6 years, 9 months ago

Is the Business Model Canvas a useful tool in an Enterprise Architect’s toolbox?

Link: http://enterprisebusinessarchitecturecoach.com/is-the-business-model-canvas-a-useful-tool/

Frank is Director of Strategic Planning at an insurance company and he is very stressed. The company has had significant challenges recently with implementing strategic initiatives effectively and the C-suite has set an aggressive customer service transformation target. Frank knows he is on the hook for a robust implementation plan that will span multiple service offerings. If he nails this he is up for a big promotion and if he doesn’t, he will be looking for another job. The pressure is on, and Frank urgently needs to come up with a new approach that will address the company’s challenges and inspire executive confidence.

Frank has lunch with a friend who tells him about how his company is successfully using the Business Model Canvas for scoping strategic initiatives. Frank hopes this might be the approach his company needs. He recalls that his lead enterprise architect, Karen, talked to him previously about the usefulness of structured models in scoping and planning initiatives. He decides to ask her to help him figure out how to use the Business Model Canvas to aid in developing the implementation scope for the company’s new strategy. Karen is excited about the opportunity to get engaged early in the strategy planning process. However, she views the Business Model Canvas as just a brainstorming tool. She has no idea how to incorporate it into enterprise architecture models to use for strategic planning. The pressure Frank is placing on her is making her very anxious. What should she do?

The first step she makes is to take advantage of her company’s leadership coaching program and find a business architecture coach who has used the Business Model Canvas. Her coach asks her seven questions to help her figure out what to do.

1. What are Frank’s key challenges?

The company operates in silos with fractured communications and Frank believes their recent strategy implementation challenges arose because certain key stakeholder needs and expectations were not evident until late in the design process. This has happened with other projects as well.  It seems no one realizes until after the implementation that a critical policy, process or system change has inadvertently affected delivery of other service offerings. Frank sees that strategic initiatives are seldom about changing only one component of the business in isolation. Multiple interacting components must usually be changed in tandem.  Frank needs a mechanism that will help identify, and keep track of, all the people, processes and resources that are impacted by, or influencing, what is being changed.

 2. How could Enterprise Architecture help address Frank’s strategy implementation challenges?

Karen suggests that Enterprise Architecture (EA) can provide the methodologies and models that will help people see all of the business components across the enterprise and the relationships between them.  With visual models it will be easier to articulate a clear scope and path for implementing strategic initiatives and then track the effectiveness of those initiatives. This would demonstrate the value of EA to strategy implementation.

 3. What barriers to involvement in strategy scoping and planning has she experienced in the past?

Karen knows that most strategy planners and organizational leaders find EA models and visual views complex and not intuitive. The methodologies and vocabulary are foreign to them and they see EA as something for the IT folk. They have no desire to learn new vocabularies and methodologies. So, she has to make these approaches easier to understand.

 4. What is the value of the Business Model Canvas in strategic planning?

Frank believes that the Business Model Canvas is much more than a brainstorming aid. His research indicates it is a tool for building the blueprint of his business strategy that represents the core elements and how the business functions across the silos. It is also becoming more widely accepted as a business strategy tool and business leaders are investing their time in understanding it. The Business Model Canvas provides a familiar and accepted context for facilitating effective strategy design discussions based on an architectural approach.

5. What does she perceive as the limitations of the Business Model Canvas within EA?

Karen initially believed the key shortcoming of the Business Model Canvas is that it does not depict relationships. The identification of relationships is a fundamental strength of EA and critically to successfully scoping strategic initiatives.

 6. Is there a way to overcome these perceived limitations?

Karen learns that relationships don’t have to be depicted graphically as lines. Relationships can be identified on the Business Model Canvas using physical spacing, grouping and colour. This will provide the ideal opportunity to introduce other high level and intuitive architectural views that will depict the relationships in even greater detail.

 7. What could be a key benefit of using the Business Model Canvas as a top level EA model?

Frank also discovers that he can adopt his organization’s vocabulary into the Business Model Canvas. Enterprise architects can then leverage this vocabulary throughout other high level architecture models they develop to make them more intuitive to organization leadership and strategic planners. The Business Model Canvas can be tailored to provide a clean and simple visual for identifying key interacting components that will support successful strategy implementation across the company.

Frank is excited about his new learnings.  He now knows that to be successful he must enable the leaders in his company to think about their business model and its “architecture” while planning and designing strategic business change.  By understanding the linkages cross all functional areas they will improve the success rate of strategy implementations and the achievement of value.  He thought of the words of Richard Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome: “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

Karen is now working with Frank to use the Business Model Canvas to introduce enterprise architecture concepts and methods. She has discovered it is a user friendly, and widely accepted tool that can be leveraged for much more that strategy brainstorming. If used appropriately, it has significant potential to help people use a common vocabulary and think architecturally, with an enterprise–wide view, as they plan, design and execute strategy implementations.

Examples of leveraging the Business Model Canvas as an effective tool for integrating Enterprise Architecture with strategic planning will be described and practised in my workshop “EA for Executive Consumption – How to Support Executives in Strategic Planning and Execution” at the IRM UK Enterprise Architecture Conference 2014 in London, England in June.

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