Towards Value-Driven Architecting

Apr 11, 2014
Written by
Marc Lankhorst
Marc Lankhorst

Towards Value-Driven Architecting

In my previous blog post on Enterprise Architecture at BiZZdesign in 2014, I described how the true value of architecture lies in its relationship with other disciplines within the enterprise.

We identified five major areas where EA touches these other disciplines:

  1. Realizing the enterprise strategy.
  2. Supporting strategic investment decisions.
  3. Fostering enterprise agility.
  4. Leveraging technological opportunities.
  5. Controlling risk and ensuring compliance.

​What I did not address in that blog post, was the coherence between these areas. Let us now zoom in on the first three of these and see how they are related.

Capability-based planning
An important instrument in realizing enterprise strategy is capability-based planning. Business capabilities are a pivot between strategy and realization. On the one hand they provide a high-level view of the current and desired abilities of an organization, in relation to the organization’s strategy and its environment. On the other hand, they comprise various elements (people, processes, systems, and so on) that can be described, designed and realized using enterprise architecture approaches.

Enterprise portfolio management
The central position of business capabilities and their recognizable level of granularity makes business capabilities an ideal focal point for investment decisions. Based on your enterprise strategy, you decide which capabilities need to be developed. You can consider the set of capabilities of your enterprise as a portfolio, and allocate your budgets based on the business value of these capabilities. In our whitepaper on portfolio management” href=””>whitepaper on portfolio management, you can find some of our ideas on managing various asset portfolios. These techniques apply equally well to managing a portfolio of capabilities.

Capability-based planning helps you to develop and improve the necessary resources of your organization. Enterprise architecture offers an integral approach for realizing these developments and improvements as a coherent whole. Modeling capabilities in relation to the rest of your EA, of course using the ArchiMate modeling language, is one of our current R&D topics. More on capabilities, capability mapping, capability modeling and capability-based planning will follow in future blog posts.

From project to value stream
Modern approaches to realization are doing away with the classical project and waterfall ways of thinking. (As an aside: thinking in projects is a major cause for the disappointing performance of many IT organizations; more on this will follow in another blog post). Those modern methods use a life-cycle and value-stream perspective. The assets that make up your enterprise are managed across their entire lifecycle, doing away with the artificial distinction between ‘development’ and ‘maintenance’.

Furthermore, the realization activities are organized as value streams, using the flow-based way of thinking from approaches such as Lean. Continuous delivery by Agile & DevOps teams provides a steady stream of business value, in close interaction with the customer and other stakeholders.

Focus on business value and outcomes
Aligning these value streams with the business capabilities mentioned before, gives you a clear, business-driven focus for allocating your investment budgets. Capability-based portfolio management lets you prioritize these investments in a well-founded way.

Iteratively assessing, refining and realigning this portfolio every few months helps you to keep doing  the right things. Instead of finishing the last drop of project budget in gold-plating a result, you can decide to re-allocate budget to initiatives that create more added value. Such a value-driven, integrated and cyclic approach delivers business outcomes in rapid iterations. This increases the speed with which your organization can respond to its environment and hence improves its business agility.

Towards value-driven enterprise architecture
A value-driven approach to enterprise architecture plays a central role in all this. It supports portfolio management with the analyses needed to determine the expected value, cost and risk of various initiatives. It provides the necessary input for prioritizing and planning changes to your business and IT landscape. It gives you program-level coordination across value streams to realize these changes in a coherent manner, and it fosters reuse of valuable knowledge and assets. Finally, it allows you to track the realization of the expected benefits across the business and IT landscape, and hence to correct your course if necessary.

Next to this value orientation, the flow-based mindset outlined above should also be adopted by architects. By delivering a steady stream of analyses and changes in a ‘think big, act small’ way, they can help the organization realize a long-term vision one step at a time.

All of this gives us a more detailed picture of the right-hand side of the previous figure, as shown below. Here, you see how enterprise architecture helps you ‘connect the dots’ between strategy and operation. In this way, enterprise architecture truly becomes the bridge between the strategic direction of the organization and its day-to-day operations and change processes.

First steps
A first step you can take is to create a high-level overview of the important business capabilities of your organization. Such a capability map is very helpful in finding out what is really important and where the added value of your enterprise can be found. By googling ‘business capability map’, you will find many examples to inspire you.

Secondly, you might have a critical look at your current investment decision-making. What are the information needs of the decision-makers, and are they catered for? If not, what could you do with the information you already possess, for example in your architecture models, to help them? Providing such management information is a great way to increase your visibility and added value as an architect.

In future blog posts, we will discuss many of the topics mentioned above. We will go into business capabilities, capability maps, and capability-based planning, and the use of ArchiMate to model these. Portfolio management and its relations to capability-based planning and enterprise architecture is another topic we will address.

Furthermore, we will describe the use of architecture and the changing role of the architect in the context of agile development methods. Of course, your EA practice itself should also focus on the value it adds. In another blog series, we are currently addressing the use of Lean practices in EA. Stay tuned for more on this.

Finally, enterprise architecture can contribute to the agility of your information systems landscape itself. More on that will also follow in this blog series.