Business Architecture Bridging Strategic Vision And Operational Excellence

I made it to the Gartner BPM Summit 2013 in Washington DC today just in time for the 11am session that Betsy Burton gave on bridging the gap between strategic vision and operational excellence with business architecture (BA). I like her view on this: strategic vision really isn’t much good unless you have a plan (or at least a direction) for how you’re going to do it. She points out that most organizations don’t execute on their vision — only about 10% if you believe the studies by Hammer and others — and you’re not going to get there unless along with vision, you also define implications, constraints, risks and interdependencies. Business strategy, which is a big part of business architecture, requires a diagnosis, guiding policy, coherent actions and target outcomes. I also like her distinction between “deliberate strategy” (that which is foreseen and planned) and “emergent strategy” (that which happens in response to actual conditions, a.k.a., “how we get stuff done”), although I’m not sure that I’d consider the emergent part to be strategy, strictly speaking.

She showed a good example of a business capability model that had been developed for a financial services firm, where capabilities are “things the business does”, not processes or departments. Overlaid with that was color coding showing the level of investment to each capability, and bolding to show the capabilities with strategic importance, plus physical grouping of capabilities related to a specific business goal. This gives a view, on one chart, of how the business vision is aligned with capabilities and spending. For example, in the group “Self and Service Products” were six capabilities. Once of those was “Onboard Customers”, which was bolded to indicate that it’s of strategic importance, but is white to indicate that it is getting only a minimal amount of investment. Then, overlaid on that, she showed how processes intersect with capabilities by adding numbered bubbles to indicate which process impacts each capability. Keep in mind that a process can span multiple capabilities, and a capability may require multiple processes. So that Onboard Customers capability intersects with A1, an account management process, as do 10 other capabilities. Next, she overlaid information sources and consumers and their linkages, that is, which capabilities create or consume information from other capabilities. As you add in the application portfolio, the inconsistencies in the architecture start to emerge, and low-risk, non-strategic capabilities are exposed as targets for cloud or outsourcing.

Gartner provides a classification for applications (their Pace Layering): they’re there for innovation, differentiation. or for record (commodity). Extending this to the capability map allows the processes and capabilities to also be categorized this way. To quote her presentation notes, “processes associated with innovative business capabilities will be more likely to change, will be more complex and potentially high value.” This identifies processes that really drive the business growth and goal achievement. Making the link between capabilities, processes and applications, the impact on people and processes of changing capabilities and swapping out applications becomes obvious.

Since this is a BPM conference, she has to make links to what this means for BP professionals, and ended up with some specific recommendations for BP directors, starting with “work with your EA team to understand the role of business architecture”, and understanding the link between BA and BPM. I’m impressed with the level of integration that she’s made between BPM and BA, and provided some good ideas on how to connect these up as part of the business strategy.

2 thoughts on “Business Architecture Bridging Strategic Vision And Operational Excellence

  1. Good post, a nice summary of a very interesting session.

    I am the Retail Credit BPM Specialist for the largest European Bank by Market captilisation, an interim role. We are currently designing the new account process for both secured and unsecured products. Our drivers are improved compliance and operational efficiency.

    Your article raises some interested enterprise investment and prioritisation considerations.

    We find that we need to maintain a tight project focus, backed up by clear and defensible business benefits to drive change across our organisation – particularly when competing for resources and managing governance complexity inevitable in a large matrix managed organisation. Using the approach described in this article, we could organise the portfolio of projects more effectively and reduce these conflicts.

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