When I look at the sorts of advisory work we engage in, I am often struck by the fact that our client organizations are at very different start points on their business architecture journeys. The start point is complicated by the team’s perception of the stakeholders they serve (to whom they deliver value) and the ultimate objectives for their initiative. Not only are the start points and journeys themselves different, but the challenges met on the road also differ. So in a very real sense, working out which mountain you are scaling is just as important as the deciding the route to get there and the team required for success.

We see many different types of business architecture efforts — usually they are attempting to support one or more of the following initiatives:

  • Provide the basis for transformational change.This is especially difficult when transformation implies changing just about everything you do and, most importantly, the way you think. When the organization is going for a “wellness program,” rather than continuing to apply project fixes like Band-Aids, the challenge is to engage colleagues on that longer-term objective rather than becoming fixated with short-term efficiency goals.
  • Remove redundancy post-merger in an M&A scenario. Often, the challenge here is to take two or more distinct cultures and legacies, and develop one compelling future, complete with new organizational structure and road map to get there. Sometimes dressed up with other titles such as process harmonization, this usually involves surfacing views of the business and its purpose such that leaders and managers see past their own silo-oriented agendas.
  • Reduce costs in a balanced and transparent way to drive competitiveness.This may involve a broad array of cost-cutting measures from headcount reduction to organizational restructuring and outsourcing. While the competitive situation may force the change, the challenge here is to build transparency into the decision-making, identifying the core and competitive capabilities to invest in while ensuring that customer outcomes are not materially affected.
  • Enhance customer centricity and deliver more compelling customer experiences.While some see better customer service as the end objective, transforming customer experiences involves end-to-end alignment, up and down the value chain. The challenge here is to embed this customer focus within existing process improvement efforts and ensure that everything from systems to personnel selection support the customer experience.
  • Provide a context for decision-making around technology investments.Here the role is focused around the IT organization and its need to successfully support multiple and shifting business priorities. To do this effectively, downstream IT functions need a realistic way of understanding the evolving business landscape. However, in situations where trust has eroded between business managers and IT, the efforts of the business architecture team are often misunderstood. Indeed, business architects in this situation often struggle to be taken seriously.
  • Drive operational efficiency and reduce wait times in the core operations of the firm.Lean and Six Sigma programs focus on reducing waste and cycle time. The focus is on processes within divisions or business units, but ultimately programs need to think about the processes that span organizational silos. In such circumstances, Lean, Six Sigma, and related process improvement efforts can struggle. They need the larger picture that business architecture can provide to address political alignment across those divisions and business units.

The list of different types of objectives is much longer than that. But the central point is that without coordination, the enterprise struggles to resolve conflicting objectives and achieve its business goals. Business architecture provides that coordinating framework by providing views that help stakeholders understand their business as it is today and by describing an effective target operating model that integrates strategy with the operating model.

But in the trenches, business architecture professionals are looking for better guidance on a number of different issues. For some, it’s working out the next steps and reporting lines, while others are trying to understand which methods they should add to their existing toolbox (and their value). And it’s within that context that Forrester has launched The Business Architecture Playbook.

Whether you are already on the journey or just starting out, Forrester’s business architecture playbook provides a set of tools that helps organizations:

  1. Discover: Articulate the value of business architecture in clear business terms.
  2. Plan: Establish the strategy for business architecture within the firm.
  3. Act: Execute that strategy.
  4. Optimize: Measure and optimize the value delivered by business architecture.

In a very real sense, the business architecture playbook provides the mountaineers’ guide for organizations on the path. It provides a framework for our research on simplifying and supporting each phase of your business architecture initiatives. The documents within it are packed full of advice and guidance, with pitfalls to avoid and best practices to observe. Over time, this living research will be updated and fleshed out. The core set of documents are there, with other documents and toolkits soon to follow.