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Kirk Bedford
Aug. 11, 2020

Business Architecture: a powerful way to navigate change

Kirk (Business Analyst at Difrent) discusses how Business Architecture frameworks provide the foundation of effective business change.

Business Architecture: a powerful way to navigate change- 'blueprint and ruler'

Image: Business Architecture: a powerful way to navigate change- 'blueprint and ruler'

I’ve not ended up as a Business Analyst by accident – my brain works best in 3-D, and craves structure and order.

As a result, I’ve always enjoyed using models and taxonomies to describe and define different situations.

It’s always struck me as ironic that whilst the kind of detail and structure that I love are applied so readily at the low-level technical end of a change, they’re rarely applied (in my experience anyway) at the strategic end of the change initiative. 

Nor in the business-as-usual (BAU) environment to which this change is being applied.

With the explosion of technology and data, channel availability, and increasing customer expectation, change is an unavoidable constant to modern businesses. 

Few businesses in my experience genuinely know how change will affect them, as they don’t really know who they are or what they do in the first place.

This is where Business Architecture comes in.

What is Business Architecture?

“Business Architecture” seems to be used as both a verb and a noun – ie. the process itself, as well as the outputs of that process.

One of the many definitions out there that I like best is provided by 

Whelan &   Meaden– they state that Business Architecture:

provides a way to describe and visualize the components of an organization”, and is ”a collection of assets, methods, processes, directives, and resources that combine to realize a purpose, a goal, a vision”. 

A further definition from The Business Architecture Guild defines it as:

“A blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands”.

In short, both the verb and noun result in a business knowing itself.

I will frame the issue a bit more...

Business architecture frameworks

There are various Business Architecture frameworks. They each promote a multidimensional representation of a business, built from documents and models that each speak of a different ‘view’ of the business. 

Common views include:


Why does the business exist? What strategies does it have?


What abilities does the business have that enable it to achieve its objectives?


How does the business organise itself to achieve its objectives?


What value propositions does a business provide its customers? How are these created?


What information does the business require to operate effectively?


What is the culture of the business? Who makes the decisions within the business?

Common blueprints that build these views include Business Motivation Models, Business Models, Capability Models, Value Chains, Value Networks, Information Models, Organisation Structures and Organisational Maps.

Marc Lankhorst - Capability heat map.

Image: Marc Lankhorst at - Capability heat map.

Each of these ‘views’ is a representation of the business through a particular lens.

When taken as a whole, they provide a far clearer and more compelling view of the business than a single perspective could.

They allow the business to capture a vast body of information, without getting lost in operational detail.

So, you’ve got a pristine set of blueprints that make up the Business Architecture of your business. Now what?

A foundation for effective change

Business Architecture could and should provide the foundation of effective business change.

The knowledge that the blueprints impart allows a business to react to business challenges more effectively and efficiently than they could without. 

They provide the knowledge and a framework that allows a change to be evaluated, articulated, and then structured – the Business Architect works with the business to look at the business challenge, evaluate the impact of the proposed response against the content of the various blueprints, develop future-state versions of these blueprints, and then assist in specifying the work that needs to be done to deliver this future-state.

In other words, the blueprints provide the appropriate depth and breadth of ‘as-is’ to perform a meaningful gap analysis against.

In past roles, I have seen Business Architecture done tactically, on the fly:

‘we’re gonna make a massive change, so let’s look at a particular part of the as-is in some detail to see just how much it’s going to affect us’.

The work ends up being done under time-pressure, without full buy-in of the BAU domain experts, and without an enterprise-level breadth or depth. Consequently, the work is helpful but ultimately disposable.

I’ve also seen it not done at all, where large-scale IT transformations have been delivered with no thought as to how the new software and hardware would land. 

Questions need to be asked:

• What capabilities were required to exploit the new capabilities? 

• What new value propositions can now be offered?

• How many people would be needed to deliver these value propositions?

• Where would these people sit in the business?

• Who/where are the appropriate SMEs to speak of requirements and  implementation configuration?  

Business Architecture also provides value in the BAU environment – each of the blueprints provides information that can be used to drive lower-level documents.

Your capability model should drive Job Descriptions; you can familiarise new-starters with an Organisation Structure; your Value-Stream models can drive Standard Operating Procedures for operational processes; whilst a Business Model Canvas can be used as a tool to structure exec-level conversations.

So there you have it – Business Architecture is that gift that keeps on giving.

For more info on how to get started with Business Architecture or to find out about our business change services, get in touch with our team.

Written by Kirk Bedford - Business Analyst @ Difrent



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