By Whynde Kuehn, Founder and Managing Director, S2E Transformation
The book Strategy to Reality casts a vision for how organizations can approach strategy execution from end-to-end, leveraging business architecture (and of course enterprise architecture as a whole) as a guide. It then unpacks the why, what, and how of business architecture from end-to-end, including how to build a strategic function within an organization. The book is based on practical experiences and methods that have proven out for decades now across an extensive array of organizations worldwide.
Since its release in September 2022, the book has been creating new conversations. It continues to bring executives, strategic planning professionals, and architecture and design practitioners together around a common foundation of understanding and the art of the possible.
Here are five key takeaways from the book.
- The why of business architecture is what matters.
There is a secret of business architecture. The Secret is: it’s not really about the business architecture. The architecture is a means to an end. We are not drawn to business architecture because we like building blueprints, but rather we are compelled by a bigger purpose and ability to make a real difference. What we as architects, leaders, change makers, and catalysts are trying to achieve is a vision for better strategy execution and new ways of thinking and working in our organizations and business ecosystems. Building a business architecture is relatively easy. Change is hard.
While business architecture is a Swiss army knife of value propositions (and every organization must clearly define its own), we can categorize the value it delivers within a few common themes. The value of business architecture is to:
- Facilitate effective strategy execution
- Improve and evolve the design of organizations and business ecosystems
- Inform decision-making with a holistic view
Delivering business value is the reason that architecture exists – and it is also the number one critical success factor for business architecture teams.
- Business architecture is a key enabler of end-to-end strategy to execution.
Business architecture (and business architects) play a unique – and often missing role – to inform and translate strategy into a coordinated set of changes across organizational structures, products, and geographies. Business architecture, particularly through the lens of capabilities, ensures that there is alignment between an organization’s strategy and how the people, processes, and technology are structured and working together to deliver it.
Business architecture also provides the end-to-end traceability that aligns strategies, architecture, investments, initiatives, and outcomes. Business architecture’s role in strategy execution helps to increase organizational agility and decrease the time it takes to translate business direction into action. This positioning helps pull the rest of the architecture team further upstream into a more strategic context and into the right conversations – and is helping business architecture to increasingly resonate with an executive and business audience.
- A common understanding is necessary to unlock the full adoption and value of the discipline.
Business architecture is a multi-dimensional set of business views. According to the BIZBOK® Guide, business architecture includes ten business perspectives: value streams, capabilities, information, organization, stakeholders, products, strategies, metrics, initiatives, and policies. Business architecture can be connected to business perspectives from other disciplines as well (e.g., journeys from experience design, processes from business process management, requirements from business analysis, applications and software services from IT architecture).
One key aim of the book is to unpack what business architecture is and how it can be used in a simple, practical, and industry-grounded way. While a spectrum of different viewpoints on business architecture exists, the book provides a solid starting place from which to anchor and extend. We architects are known to like a good argument. However, architecture has never been more critical than it is right now in our digital and connected world. Having a shared foundation of knowledge and competencies is a tremendous accelerator to allow us to focus on what really matters: leveraging architecture to help our organizations and societies with the greatest challenges of our times. (See key takeaway #1.)
- Business architecture works in an ecosystem of partners.
Business architecture is not a silver bullet. It takes an entire ecosystem of teams working together for an organization to deliver on its promise to customers, support its operations, execute strategy, and transform when necessary.
An organization’s business architecture can and should be used by anyone to inform decision-making, not just the architects. In fact, one of the key indicators of business architecture maturity within an organization is how integrated it is with other functions, disciplines, and organizational processes for strategy, planning, transformation, innovation, solution development, risk management, procurement, compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and many others. To truly succeed, we need to work interdisciplinary.
- We know how to build strategic business architecture practices that succeed.
Successful business architecture teams create a cohesive business architecture practice. Business architecture makes the greatest difference when it is practiced as an enterprise discipline, not as a toolbox of available techniques. One shared business architecture helps bring together an entire organization. Organizations have plenty of fragmented views and techniques today – business architecture is an opportunity to do things differently.
Successful business architecture teams are business oriented and value-focused in everything they do. They have in common a few tried and true approaches that can, by now, be interpreted as critical success factors. These include:
- Repeatable value delivery – Define a clear value proposition for business architecture in the organization, deliver it through repeatable services, and build the knowledgebase and practice just enough, just in time.
- Strong partnerships – Build strong partnerships with other roles and teams and position as an internal service provider to the organization.
- Executive sponsorship – Obtain visible, committed executive level sponsorship as high in the organization as possible, as soon as possible. Sponsorship is the rocket fuel for a business architecture practice, especially if the first two critical success factors have been met.
- Ubiquitous business architecture – Make business architecture for everybody to instill a holistic mindset and accelerate adoption and usage.
The power of clear intent translated into organized effort can change the world. Business architecture, working in concert with all of enterprise architecture and an ecosystem of partners, gives organizations that power. In an era of unprecedented change, organizations must possess the ability to consistently execute clear strategies to successfully transform their business. Business architecture is the missing middle for translating and activating those ideas. Every organization needs to build the capacity for shared understanding – where their organization is today, where it is going in the future, and how it will get there – to shift mindsets and facilitate better strategy execution, decision-making, and organizational design.
Strategy to Reality may be ordered from booksellers and bookstores worldwide (ISBN: 9781631958441). Also visit strategyintoreality.com for more information.
Whynde Kuehn is recognized globally as a highly sought-after pioneer and thought leader in business architecture, with a distinguished track record of creating successful strategic business architecture teams worldwide. She has worked with an extensive array of organizations to build their capacity for end-to-end strategy execution, including Fortune 500 and global enterprises, governmental and non-profit organizations, social enterprises, startups, and cross-sector initiatives. Whynde is the founder of S2E Transformation and Biz Arch Mastery, co-founder of the Business Architecture Guild®, a Fellow with the Institute for Digital Transformation, and a member of the Fast Company Executive Board. She is author of the book Strategy to Reality.