Business Architecture: The foundation for success….

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Steve Deverill. Published on 29 September 2017

Given that, statistically, 70% of transformation programmes fail to achieve the expected results, the search for a solution which provides definitive and long-term success is a challenging one. The constant need for businesses to be agile and flexible, to determine the right answers to the right questions, to understand the level of capital investment needed…these are all issues which need to be addressed as early as possible.

Business Architecture provides the framework, clarity and understanding which is essential to success and it’s a methodology which many FTSE businesses are fast adopting.

Peter Elsdon, an expert in Business Architecture talks exclusively to Eton Bridge Partners about its benefits.

The growing popularity of the Business Architect

The need for change and transformation are generally seen as business as usual in today’s fast-changing world. Now however, questions are being asked about whether enough is being done in the pre-planning stage to ensure the right changes will be delivered – witness the rise of the Business Architect. Steve Deverill, Business Transformation expert at Eton Bridge Partners, spoke to one such specialist, Peter Elsdon, who has successfully introduced Business Architecture across global companies in the oil and gas, media, financial services and retail sectors.

SD: Tell me about Business Architecture.

PE: Business Architecture provides guidance, insight and assurance. It gives organisations greater clarity and understanding of their core capability, their current operating model and what it will take to realise their vision, so they can make informed investment decisions rather than rush into change.

Business Architecture provides a clear line of sight between the reasons to change, the investment priorities and what is required to implement and run this change. Industry researchers state that some 70% of all transformational programmes, with huge capital investments, fail to reap the intended outcomes because of unforeseen implications or are just are too slow to market –  you can see why it makes sense.

SD: Why is Business Architecture becoming so popular now?

PE: Ten years ago, when I worked for a leading business consultancy organisation, innovation was at the top of the chief executive’s agenda – being considered and creative in a familiar marketplace was the norm. That luxury has gone. Now the primary driver is agility and in some cases survival. More so than ever, commercial sectors are in a very fluid marketplace, with many different and emerging economic, social and competitive pressures.

Most businesses now have to respond to these pressures, and they need to be confident that they are responding in the right way and using their investments wisely. Business Architecture is essential to this insight.

SD: Doesn’t that suggest the executive team doesn’t know its business?

PE: Promoting Business Architecture is a challenge. How can you convince an experienced executive team that they are making the right choices and ensure they fully understand what it will really take and cost to realise their ambition? You need to gain their confidence and make sure that what it will take to deliver their ambitions is clearly aligned and articulated to the change teams.  It’s also about keeping each executive honest in support of the overall business’ interest, while giving them the confidence that these change initiatives will deliver positive results.

SD: What are the key elements of Business Architecture?

PE: There are four common business concerns:

1 – are we doing the right things?

2 – are we doing the right things right?

3 – have we allocated the right investment?

4 – will we really reap the benefits?

Business architecture above all is about providing assurance that an organisation is making the right changes, with the right scope, with the right capital investment to give greater confidence in response to market pressures.

SD: Can it save businesses money?

PE: Absolutely. How much does an organisation spend on change and transformation that ultimately has diluted value? Especially now in a digital marketplace, organisations are in a position where they need to act more quickly than ever before with more certainty of results. There are lots of new entrants to market, it’s a global industry, profit margins are being squeezed and there’s pressure to change quickly, often with a reduction in capital investment to make it happen.

All of that means there’s an increased need to make the best of your money. Business Architecture helps to ensure that you allocate the investment in the right places, it de-risks duplication and helps avoid any surprises.

SD: At what point do you bring in a BA specialist and for how long?

PE: Now. In today’s marketplace transformation is pretty much BAU. Business Architecture needs to be an embedded discipline within change and investment planning. Annual investment gets challenged constantly, strategy changes constantly, action is constant. An organisation needs to be proactive, responsive, agile, prudent with investment and needs greater confidence that change initiatives are going to deliver. It needs Business Architects.

SD: Do some people see a Business Architect who comes in from “outside” as a threat?

PE: Of course it challenges strategic thinking, especially if someone comes in and says “do you really know what it will take to do this?”  You have to do so in a way that is seen as non-threatening, rather as more of an enhancement to what people are trying to achieve. By helping them gain clarity on the implication of their strategy and the required operational change, then you can make sure that all their experience, recommendations and innovations get delivered.

SD: What is the role of IT in Business Architecture?

PE: People say Business Architecture is a bridge between business and IT but I believe this is a misleading cliché. It assumes IT is the only solution to a change need. For me, Business Architecture is the bridge between strategy and change, and informs ALL essential change agents across IT, HR and Compliance. IT is only one aspect of change. You have to be sure that if you are changing something operationally that your people are ready and you’re not exposing the organisation to unexpected regulatory problems.

SD: Is too much change a risk?

PE: Yes, when organisations go through change and transformation as constantly as they do, sometimes it’s easy to compromise the good things they do well. Those elements need to be protected.

SD: How do clients benefit?

PE: By better understanding their business operations and capability, organisations can see the true implication of change and invest in the right places. They will ultimately have greater belief in the delivery of change.

SD: Who does a Business Architect hand over to when their job is done?

PE: Having an in-house Business Architect is a relatively new function, so at present not many organisations have one, albeit there is increasing demand. The ultimate sponsor and owner of Business Architecture is the COO. They are accountable for running today’s operations, to be responsive and accommodating to ever changing business strategies and innovations; to drive efficiencies in profit squeezing times and to get it right first time with the investments available.

SD: Give us one final message about the importance of Business Architecture.

PE: Put simply, it improves clarity of change and priority of change investment, it ultimately de-risks the chances of failure while maximising value across the organisation – and gives you greater confidence that you will get things right.