Business-architecture tools

Been following a ‘business architecture’ thread on LinkedIn, and came across a couple of discussion-questions by Diana Stobart Wild, who seems to be an enterprise architect somewhere in the north-east US. Thought it might be useful repeating here what I wrote there, as it’s all fairly generic but does summarise my current approach to business-architecture.

Her first question was on business-architecture tools:

Which tools are in the Business Architect’s toolkit?

to which I replied as follows:

If you come from an IT-centric architecture background, the first need is to realise that the standard EA view of business-architecture is a mess – it’s essentially a random grab-bag of ‘everything not-IT’. So you need first need to sort it into the business equivalents of TOGAF or FEAF’s three layers, such as:

  • strategy and policy (real meaning of TOGAF’s ‘Business Architecture’ – Zachman row-3 and above)
  • tactics and system design (equivalent of ‘Information-systems Architecture’ – Zachman row-3 to row-4)
  • process implementation (equivalent of ‘Technology Architecture’ – Zachman row-4 to row-5 [and, in past tense, row-6])

For the strategy layer, one obvious tool is BRG / OMG’s Business Motivation Model [PDF]. It has some flaws – particularly its dangerous mishandling of ‘Vision’ – but it’s a good starting-point. Several EA toolsets implement the BMM, though sometimes under different names: for example, IBM/Telelogic System Architect calls it the ‘Enterprise Direction’ model.

For the middle systems-layer, to be honest, I don’t know: we’ve been doing a lot towards modelling that space – see my book “Real Enterprise Architecture: beyond IT to the whole enterprise”, at http://tetradianbooks.com/2008/04/real-ea/ and the current draft of “Bridging the Silos: enterprise-architecture for IT-architects”, at http://tetradianbooks.com/2008/04/silos/ – but there’s still a fair way to go yet. Troux‘s ‘Metis Enterprise Architecture Framework’ covers [covered? it may not still exist…] a lot of the space, but as usual ends up being too IT-centric for real business-architecture use. Even so, Troux is probably the best bet at present: in my experience, to be blunt, most of the other well-known EA toolsets are so obsessively IT-centric that for business-architecture they often seem more of a hindrance than a help.

At the process level, there are plenty of tools and models available, many of which are not inherently IT-centric, such as all the IDEF and TQM and Six Sigma toolkits. Some IT-centric tools can be re-used in a non-IT-centric way, too: you can use BPMN for implementation-layer business-architecture modelling, for example, once you realise that the Process entity doesn’t care how it’s implemented unless you really need to translate across to BPEL; and the ‘Data Object’ entity doesn’t need to be data, but can actually be any type of asset – physical, virtual, relational or whatever.

Another tool I’ve found invaluable for understanding complexity in business-architecture, and the boundaries between what can and can’t be handled by IT, is Cynefin – see the Wikipedia summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin , also Snowden, D & Boone, M “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making” Harvard Business Review November 2007.

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