Practical Enterprise Architecture, pt 2

In our first installment of looking at Enterprise Architecture, we looked at the foundation of what I am calling the house of EA. This foundation is focused on vision, strategy, and knowledge, as a basis for how all of Enterprise Architecture is built. As we move up into the pillars of the house, we move into what are called the four ‘domains’ of architecture. The four domains are the areas where the work of EA happens.

enterprise-architecture-drawing

The first of these domains is Business Architecture. Business architecture is concerned with what makes the business tick. It asks the tough questions about how business goals can be met utilizing the tools that are available. BA is the area of architecture that is most concerned with how the vision of the business meets the practical needs and capabilities of the organization.

It’s important to note, that just because the word ‘business’ is in the title, it doesn’t mean that this area of architecture is limited to corporations. Every organization can benefit from looking at how they “do business”. The term ‘business’ is more about the actions of the organization, not a definition of what type it may or may not be.

Some of the work that happens in the business architecture domain revolves around the capabilities of a business. One of the key elements about moving a vision forward, is having the knowledge of what you’re capable of, at the current time. Business architecture helps an organization look at it’s capabilities, and then aligns those capabilities with the vision of where the organization wants to go. Then once you understand the current state, you can start to examine a path to move forward. This also helps identify gaps that need to be fixed before change can happen.

Sometimes this can sound very corporate and structured. However, if we look at our fictional cafe from the first part of this series, we can see how business architecture would apply in a very real way, despite not being a big corporation. In our first part we identified a cafe that has a stated vision of being a central place of community within a neighborhood. Business architecture would then examine the capabilities of the cafe, and how those align with the vision of where it would want to be in the future.

This means first identifying everything that the cafe has at it’s disposal to build itself up. Perhaps there is space that is not being utilized as best as it could, or perhaps there are improvements to how the marketing of the cafe is being done. These types of outcomes result from a solid understanding of how the business is architected. Once this understanding is complete, then plans could be put in place for how to make changes.

Let’s say that there is space in the cafe that isn’t being utilized the best that it could be; perhaps it’s closed off from the main area, and doesn’t feel as connected to the primary space. Business architecture would ask how this capability deficit could be turned into a benefit for the business. If the stated vision of ‘community’ is driving the analysis, then perhaps showing how this space could be used as a private meeting area for community groups would be a benefit to the cafe, turning something that wasn’t useful before into something that helps drive the overall vision of the organization.

Business architecture would be the domain of EA that would be looking at these opportunities and presenting them to the ownership of the business as potential ways to meet the vision of the organization. In a formal corporate structure this involves the development of capability models, impact analysis, gap analysis, goal to outcome mappings, and other various artifacts. Yet, I feel that the basics of what business architecture is trying to accomplish can be done on any scale. It just comes down to being willing to do a through analysis of how business is being done, and use that analysis to plan for the future.

Business architecture is a key element of of EA gets done. Many big organizations see business architecture as a small part of EA, but it is really one of the most crucial. It’s very easy to want to skip over doing all of the business analysis and jump right in to how to solve problems, but if you don’t understand the foundation of what you’re dealing with, you can’t plan for the future in the best way possible. Good planning helps to avoid pitfalls of jumping too fast, and makes an organization stronger and more capable of achieving what they want to become.

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