Business Architecture Becomes Mainstream in the Boardroom

Feb 2, 2022
Written by
Marc Lankhorst
Marc Lankhorst
Jeeps Rekhi
Jeeps Rekhi

Business Architecture Becomes Mainstream in the Boardroom

Business Architecture is nowadays gaining more traction among executives because it plays a key role in enabling organizations to transform into a composable enterprise, a term coined by research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. Business Architecture is used by architects as a form of business analysis to identify business value that’s focused on what the business needs, and exactly when they want it. In this blog post, we give you practical examples of how Business Architects leverage this discipline to enable executives to create a composable enterprise.

The idea behind the composable enterprise isn’t new. It was already described as ‘business modularity’ in the seminal book: Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne Ross et al. in 2006. The book provides an example of applying key architecture principles at the business level.

Gartner, Inc defines a composable enterprise as an organization made from interchangeable building blocks. The firm researched how organizations build resilience in the face of great disruption, and they learned that “organizations that win the future are those that assemble and re-assemble their component parts at will. These organizations retain what works and shed what doesn’t”. The organization achieves this through the assembly and combination of packaged business capabilities.

Gartner, Inc predicts that “by 2023, 60% of mainstream organizations will list composable enterprise as a strategic objective and will use an increasing number of packaged business capabilities.”

Business Architecture is key enabler for transforming organizations into composable businesses.

This discipline articulates business capabilities, value streams, organizational functions and boundaries, strategic drivers and their links to business processes, projects or programs. Essentially, Business Architecture takes the business strategy and maps it against real-world activities such as business processes executed at the frontline. It provides executives with a holistic perspective of what the business does, where the problems are (such as gaps or areas of underperformance), and identifies opportunities for innovation.

Business Architects: create a composable architecture

How can you create a composable architecture that delivers business outcomes and adapt to the pace of business change? A composable architecture is a foundation upon which a resilient enterprise is built. To ensure success, you need to create a partnership with executives who often don’t understand techspeak. You therefore need to help non-architects think like an architect. The only way you can do this is to ensure that you create content relevant to a non-IT audience and drill down into this content to provide evidence, in layman’s terms, to describe the organization’s operating models and where the problems lie.

By using a modern tool, such as BiZZdesign HoriZZon, you can design and model the different ‘architectures’. At BiZZdesign, we focus on the use of Capabilities. These capabilities underpin the people, process and technology operating model. Hence, Capabilities act as the central point through which scenarios can be planned and their impact traced all the way through the business.

A Capability Map aims to support business executives’ strategic discussions and decisions. With such a map, you’ll be able to analyze your organization by looking at it holistically, through a business perspective lens. A Capability Map is drawn up in business language (it doesn’t include technology jargon) so that non-IT stakeholders can understand it easily. A well-understood Capability Map quickly becomes the backdrop for many different discussions.

Ideally, each capability is a self-contained unit or module so that you can exchange and compose them at will. In practice, of course, things are less rosy, and capabilities may depend on each other in complex ways (e.g. via the resources they rely on). A key role of architects is to reduce those dependencies to support this notion of modularity/ composability.

For example, the Capability Map can add value to your decision-making in creating a composable enterprise by answering the following questions:

Q: How do I reduce communication overheads between teams by partitioning them in a smart way? E.g. using Conway’s Law.

Organizing your teams according to the capabilities they support can help in improving internal communications and reducing communication overhead.

An example of a Capability Map

Q: How can I quickly identify which parts of our business are at risk from a disruptive event?

This can be shown as a heatmap of the Capability Map in the above image, based on an analysis of the underlying resources. Examples include office buildings (e.g. a power outage), IT resources (e.g. cyber risk), or people (e.g. a pandemic), among others. The heatmap below shows the health of the technology that underpins each of these capabilities, based on data about the end-of-life of applications and the number of incidents reported. The orange ones are at risk.

Technology Health Capability Heatmap

Q: How can I invest smartly where it truly counts?

Classifying your capabilities according to their strategic importance and comparing this with their maturity helps you in deciding on investments in uplifting capabilities. The example below uses colors to show relative investment levels (green = low, red = high) and labels capabilities with their classification into Foundational, Distinctive, or Competitive. This helps you pinpoint strategically important capabilities that are underfunded. For example, several of the sub-capabilities in Customer Management are distinctive or competitive but receive little investment.

Capability Heatmap with Investment Levels and Strategic Classification

Where to start?

As business architects, it’s our role to spur value and innovation in our enterprises. By using a business architecture model to design a composable enterprise, we’ll do just that! Executives will value the business perspectives from our modeling, and we’ll show them just how quickly and easy it is to adapt to change, and build and deploy at a faster pace.

If you’d like to learn more about using Business Architecture to create a composable enterprise, please don’t hesitate to request a demo. BiZZdesign also offers a range of training courses to enhance your skills and ensure that you become a master at Business Architecture. Check out our training courses here.