Too Much Tactical Focus with Business Architecture?

As more and more organizations embrace Enterprise Architecture with a concerted effort in Business Architecture (BA),. we are beginning to see one of the common pitfalls of IT Architecture (ITA) spill over — too much focus on the tactical, project level.  Apparently, getting business representatives involved in applying EA discipline to the business architecture does not mean that the effort will remain high level, strategic and forward thinking.  Just like many ITA efforts, BA efforts result in the identification of work that needs to be done to support the enterprise’s transformation.  And also like many ITA efforts, once the resulting work is started, many of the BA participants find themselves involved in the transformation effort.  Another factor that needs to be considered is the lack of dedicated BA resources, such as a Chief Architect or Business Architect or BA team.  The BA efforts are usually staffed entirely by a virtual team, all of whom have real, demanding full-time jobs.

If you are trying to avoid an overly tactical focus for your BA efforts, here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Dedicated BA Resource.  A dedicated resource, not assigned to specific BA initiatives, but also not holding a full-time non-BA position is probably not feasible in many organizations.  However, those going through significant transformation efforts could easily justify a resource to keep pushing the transformation agenda, overseeing the BA initiatives, maintaining a focus on future change, and organizing and managing the BA virtual team.  If a full-time dedicated resource is not feasible, consider finding a leader who can dedicate some time to the effort, 25-40% minimum, while not getting deeply involved in individual BA initiatives.
  • Strategic Agenda Items for Regular Meetings.  Most BA groups have regularly scheduled meetings, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, etc.  By having every third or fourth meeting focused on new strategies, new technologies, new changes, rather than ongoing initiatives; the group will still be able to push the transformation work forward, while also continuing to architect the future business.  Another alternative is to always have at least one agenda item that is of a strategic, future oriented topic at each meeting.
  • Maintain a Portfolio vs. a Project Perspective.  Rather than providing oversight to individual projects and implementation initiatives, focus on providing input to the investment decision-making function(s) of the enterprise, and track the overall portfolio’s progress against expected strategic outcomes.  Leave the cost, budget, resource, and schedule issues to the project management staff.

All of these suggestions are not new.  They are the same kind of actions that successful ITA groups have been employing to maintain a strategic perspective for years.