Over the last few months I have met or spoken to a significant number of Forrester clients who are undertaking a business architecture initiative. As you can imagine, these initiatives have various sponsors and are at various levels of maturity. Some business architecture (BA) initiatives are being driven by chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) wanting to get a seat, and become an influencer, at the strategic decision-making table. Whilst others are being driven by business executives, who either believe business design and transformation is a business responsibility or that IT has insufficient business competency to understand and deliver what is required.

The different levels of maturity struck me, as just like the English Premier League (that’s where real football is played, for those not in the know) there are the elite (the big boys – top five or six teams) and there are the also-rans/others. There are also the elite BA teams and the non-elite BA teams. The gap between these two groups is growing, which will be a nightmare for a non-elite BA leader benchmarking his initiative against other organizations. Where one could argue in the football reference it is money that divides the two groups, as this attracts better players and creates better teams, with BA teams it appears to be more based on focus. Less mature and non-elite BA teams focus their efforts primarily on the building of BA, reacting to siloed demand and then selling or pushing BA artifacts to stakeholders in the hope that they find these artifacts useful. Whereas, the elite BA teams focus on addressing stakeholder needs and the use of BA, delivering relevant BA services and allowing stakeholders to pull the BA artifacts that address the challenges they face.

If you feel that you are one of the non-elite BA teams, are looking to relaunch your BA initiative, or believe you are ready to join the elite group, your starting point should be to define, assess, or redefine your coherent BA strategy. Without a coherent strategy, BA practices will maintain a reactive focus that will result in:

  • Your BA initiative not reflecting its true potential. The holistic needs of the organization will be bypassed as preference is given to siloed demand and addressing short-term needs. In turn, the BA, though evolving, will never be sufficient to be recognized as a necessity for assisting strategic decision-making. Therefore BA does not realize its potential to support or reflect the organization’s strategic intent.
  • Your BA efforts not being recognized as providing real value. By reacting to short-term demand, BA practices miss the opportunity to assist the organization in realizing its longer-term goals. BA initiatives will have insufficient time to plan more efficient and effective road maps toward the transformation vision. Thus, BA initiatives will assist the delivery of Band Aid solutions that inefficiently utilize an already limited set of resources. Stakeholders, for valid reasons, will not recognize this as BA providing value.

The elite BA teams recognized during their evolution the need for a coherent BA strategy. Various approaches have been used to develop their strategy plans and all deliver benefits to BA stakeholders. Common BA strategy benefits include:

  • A common and shared vision that reduces stakeholder conflict. By showing a clear and approved direction for the business architecture, the BA strategic plan helps avoid ad hoc and conflicting metrics that often result from varying stakeholder opinions.
  • A performance framework that demonstrates how BA provides value to stakeholders. The definition and constant measurement of progress through key performance indicators (KPIs) is a linchpin to the strategic plan and its dynamic evolution.
  • A prioritization framework to evaluate and schedule transformation projects. An important part of strategic planning is making rational choices on which initiatives should proceed, the resources allocated to them, and the delivery time frame.

Forrester’s business architecture playbook provides the ways to address the capability, resources, competencies, processes, and technology issues that stand between you and an effective BA practice. In particular, the BA strategic planning report defines a step-by-step approach to define a BA strategic plan that: 1) focuses on specific stakeholder needs; 2) defines the BA services to meet these needs; 3) develops the capabilities that enable the delivery of these services; and 4) builds a road map to execute the BA strategy.

I encourage you to read Forrester’s BA playbook and tell us what you think. In our initial release, we’ve described core elements which we’ll be revising and expanding on — for example, over the next few months we’ll be publishing on optimization of BA and how this changes the roles, capabilities, and skills of a firm’s BA practice.