On any given week I am in a number of conversations with business leaders, business architects, or others who want to become business architects. They ask a lot of questions. And while all questions are good questions, some are better than others. Here are the two questions I get most often and what I think are better questions to be concerned about
Typical question: Where should business architecture report?
Better question: How can business architecture expand its influence from where it is?
I hear a lot of conversations about where business architecture should report. Some are fairly logical discussing the benefits of business architecture reporting to the business rather than IT or why business architecture should report to the COO or Corporate Strategy. Other conversations are not so logical asserting business architecture should report to the CEO and a few are just silly, recommending the Chief Business Architect should report to the Board of Directors. This is mostly wasted energy. What matters is not where business architecture “should” report, but how business architecture adds value from wherever it reports. If architects want to move up the organization, they have to earn the right.
I am a big fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Covey talks about the difference between our circle of influence versus our circle of concern. Most of us spend too much time in our circle of concern – thinking about things we care about but cannot influence. Covey’s point is that when we focus our energy in our circle of influence – where we can effect change – we create value, that value will be recognized, and our circle of influence will grow.
Typical question: How does business architecture demonstrate value?
Better question: Why are people asking about business architecture’s value?
Even better question: How do we integrate business architecture into the fabric of the organization?
Very few business architecture practices have developed a good method for demonstrating value. In my last post, Four Business Architecture Value Propositions, I discussed four ways to look at value. I have worked on EA and BA value issues for over a decade and still haven’t seen a great model other than charging for services. When I ask the most successful architects what metrics and measures they use to demonstrate their value to the organization, their answers are some variation of “Everybody just knows”. The model they are using is to be so good everyone intuitively recognizes the value.
I realize new business architecture practices may need to establish their value in a more concrete way and that many business leaders want to know the bottom line impact. I think it is fine to figure out short term approaches to get to some sort of financial valuation but don’t lose sight of the more import goal – to create customer advocates.
Other interesting questions business architects might want to ask themselves
- Is business architecture relevant to my organization? Will it be in three years?
- Who am I not collaborating with, but should be?
- If funding was not an issue, what would I do differently?
- If I wasn’t a business architect, what would I want to be? What do I want to do next?
- What personal changes do I need to make to be more successful?
- Do I understand how to leverage my organization’s culture?
The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________
A quote from Albert Einstein: “If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I’d spend 55 minutes determining the right question to ask. Once I got the right question, I could easily answer it in 5 minutes.” Another Einstein quote: “The quality of your answers is in direct proportion to the quality of your questions.” The question for you is “What’s the right question?”