Home > Business Architecture, Business Execution > Understanding Business Architecture – IBM’s take …

Understanding Business Architecture – IBM’s take …


A fantastic overview of state-of-the-art thinking around Business Architecture from IBM. Here’s a link to the Business Architecture page from Wikipedia, but this is a very IT-centric view of Business Architecture, and I much prefer IBM’s more business-centric perspective, which IBM calls Actionable Business Architecture.

Here’s a link to IBM’s Actionable Business Architecture whitepaper from 2009 that explains the approach. And here’s a link to a follow-up webinar from May 2010: Actionable Business Architecture webinar. The slides from the presentation can be downloaded at this link.

Positioning Business Architecture within the Enterprise

IBM positions Business Architecture at the intersection of 3 enterprise disciplines: Strategy and Transformation, Business Process Management (or more broadly, Business Execution), and IT (and most importantly, in the specification and development of Services) – as suggested in the visual below:

IBM’s position is that it is often a challenging task for businesses to execute on business strategy – that is, to make business strategy “actionable”. Business Architecture is the discipline that makes a Business Strategy “actionable” by developing formal models that translate Business Strategy into a Business Operating Model, and various IT Models that map Business Capabilities onto IT components. This is illustrated (sort of) in the teeny-weeny diagram below:

Err, what’s with the models?

Sure. By model, we mean a formal description of the important elements of that domain. It might be largely textual description – for example a Business Strategy document – or it may take the form of formal models, such as business process models or service models. IBM illustrates this concept in the visual below:

For example, IBM describes the Strategy Model as follows:

The strategy model includes the vision, mission, goals, policies and commitments the enterprise develops, commonly classified under business intent or motivation. In addition, the business strategy represents the way different stakeholders intervene in the overall direction of the organization, such as customers, employees, suppliers and partnerships. Finally, the strategy model includes value propositions from the enterprise to the society (services and products), including revenue model and
pricing strategy.

IBM describes the Business Operating Model as follows:

In order to develop an integrated perspective of the operating model of the enterprise, many different views are typically created.

Capabilities and competencies describe the boundaries of primary business functions and thus, are intimately connected to the pieces of the organization that perform those functions, as well as resources and skills that generate competitive advantage in support of the business strategy. Enterprise-wide results are generally impacted by business processes. This view in Business Architecture defines the set of interaction/coordination and learning and transformation processes that transcend functional and organizational boundaries. The processes also describe which people, resources, business rules
and controls are involved.

Performance is another critical view of business operations and is normally connected to other elements of the enterprise using aligned Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Hence the performance of core business processes measured against KPIs has a direct impact on the way the enterprise reaches its financial targets and tactical goals.

Businesses typically just view their operating model primarily through the business process perspective. However, by also viewing the operating model through a business componentization perspective, additional insights can be gained. Business components facilitate the analysis of operations, including the way capabilities participate in building tangible outcomes that are used in support of the revenue model, or value propositions in the case of government or non-profit organizations. This modularization assists in the architecting of dependencies across the enterprise and between the business and its different ecosystems.

And finally, a brief explanation of the IT Model:

The information technology model, as described earlier, is intimately connected to the rest of the Business Architecture dimensions. The pervasive leverage of IT within all aspects of the business and its operations makes it a critical part of Business Architecture. Process segments are automated and enabled through IT systems, while the specifics of business functions and capabilities are implemented and delivered through IT systems. With the increasing adoption of service orientation at a business level, establishing service oriented IT architectures and operations is also becoming more and more prevalent.

In summary then, IBM summarizes the role of Business Architecture as follows:

Therefore, Business Architecture, at its core, has elements and connections to ensure that the strategic intent of the business is effectively executed – at the operational level through its business processes, and supported and enabled by the various IT systems.

METHOD in the madness – making BA “actionable”

The key to making Business Architecture “actionable” is the methods, artifacts, tools, and metrics that make BA a formal discipline, as illustrated by the visual below.

Of course, this is also where IBM has some secret sauce it would like to sell you. But the point is a crucial one – Business Architecture should define a formal set of methods and models that build on one another to design and implement the Business Operating Model and underlying IT Architecture that operationalizes Business Strategy.

Business Architecture – a business or IT discipline?

Traditionally, Business Architecture has been positioned squarely within the context of Enterprise Architecture. However, this can present some challenges, as highlighted by the slide below.

IBM’s response to these challenges is to view Business Architecture as both an integral part of, yet distinct from, Enterprise Architecture. As they explain in the whitepaper:

Actionable Business Architecture can and should be developed as part of every EA initiative, and at the same time Actionable Business Architecture can be executed independently of EA. Actionable Business Architecture is an instantiation of Business Architecture realized through the application of specific and prescriptive approaches, techniques and tools.

An understanding of Business Architecture at a conceptual level is necessary but not sufficient for execution; however, gaining a deeper understanding is essential for success. This is achieved through the development of Actionable Business Architecture from the practical perspectives of strategy and transformation, business process management and service oriented architecture. Complementing this is a contextual point of view offered through the EA perspective.

That is, Business Architecture must be described in a way that’s “actionable” to the Enterprise Architecture. And this “actionable” definition must come from close involvement and alignment to Strategy and Transformation efforts, and the definition of a Business Operating Model.

Business Architecture – inter-connecting and aligning Business and IT perspectives

There are several slides in the presentation that depict how Business Architecture can interconnect and align key domains in the enterprise. An overview slide is provided here:

The following slide illustrates the linkages between the Strategy and Business Operations domains:

And finally the following slide suggests the linkage from Strategy through the Business Operating Model (here described as Business Processes) down into Services and application Component specification and delivery:

In Summary …

So in summary, that’s basically IBM’s vision for business architecture. The presentation goes on to describe how to get started developing an Actionable Business Architecture, and presents some specific artifacts or models associated with various viewpoints. But the gist of what Business Architecture actually is, and its benefit to business/IT alignment, is pretty much covered above.

If you enjoyed the IBM whitepaper and presentation on Actionable Business Architecture, you may also enjoy their white paper on Achieving Business Agility with SOA and BPM together, from October 2009. Their is also a webinar which supplements the whitepaper that can be viewed here.

Well, that’s about that. 🙂



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