Many of my fellow business architects are incredibly excited about the value an architected approach to business design can offer. They believe in the model so strongly that the value is intuitively obvious. They believe so strongly, they expect the value to be intuitively obvious to everyone else. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Even with all the excitement and promotion, business architecture remains a hard sell to business executives. A large part of the problem is that business architects (or more accurately, those who want to become business architects) are often presenting it as something it is not. They are making grand, but unsubstantiated claims about value creation, presenting business architecture as a magical panacea that can solve almost all business issues.
You can’t sell unicorns! Unicorns are mythical creatures first described around 398 BC. We all know what they look like even though we have never seen one. We know unicorns have magical powers that can prevent disease, heal wounds, and grant immortality even though we have never experienced it. Yes, business architecture is powerful stuff – but it isn’t magical. Here is a reality check on selling business architecture to your executives.
Business architecture is not a requirement. This is intuitively obvious but rarely acknowledged. Architects often believe in what they do so strongly they see it, not as an option, but as something that must be done. While it might be a great idea, it isn’t a requirement. Your company was able to start up, fend off competitors, and grow, all without any formal business architecture function. Businesses have survived for decades, some for a hundred years without the benefit of a business architect. Therefore, the question you should be asking yourself is “Exactly what is business architecture going to do for my organization that other functions have not? What problem or set of problems is it going to solve?” That’s what executives want to know.
Business architecture is not a best practice. As business architects, we like to think of business architecture as a best practice that every organization should utilize, but that isn’t really accurate. For something to be considered a best practice, it needs the following characteristics. First, it has to be something that is proven to work better than other known approaches. The operative word here is “proven”. Second, it must work consistently in a wide variety of contexts. If a practice has only been used successfully in a few instances then it may be considered a good practice or an innovative practice but without proven broad applicability, it is not yet a best practice.
Business architecture is a difficult product to sell. Products that are easy to sell have the following characteristics:
- They are easy to understand. They are tangible or easy to compare to other products of a similar nature.
- Other companies have proven the value. Business managers want validation from their peers.
- The cost is well defined. Managers have to budget for everything. They want to know the complete cost, not just the cost of the business architecture function.
- The outcome is predictable and easily measured. Just think a moment about the difficulties CIOs have measuring the impact of enterprise architecture and the impact that has had on EA’s growth.
Does this sound like business architecture to you?
The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Selling business architecture is considerably more difficult than most imagine. Yes, it is a great idea. Yes, it has great potential to solve complex business problems and aid in business design. Yes, every business could benefit in some way from a business architecture practice. But, it is also a mysterious, largely unproven product that your business managers have never seen.