Business first!Whether your goal is business transformation, IT effectiveness, or just a better technical architecture, you need to start with a business-only view of your business architecture. If not, you will struggle with getting business sponsorship, and just as importantly, you will struggle with your own understanding of the business.  

Until EAs convince business people that they do in fact understand the business, business leaders aren’t going to get excited about business architecture. This is basic sales 101- first understand the customer. To be sure, business cares about technology. In fact, they care about it quite a bit. Business leaders clearly understand how important technology is to their business success. What they are not so sure about is if IT understands the business. If the business was confident IT understood them well then we wouldn’t be seeing all the issues resulting from business people engaging with technology vendors and making technology decisions without IT’s input. Instead, they would be saying: “IT knows what I need, go talk with them.”

Architects that don’t collaborate with their business compatriots when building business architecture are finding it difficult to connect with the business. I have been talking with a number of architects lately that are getting push back from the business. What is the business saying? “That’s an IT thing.” Why are they saying that? Most likely because it is an IT thing – an IT centric business architecture.

Even if you are never going to show the business architecture to a single business person you still need to start with a business-only view. Why? Because if you don’t, the tail will be wagging the dog. EAs (like other IT folks) tend to see the world from an IT point of view and to create business architecture in their own image. You have to work hard not to do this. Business and technology are so intertwined that even business people have a hard time separating how the business works from how the technology works. If you want a true business architecture, you need to be rigid about starting with a true “business focus”. Once you have that, you can turn to the technology with confidence that you can build an architecture that is truly aligned with business goals. If you don’t put significant focus on separating technology (the how) from the business (the what), you will invariably create a view of the business with current technology biases built in. So what’s the process?

Step 1 – Show business execs that you understand the business from their perspective by creating a completely business focused view of business architecture (or whatever part of it you are creating).

Step 2 – After, and only after, you have successfully connected with business leaders, connect the business things the business cares about (capabilities, strategies, processes, etc.) to the IT things business cares about (applications, web, etc). Now you can have a meaningful conversation about how IT supports business goals.

Step 3 – Connect the IT things IT cares about (architecture, etc.) to the business things the business cares about to enable the business executives to better leverage technology and IT.

Now you have a business architecture that works for everyone.