Mieke Mahakena, Label Leader for Architecture in the Training Portfolio atCapgemini Academy and also a Certified Architect; Peter Haviland, head of Architecture Services in the Americas for Ernst & Young, and Kevin Daley, Chief Architect in the Technology and Innovation Group at IBM Global Business Services.

The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: The Open Group, HP and Capgemini are sponsors of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:   

Gardner: Wesee that CEOs around the world really are seeking fundamental change from IT.They recognize that we’re at an inflection point. Why then is the role of business architect so important now? 
Over the past one or two decades, business-IT alignment has been number one on the CIO agenda, and apparently the organizations have increasing difficulty getting business-IT alignment resolved.
There are quite a few people pioneering in business-IT alignment, but apparently there was no urgency yet to recognize this role more specifically.

HP, in the past two years, interviewed CIOs worldwide, and they all indicated that they face quite large and complex transformation processes. They also recognize that business-IT alignment is one of key issues. We think that the business architect really can provide some resolution to getthoseprocesses in better shape and more successful.
Daley: At IBM, we have a CEO study and a CIO study that come out in alternating years. One of thethings that started coming out loud and clear in 2010 was thatmanaging complexity and building operating dexterity required a betterunderstanding across the entire company.

We’ve started seeing atrend to move not just from business IT alignment, but to business andIT convergence. There’s an understanding more and more that informationtechnology, and technology in general, is a core part of the businessmodel now. There’s an understanding that now we have a situation wherebusiness and IT aren’t so much aligned, because of the fact that IT ispart of business.

Where we did interviews and surveys and thencompiled them for thousands of CEOs, we came up with three key elements.Amongst those was managing and taking advantage of complexity whilebuilding operating dexterity. That’s the key theme.

One of theproblems that we’re seeing from the CEOs is having for decades separatedIT as if it was its own business unit, instead of part of the truesense of the business. It’s been an interpretive science. To manage thatcomplexity they needed a means by which to start with the design ofwhere they’re going and have have a business strategy.

To manage that complexity they needed a means by which to start with the design of where they’re going and have have a business strategy.

How do they take that strategy and transform it into technology and into information management? They needed an ability to have a framework inwhich to have that substantive discussion between the people who wereresponsible, such as the CIO who is responsible for technology and theoperations and the COOs, who are really about the execution of theoverall picture.

What we’ve seen from our CEOs is a need to startbeing more integrated. There have been market pressures that theyhaving to respond to. The big economic downturn was a big change foreveryone, and they are trying to address it.

They’re looking atmeans that they can start integrating more globally. They can start toincrease their cost variability and start becoming more agile in howthey operate their business. To do that they need a means by which theycan more effectively communicate.

Driving understanding

o far, we’ve been seeing that business architecture is a perfect way tostart driving an understanding. It’s a place where both people whoareused to seeing standard business models like revenue andcapability areable to associate that to the different types ofarchitectures anddesigns that we see coming out of the technologygroup.

It’sgiving them a common place to meet and jointly moveforward with whatthey’re trying to do in terms of managing thecomplexity, so they can bemore agile and dexterous.

Gardner: What are the stakes here for businessarchitecture and for organizations that can master this? How important is this now?

Haviland: It’sextremely important. What I see is that this is a discipline that’sjust crying out for morepeople and more maturity. You almost need it to become pervasivethroughout organizations now. 

The most common story I encounter is simply that organizations spent alotof time in the past creating their processes and then they spent alotof time feeding technology solutions to those processes. Inrecenttimes, the pace of technology change has moved faster than thatpreviousparadigm.

What you’re looking at is at people saying, well, I am the business, there are all of these technology options out there. Icannot find a way forward and so how do I exploit those? That is wherethe business architecture profession is really being pushed to thefront.

That said, there is a slight risk here that it may beconsidered too much in isolation. I mean, it is an architectureprofession, it is a part of architecture, and the value of architectureis to provide that aligned view across the various domains that areimportant in terms of business, technology,information, security, andthose types of elements.

When itcomes back to what’s at stakefor businesses that are investing inthis particular area and forbusinesses that are trying to reconsiderthe way that they can operatethemselves to support technology, theyare moving ahead and they havecompetitive advantage. Businesses thataren’t doing that tend to be leftbehind, because the pace of changeof technology is going to getfaster.

Gardner: Does a business architect andarchitecture have to be at a high level to be successful? Where in theorg chart do we typically see this role? Is it near the top? Does itmatter?

van Gelder: It depends on the maturity of an organization. Within Capgemini nowadays, we talkabout business technology. As Kevin said, business and technology arenot separate. Technology is part of the total business.

When we started the Business Architecture Working Group in 2006, there was a lot of discussion about two words, business and architecture, and nobody knew exactly what we were talking about. Everybody had a different understanding of those words. In the last years what you have seen is that business architecture is looked at in a different way.

Currently in the Business Architecture Working Group, we see business architecture as something that brings thebalancebetween all the other architectures in the company — that’sITarchitecture, financial architecture, money, people architecture,and alot of other architectures.

If business architecture isbringingthe balance between the different aspects of a company, thenbusinessarchitecture is something that should be handled in the topof theorganization, because balance should be created between all thedifferent aspects in the organization.

Gardner: What then is the fundamental problemthat thebusiness architect needs to solve?

Mahakena: It’s more likemaking surethat, whatever transformation you’re going to implement,you align allthose different aspects. As Dave told us, there are anumber of aspectsin an organization that might need to change, andyou can have all those different architectures for those aspects. But,if every aspect goes its own way in changing, then they will never be aligned. Businessarchitecture is meant to align all of those aspects to make sure thatyou have a balanced, consistent, and coherent set of operations at theend.

Gardner: It sounds as if we’re in agreement that this is a high level function, but what is it that people might stumbleupon, if they direct this in a wrong direction? What is businessarchitecture not good at?

Many things at once

Haviland: Business architecture is similar to other forms of architecture, in that it tends totry to do manythings all at once. The idea of enterprise alignment isdefinitelythe right outcome, but there is enough complexity there toblow steamout of your head for many, many years to come.

Certainlyin our experience in implementing these types of functions inorganizations, functions that constrain scope very well, also tend to communicate very well around what their status is, whattheir progress is against milestones, and what outcomes they’veachieved, and they tend to articulate those outcomes in terms of realbusiness value.

What business architecture is not very good at are broad-reaching types of goals that don’t have measurable outcomes.

Gardner: Anyone could stand up and callthemselves a business architect, but what is The Open Group, in particular, doing about actually certifying and moving toward a standardization of some sort?

Hendrickx: The first question we get asked is, what’s the difference between a business consultant and a business architect or a business analyst and a business architect? We also have enterprise architect and technology architects. Is there a reason for being for the business architect?

This is something we did a lot of research on at HP and we delineated the role of the business architect quite clearly from the business consulting and the business analyst aspect.

The business architect’s role is distinct, because he combines the organizational strategy with the operations. He identifies the implications of this strategy, as well as that of the technology for the business operations. This is opposed to the business consultant, who is more outwardly looking to the commercial aspects of the organization and what that means for the structure. The business analyst is looking more at not the structure of the operation, but at the solution level.

When welook at the enterprise architect and the solution architect, the business architect focuses more on the complete implications of the strategy and technology trends on the operations, whereas the enterprisearchitect is more interested in the IT and the implications for the ITstrategy and how IT should be deployed. The business architect is muchmore focused on the complete performance of the business operations.

So,the bottom line of these delineations of the past one-and-a-half yearsis that there is a reason for being for a business architect. It is adistinct role and it has a real solution for a problem. 

Defining the profession

Mahakena: What we’ve been doing in the Business Forum, after we decided that business architecturehas its own reason for existence, we described the businessarchitecture profession — what’s the scope and what should be theoutcome of business architecture. Now, we’re working on the practice ofbusiness architecture by defining a framework, looking at methods, and defining approaches you can use to do business architecture.

Parallel to that, if you know what the profession is and what the practice is,you’re able to create the business architecture certification,becausethose things help you define the required skills andexperience abusiness architect needs. So, we are working on that inthe BusinessForum.

Daley: Let’s look at businessarchitecture from theconcept that has existed, combining the thoughtsof what Mieke andHarry have already talked about. When we work withclients, for those ofus that are in consultancies, we see that there is normally somethingthat’s similar to business architecture, but it’s either a shadoworganization inside a purely business unit that isn’t technologyfocused, or it is things like the enterprise architects who are having to learn the business concepts around businessarchitect anecdotally, so that they can be successful in their roles.

I’d suggest that we’re seeing a need to make it more refined and more explicit, so that we’re able to identify the people that fit for this. They have specific things, instead of having general things that wehavetoday. For me, the certification helps provide that certainty as a hiring manager or as somebody who is looking to staff anorganization.

Itprovides that kind of clarity of what theyshould be doing, giving them specific activities, specific things theydo that create value for the company. It takes out of the behind thescenes action and pull something that’s critical to success into thefront with people who arespecifically aligned and educated to dothat.

Globalization is creating more and more complexity in the business models that organizations are trying to operate within.

Gardner: How does the globalization impact the importance of this role?

Haviland: Globalization is creating more and more complexity in the business models that organizations are trying to operate. Overthe last couple ofdecades, with the science and engineering ofIT, there has beenenormous investment by companies to actuallyoperate, maintain, andimprove their IT in their current world.

Inmany cases, this ITwork has outpaced the comparable business efforts inside those organizations, when they actually think about their business, their business models, and their business operating principles.

What we’re actually seeing now is that the rigor, the engineering, and the effort that’s put into technical architecture and IT architecture is nowbeing proposed on the business side, with many business management processimprovement activities. These tend to be at quite a low level, however, when you compare them to business architecture initiatives at the enterprise level.

Scope and challenge

f those architecture initiatives are at the high levels that areneeded,you start to consider the scope and challenges that come intoplay, when you start talking about globalization. So, with theincrease in scope and the global way that people are operating acrosscultures,geographies, and languages, that requires this discipline,which doesoperate at that high level to start to organize the otherareas, butperhaps at a lower level.

Hendrickx: There are two aspects that need to be paid more attention to with globalization and more complexity. First, the business architect is, or should be, equipped to look at the organization, not only within the boundaries of an organization, but also the ecosystem of organizationsthat will mold together and have to be connected to produce the value.

Sincethese are more formalized contracts or relationship with differentorganizations connected to each other, there is a dynamic that is hardlyseen anymore, that is not transparent anymore. There clearly needs tobe some more detailed insights and transparency for each organization,so that people understand what the impact of certain developments orevents will be. This can’t be done just by logic or just by watchingcarefully. This really needs some in-depth analysis for which thebusiness architecture is built.

The second part of it is that thedue to the complexity, the decision making process has become morecomplex and there will be more stakeholders involved in the differentareas of decision making. The business architect has a clear task andchallenge as well. By absorbing the strategy, technology trends, and thedifferent developments and focusing on the applications foroperations, he has the opportunity to discuss with the differentstakeholders. He has the opportunity to get those stakeholders eithermobilized or focused on specific decisions: the deliverables you willprovide.

If you start talking to all those other areas in the business, then suddenly people have a completely other way of thinking. Sometimes they use the same words and don’t understand each other.

Gardner: We certainly see a lot of important characteristics in this role: global, strategic high level, encompassing business understanding, as well as technology. Where do you go to find these kindsof people? Who tends to make a good business architect or is there noreal pattern yet established as to who steps up to the plate to be ableto manage this type of a job?

van Gelder: To all thecomplexity already mentioned, I’d want to add something else that wefound in the Business Architecture Working Group, which is more researchin the whole field. That’s the problem of communication. How do peoplecommunicate with each other?

If you look in the IT world, mostpeople come from an engineering background. It’s hard enough to talk toeach other and to be clear to each other about what’s possible and howyou should go or what you should go for. If you start talking to allthose other areas in the business, then suddenly people have acompletely other way of thinking. Sometimes they use the same words anddon’t understand each other.

It’s not easy to have these kinds of people that need very good communication skills next to all thecomplexity that you have to handle. On the other hand, you need anarchitect when it’s complex. You don’t need an architect when it’ssimple, because everybody can do it. But an architect is just a person. Isay if I am a simple person, I can only handle simple things.

Whatyou need are people who can structure. I can only work with things when I can structure it, when the complexity is fairly well-structured. Ithen have overview of all those complexities, and then I can startcommunicating with all the parties I have to communicate with.

No real training

At the moment, I don’t see any real training or development of thesekinds of people that you need. Most of them come with a lot ofexperience in a lot of fields, and because of that, they have thepossibility to talk to all kinds of people and to bring the message.

Gardner: Mieke, at Capgemini Academy, you’ve obviously encouraged andencountered folks moving towards a business architect role. What areyour thoughts on what it takes and where they tend to come from?

Mahakena: Let’s have a look where they can come from. What you see is that thisrole of business architect can be a next step in one’s career. Forexample, a business analyst, who has been creating a lot of experiencein all kinds of fields, and he could evolve to watch a businessarchitect. This person needs to get away from the detail and movetowards the strategy and a more holistic view.

Another examplecould be an enterprise architect who already has analytics skills andcommunication skills. But, enterprise architects are more or lessfocusing on IT, so they should move more towards the business part andtowards strategy and operations.

One could be the businessconsultant who is now focusing on strategy, also should have thosecommunication skills, and will be able to communicate with stakeholdersin high positions in companies. Business consultants have a lot ofindustry knowledge. So they should need more knowledge about technologyand perhaps improve their analytics skills and learn more to how tostructure operations.

There are number of existing roles that already have a lot of skills required for business architecture. They just have to enhance skills and get new skills to do this new role.

So, there are numberof existing roles that already have a lot of skills required forbusiness architecture. They just have to enhance skills and get newskills to do this new role.

Gardner: We talked about howthis is important because of the internal organizational shifts andthe need for transformation. We’ve seen how globalization makes thismore important, but I’d like to also look a little bit at some of thetrends and technology.

We’ve seen a great deal of emphasis on cloud computing, hybrid computing, the role of mobile devices, wirelessly connected devices, sensors, and fabric of information which, ofcourse, leads to massive data, and they need to then analyze that data.

This is just a handful of some of the major technology trends. KevinDaley,it seems to me that managing these trends and these newcapabilities for organizations also undergirds and supports this need.So how do you see the technology impetus for encouraging the role ofbusiness architect?

Daley: I’m seeing from my work inthe field that we’ve got all these things that are converging.Certainly, you’ve got all these enabling technologies and things thatare emerging that are making it easier to do technology types ofthings and speeding them up. So, as they start maturing and asorganizations start consuming them, what we’re seeing is that there’s alack of alignment.

Business relevancy

What this trend is really doing is making sure that you have somethingthatis your controlling device that says what is the businessrelevancy? Are we measuring these peer-to-peer — measuring somethingsuch as massive data and information fabrics compared to somethinglike cloud computing, where you are dispersing the ability to accessthat more readily. It creates a problem in that you have to make surethat people are aligned on what they’re trying to accomplish.

We’reseeing that the technologies that are emerging are actually enablingbusinessarchitecture in a fashion. It provides that unified vision,that holism, that you can start looking at combinations of thesetechnologies, instead of having to look at them as we’ve had to in thepast of siloed elements of technologies that have their own implications.

We’re using business architecture as a means to provide the informationbackto the business analyst who is going to look and help. You canprovidethe business implications, but then you have to analyze whatthatimplication means and make decisions for how much of that you’rewillingto accept within your organization.

In the notionsaround how Iinvestigate risk, how I look at what is going to improvemarket, andwhat is the capacity of what I can do, there’s adisconnect thatbusiness for which architecture is helping provide thefiller for to getto the people that are doing these corporatestrategies and corporateanalysis at a level. That allows them to virtualize the concept of the technology, consume what it means and what that relates to for a business or in terms of its operation and strategy andthe technology itself.

We’re seeing this become the means bywhich you can have that universal understanding that these are the implications, and that those implications can now be layered, so thatyou can look at them in combination instead of having to deal with eachtechnology trend as if it’s a standalone piece.

When you adopt technology, it obviously has a level of maturity it has to reach, but it also has a level of complexity.

We’re seeing this as a means by which to provide some clarity around whatany adoption would be. When you adopt technology, it obviously has alevel of maturity it has to reach, but it also has a level ofcomplexity. It’s being able to start taking advantage of more than justone technology trend at the same time and being able to realisticallydeliver that into their business model.

What I have been seeing is that the technologies are driving the need for businessarchitecture, because they need that framework to make sure that theyare talking apples to apples and that they are meaning the same thing,so that we get out of the interpretation that we have had in the pastand get into something that’s very tactical and very tactile, and thatyou can structure and align in the same way, so you understand what the full ramifications are. 

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