It is interesting to watch the debates online between the different schools of thought of Enterprise Architecture. The discussion was started by James Lapalme, who published a paper on "three schools of thought" which is in pre-print for the IEEE's IT Professional journal. (citation) Mostly the online discussion focused around the role of the newest domain of Enterprise Architecture… the domain of Business Architecture. Depending on how Business Architecture is understood, the role of EA can be dramatically different.
Depending on the company your work in, there’s a case to be made for each. Personally, I prefer to think of EA as alignment at the minimum, and strategic effectiveness as an ideal state. I created the following image to illustrate these distinctions. For further reference, please read James Lapalme's paper in the IEEE IT Professional journal.
Recently, I was contacted via this blog by an individual who had been challenged to set up a new Business Architecture practice within his company’s Enterprise Architecture team. He reached out to me to ask about some books to read and some advice. I’m expanding my message to him here. As always, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.
You have quite a challenge ahead of you. While it may seem obvious, there are some steps that you need to do first. You have to essentially manage the change that you are bringing to your own organization.
As far as required reading… specific to the BA practice challenge
The list below is intentionally short. I feel that every member of the team should read each of these books. I placed them in order of usefulness for your task at hand (preparing the staff of a new BA function within an EA team). All are very valuable… but being higher on the list means that I consider the book to be more valuable, sooner, than the ones below.
For the team manager, one more book to be read concurrently with the ones above:
OK… I have probably just angered some of my friends, because I didn’t include all of their books or reference materials in my short list. Please, before you flame me, realize that this response is to a specific individual with a specific problem. The EA team existed, but didn’t have a BA function… what does that tell you? That it is an EITA team, in all likelihood. Is every possible book or resource appropriate for that situation? Probably not. So I selected a small set of valuable books. There are many more out there.
Mike Walker, one of my colleagues here at Microsoft, has done an excellent job of distilling various options for EA certification. He made this presentation at the most recent Open Group Conference. Strong Recommend.
One very powerful metaphor that has reverberated throughout the technical community, in the past few years, was the Agile Manifesto. Created by a group of folks who wanted to communicate the principles that drove their thinking, the Agile Manifesto has been a very useful tool for deciding if a particular practice is being done well. I think it may be time to build one for the Business Architecture space.
That said, I am by myself, sitting in my living room. I am in no position to speak for the community of business architects. So, this submission is a suggestion for content that could be useful when the conversation begins. It is my personal opinion about the principles of business architecture. I would hope to bring this material to a group of other BA practitioners, as my contribution, to develop a full consensus on business architecture manifesto.
First off, in order to develop principles for business architecture, we need to describe the problem that we are trying to solve.
Business architecture is a relatively new field that addresses an old problem. Most business people recognize the underlying truth: the structure and practices of your organization directly impacts your ability to deliver the intended value. Whether we are talking about a military service, a civilian government agency, a non-profit organization, or a for-profit business, the structures and processes that a leader chooses to employ will impact the results that the organization will produce. That includes both intended and unintended results. So the basic problem is this: how do we deliver on our mission while maintaining our values?
Business architecture gets to deal with a slice of that problem. As people, we need to organize around a common shared mission. We need to know what we want, and we need to go get it. Humans can be pretty haphazard. Business architecture does not address every issue. Business architecture attempts to answer this question: what is the optimal way to organize? Business architecture typically does NOT answer questions around the integration of corporate controls, or supporting activities like how to find staff to fill new roles. Business architecture is focused on the narrow slice of “how to organize.”
So why do we need business architecture to solve this problem? There are literally hundreds of good, well researched, books that offer useful insight for solving this problem. Why use a business architecture approach? Because BA brings a novel approach, one based on the rigorous application of conceptual traceability, process improvement, information science, and mathematics. While most of the business analysis methods prior to business architecture were founded, fundamentally, in social science, mechanical engineering, and even education, business architecture focuses on the newer sciences that have emerged in the computerized age.
Business architecture’s unique value proposition is to focus on answering the questions of business structural and organizational effectiveness in a way that is rigorous, quick, clear, consumable, and value-focused.
We are uncovering better ways of developing business insight by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work, we have come to value:
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
To break that down:
I’m always looking for insight and feedback from the community, so please feel free to add your comments.
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