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What is the value of business architecture?

It’s a fair question, and one that is important to answer.

This question gives me an opportunity to not only educate on its value, but also outline why some pre-conceptions of Business Architecture are incorrect. 

With 21 years in the Financial Services industry under my belt I have seen many attempts to adopt Business Architecture practices, often failing to leverage the true benefit.

Within the Financial Services industry, many organisations are investing heavily in digital transformation - making significant technology decisions, looking for new opportunities reach more customers digitally, with a better customer experience - all against a significantly regulated environment. The strong forces that exist between technology investment, customer experience and regulation require a discipline that has never before been so important … 

Business Architects are pivotal in forging the partnerships within your Financial Services organisation to succeed.  

Business Architects have the unique advantage of collaborating between : 

  • Business units (with their strategies to deliver customer outcomes through services), and 
  • Technology and Operations teams (providing solutions to identified gaps in capability). 

These two groups of stakeholders often have their own language / taxonomy and don’t always see each other’s perspective : a world of Service vs Capability

The value comes in bringing these views together. 

 The shop window 

I like to think of a "shop window" when describing the relationship between any organisation and its customers. 

A shop window analogy is a simple piece of glass that for any organisation is a really powerful asset. It conveys an organisation’s brand, its identity and purpose. It enables a customer to peer inside your organisation; they see the services on offer and the products you provide. Customers will make instant decisions on whether you can meet their needs. Once engaged with you, they will continue to review your fit and service those needs. 

In a digital world, that single pane of glass view is everywhere! Get it right for your customer and they literally have your services at their fingertips. 

But just like a traditional shop window, an organisation is also able to see out... 

By doing so an Organisation canvalidate everything they do operationally and technically through the lens of the services they provide to customers. The window sheds a critical lightonto an organisation's operational and technical solutions, helping identify dependencies to deliver on these services. Fail to pay attention to that window and you find yourself in the dark, making assumptions on where to invest! Within Financial Services, many technology investments are significant and operational change is complex.  Financial services organisations simply cannot afford to perform a significant and repeatable level of service validation. 

So using this analogy, Business Architecture helps Organisations look through their own digital shop window… both ways! 

  • Looking in from the outside: Business Architecture helps business units put themselves in the shoes of their customer, understand what their needs are, and therefore what services should be offered and where they should be accessed. Business Architects inform and interpret Business strategy to ensure that the customer needs, and the services provided to address them, are clearly and consistently articulated. This personalisation is key to a customer experience that delights rather than disgusts. 
  • Looking out from the Inside: Business Architecture helps organisations understand how they provide these same services through their processes and capabilities. Do they have the right Capabilities in place that provide the right technology solutions, people and data to support our services? If not, what do they need to do and what could that roadmap to great look like? 

Reflecting both views together 

Business Architects reflect both these sides of the shop window in equal portions. However, the real value comes when we bring these views together. 

Business Architects provide a direct correlation between services provided to customers and organisational and technical capability. They provide valuable insights into how capabilities are utilised and for what services. Business Architects identify early (before it becomes a problem) where organisations have capability gaps that will fail to meet business strategy. 

Business Architects now recognise that capability modelling alone fails to bring the customer lens into the organisation. Organisations that fixate solely on capability run the risk of stagnation as their models are not stress tested against the desire to provide best in class digitally focused services, delivering outcomes to an ever changing set of customer needs and market conditions. 

Often, organisations are measured against their ability to understand how their organisation operates end-to-end in support of the services provided to their customers, and whether operational resiliency can be evidenced against the most important services they provide to their customers in their industry. Business Architecture provides the lineage required between services, the supporting processes, capabilities and technical and operational solutions to meet these regulatory (and perfectly sensible) demands. 

 My advice to any organisation, big or small, is to ensure you can see clearly through your digital shop window to maximise customer experience and engagement. Regular engagement with Business Architecture will protect your competitive advantage and help support your bottom line. Can you afford not to?