Consider the following scenario. You have realized that your firm can benefit from having a documented business architecture – perhaps based on business capabilities – not for any one issue or need but rather as a general framework for planning, strategic execution and coordination by different parts of business and IT. You are in a meeting with your CIO, making the case, when the CIO says, “In a couple of minutes our CEO is dropping by. You can make your case to him. If he’s interested, we’ll go ahead.” 

OK – that scenario may seem like kind of a stretch – after all, how often does the CEO drop in on the CIO and want to listen to a pitch on business architecture? Well, something like this happened to me recently, and I’d like your thoughts on how to make the case. I was visiting a client – the head of EA at this client (a medium-size financial services firm) – when he said, “I’ve started to lobby with our business management that we need a business capability map. The CEO is dropping by and would like to hear the reasons from you. I think you’ll have about 15 minutes.”

Talk about a challenge! When CEO arrived, after initial introductions, this is the case I made:

  • Your business is complex, and there are decisions and strategies being formulated across the business. While you can set overall direction, the consistency of these decisions and individual area strategies with your direction is likely to be a challenge for you to maintain.
  • IT is enabler of these strategies. Because your IT organization supports all of your business, it sees requests for projects based on these strategies and decisions and is the one company resource where inconsistent strategies and unclear priorities are most apparent. From an IT perspective, this means a lot of projects but not a clear contribution to business success. It may also an indicator of broader organizational thrashing.
  • A business capability map describes your business as the set of related capabilities necessary for your business model and markets. While it’s high level, it captures key business information such as processes, business goals and associated metrics.
  • Firms use these capability maps to have strategic discussions on what capabilities are most important to their business, where they expect the most change, and what the most important outcomes of their investments – both business and IT – should be. They also use them to coordinate planning around business and IT change. The result is better coordinated and more consistent execution of the CEO’s direction.

I’d like to claim I sold him. However, when I followed up a week later with the head of architecture, he said that, while the CEO remains open, he’s not yet convinced.

What do you think of this case for a business capability map? I know many IT organizations are getting real traction with their business using a capability map approach – if you are one, how did you introduce the concept and get their buy-in?