Business-Driven Architecture

Focus on business goals and targets

Yannis Baillet

The idea behind business-driven architecture (BDA) is to align IT with business goals and targets and promote business agility. Aligning IT strategy with a company’s mission on the one hand, and technology investments with a company’s business requirements on the other, makes it possible for the IT organization to effectively implement strategic changes.

Achieving the business/IT alignment needed for this is not always a matter of course, however. So how can enterprise architecture support the introduction of BDA? This was the main question addressed by the workstream – and answers to it were in fact found.

Business-driven architecture is influenced by a variety of factors that include both challenges and drivers

BDA is a dynamic discipline that is influenced by various external and internal factors that have an impact on the strategic direction taken by BDA initiatives, as well as their decision-making processes and the results they achieve. It is crucial that architects and stakeholders understand these influences so that they can work successfully within the landscape and maximize the benefits of BDA.

The workstream identified nine dimensions here, whereby each of these also represents a challenge to BDA or an enabler:

  • Governance
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Organization type
  • Guerrilla architecture (shadow IT)
  • Collaboration and team setup
  • Skill set
  • Structured approach
  • Culture
  • EA asset maturity

It is important to keep in mind that both organization type and culture are deeply rooted aspects in any organization. Changing these involves a challenge that cannot be overcome solely from the position of enterprise architecture. Both are important factors that need to be taken into account when BDA is implemented.

A framework for a systematic analysis of the dimensions

A company’s approach to its business activities is also one of the most important influencing factors as regards BDA.  What does a company focus on when defining its strategy and actions? Five approaches were identified here: a capabilities-based approached, a process-oriented approach, a data-driven approach, a customer-focused approach, and a value-based approach.

Examining all the dimensions in relation to a company’s approach to its business activities makes it possible to create a framework for the systematic analysis of a given BDA. This in turn enables an assessment of the actual state of a BDA and the definition of its target state.

Each dimension can have different characteristics which, depending on the approach used, might be more or less suitable for introducing a BDA. Five dimensions are briefly explained below as examples. Additional detailed information can be downloaded as a white paper here.

The culture of an adhocracy enables agile decision making and innovations, while market cultures focus on competition and profitability targets. Clan or hierarchy cultures, on the other hand, with their traditional structures and hierarchies, can impede agility and innovation.

With regard to team setup, a mixed team with specialists from the business and EA realms enables a comprehensive overview of business requirements and the underlying architecture.  Mixed teams are crucial for ensuring that the BDA does not remain a technological concept but is instead developed into an integral and effective strategy that reflects the company’s vision and goals.

There are various rolesthat arise within the framework of a BDA implementation project. The most important role is that of the integrator – the person positioned between technology, processes, and data. This person is given the responsibility for ensuring that different architecture elements interact and work together seamlessly.

A federal governance structure is particularly helpful in a BDA context. Such a structure allows the various business units and departments to enjoy a certain degree of autonomy in terms of decision making. It also ensures compliance with higher-level guidelines and provisions relating to overriding strategic goals and targets.

Role-based communities facilitate cooperation between individuals with similar responsibilities, and also promote the establishment of a collaborative environment that is aligned with the BDA’s goals and targets. Together, these structures create a framework for consistent communication, the development of skills and expertise, and effective cooperation, and they also make a major contribution to the implementation and permanent establishment of a BDA in an organization.

EAM and possibilities for influencing the dimensions

It should be noted that from the point of view of enterprise architecture, the possibilities for influencing the dimensions differ depending on the dimension in question. This aspect should be taken into account when BDA initiatives are implemented, as this makes it possible to achieve quick wins and also have a medium and long-term impact on dimensions that are difficult to influence. Indeed, it is easy to influence people’s understanding of EA, but it’s difficult to influence a company’s culture. “Culture” and “organization type”in particular are dimensions that are more or less unchangeable and which therefore need to be accepted as a given. Other dimensions, such as “EA community,” are easier to shape for someone in an EA role.

The BDA guide: 3 steps for introducing BDA.

Step 1: Comparison of the actual and target situations

Using a framework for a systematic analysis that has already been introduced, it becomes possible to use the company’s own EA organization to obtain a clear picture of how business and IT currently interact and where improvements might be made (target situation). This comparison is the first step.

Step 2: Assignment to a scenario

The comparison of the actual and target situations can be used to define specific instructions for BDA implementation. Because this will strongly depend on the circumstances and conditions at the organization being analyzed, four scenarios have been defined, whereby these are based on the difficult to influence dimensions of culture, organization type, and structured approach. The scenarios are meant to serve as a point of reference when using the BDA guide. Each of these scenarios describes a type of organization structure. Numerous additional scenarios are conceivable.

Two scenarios are briefly described below:

Scenario 2: Efficient process design in a hierarchical architecture
This organization has a hierarchical culture and a functional organization structure, whereby a structured and process-oriented approach to the architecture is very important to the organization. The challenges in this environment are limited flexibility and hierarchically organized processes.  At the same time, the clear structure makes it possible to efficiently design architecture processes and data management activities.

Scenario 3a: Agile architecture and customer-focused solutions in an adhocracy culture
An organization that practices an adhocracy culture and has a product-oriented or agile organization structure is generally characterized by a flexible and innovation-driven environment. Opportunities in such an organization lie in its ability to quickly react to changing customer requirements and develop innovative products or services. Challenges can arise in that the organization’s structure is less predictable, which means it might experience difficulties in terms of adapting.

Step 3: The BDA roadmap

An individual roadmap and instructions for implementing BDA in the respective organization environment were developed for each of the scenarios mentioned. The roadmap focuses on the known dimension and reflects the sequence of the specific recommendations for action.

No secret formula; instead a feasible path with opportunities for success

Business/IT alignment remains a key element for creating a flexible, business-driven IT architecture that can provide the best possible support for a company’s strategy.

The BDA guide gives enterprise architects a tool to help them systematically and continuously lead their companies to the long sought-after business-driven architecture, step by step.

IT/business alignment is the process for aligning IT strategies and initiatives with the goals and targets of a company with the help of clear interconnections and quantifiable measurements that are defined by business architecture activities. This also includes switching from a technology-centered to a business-centered approach, as well as cooperation with managers in order to identify their needs and goals.
Oracle, 2011