What do we mean by ‘business-architecture’?
One of the keys to breaking free from IT-centric ‘enterprise’-architecture lies in reclaiming the meaning of the term ‘business-architecture’.
In TOGAF and other ‘classic’ enterprise-architecture, everything revolves around IT: the IT is deemed to be the sole centre of meaning within the enterprise. Hence ‘business’-architecture is defined as a subset of ‘enterprise’-architecture, which itself is defined as a subset of IT-governance. And in practice, business-architecture is viewed as a near-random grab-bag of ‘anything not-IT that might affect IT’, without any real clarity about how that grab-bag is structured within itself, and with no acknowledgement at all about anything that might not affect IT. In other words, to be blunt, probably worse than useless: certainly not something that we could use at an enterprise level.
So the first step outward is to start to treat business-architecture as a form of architecture in its own right. That’s starting to happen now. There’s even a lot more explicit description from the ‘name’ consultancies such as Gartner and Forrester that some of this ‘new’ business-architecture may not touch IT at all. That’s good. Definitely good. People are at last beginning to break free from the trap of IT-centrism.
Yet there’s another trap that comes right after that one – and I’m seeing a lot of people falling straight into it. Business-centrism. Where ‘the business’ is deemed to be the sole centre of the architecture, around which everything else revolves. It isn’t: because in a true enterprise-architecture, everywhere and nowhere is the centre. It has to be that way: otherwise it isn’t an enterprise-architecture.
Which means that, to use Len Fehskens‘ schema, business-architecture is merely a domain-architecture, one of many other domain-architectures – just like IT-architecture is a domain-architecture (or a cluster of related domain-architectures, rather). It’s an explicit subset of ‘the architecture of the enterprise’, with responsibility for an explicit domain of interrelated concerns within that overall scope.
To me the domain is indicated by the inversion of the term: it’s literally ‘the architecture of the business’ – in other words, ‘the business of the business’, how its core business is organised and structured usually at a fairly abstract level. (Like most domain-architectures, it typically focusses at Zachman level-3, ‘Logical’, to use that common taxonomy.)
Given that description of boundaries, a core part of that structure represented by and maintained in the business-architecture is the business-model (or set of business-models). In the Osterwalder sense – which is the one I use here, though in perhaps a more extended sense than in Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas – a ‘business-model’ is a structure, one that provides the central focus for ‘the business of the business’. It’s not much about vision or values, or strategy – those are inputs to the business-architecture. It’s not much about the details of business-process: that’s the role of process-architecture (these days often known as BPM, business-process management), or IT-architecture, or often both in parallel. It’s not about the physical structures in which those processes take place: that’s the role of facilities architecture, or the literal architecture of buildings. It’s not about the skill-sets or organisational structures to operate or manage those processes: that’s the role of HR and organisational-architecture. And so on, and so on. Business-architecture is about the architecture of ‘the business of the business’, and how it interfaces with all the other architectures – aided by enterprise-architecture, whose role is to ensure that all the different architectures play well together.
- chrisdpotts: @tetradian Let’s not confuse business model with business architecture. Our business vs how we are structured to achieve it. #entarch
Which to me indicates that there’s a serious confusion there: a business-model is a description of how we are structured to achieve our business. I was also a bit disappointed when Kris Meukens – another architect whose opinion I greatly respect – also piped up with an agreement to Chris’ remark above. Yet what I suspect, and suspect strongly, is that both have fallen into the trap of business-centrism, or perhaps of a kind of inverse-IT-centrism, where ‘business-architecture’ is now ‘the sole centre’, but again defined as ‘everything not-IT’:
- tetradian: @chrisdpotts @krismeukens to me it sounds like you’re mixing BA with EA? – expand/explain, please, perhaps with blog-post?
And again was a bit disappointed at Chris’ response:
- chrisdpotts: RT @tetradian: @chrisdpotts @krismeukens to me it sounds like you’re mixing BA with EA? | No.
Disappointed, because it doesn’t tell me anything at all – other than that I’m apparently ‘wrong’, in some unspecified way, yet with no way to find out how or why.
Okay, fair enough: I may well be wrong. Let’s assume that I am wrong: it wouldn’t be the first time, and I doubt it’ll be the last. 🙂 But it would be useful – to me at least – to have some understanding of how I’m wrong, why I’m wrong, and what I should do differently or think differently to get it right. I’ve summarised my understanding of business-architecture above – what is it, what its boundaries are, where it fits in with other architectures and with the overall scope of enterprise-architecture. So what have I missed? What am I not ‘getting’ here?
Or – in the perhaps-unlikely event that I’m not wrong – how could or should I explain it better to others, so that they don’t get it wrong?
What to you is ‘business architecture’? What do you mean by the term ‘business-architecture’?