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How business architecture works

Move from disconnection to alignment using business architecture to enable your strategic enterprise-wide initiatives.

Sue Alemann | November 12, 2015

In a previous post, I shared the 4 Ws of business architecture: what, why, where, and when. Here, I’ll explore the next piece of the puzzle: how business architecture works.

Capability at its core

Business architecture is built around the concept of a capability:

  • A capability is what the business does, not who does it (organization), or how it is done (process)
  • Capabilities are stable, they don’t change unless you change your business model
  • They create a common view and vocabulary that everyone can use to describe business operations
  • Other aspects of the business, such as org structure and systems, are connected to capabilities to show how the business functions
  • Capabilities are aligned to strategic goals, showing where investment is needed and where it will yield the best return
  • Connecting all planned and in-progress initiatives to the business capabilities gives visibility into the change impact on critical business units and technology platforms

This entire collection of connected information is known as the business architecture model (or business architecture knowledge base).

Without a business architecture model, initiatives often remain disconnected from each other, business operations, and the overall enterprise strategy.

Capability-based planning

Most corporate planning efforts follow a four-step cycle: (1) Create a strategy; (2) define objectives; (3) execute through initiatives; and (4) measure results.

Though these basic steps are integral to defining and executing corporate strategy, the approach often results in a disconnect between enterprise-level strategic objectives and the changes executed in a business unit or department.

Strategy is conceived with an entire enterprise in mind and with the goals and measures in the common language of the enterprise. Execution of that strategy is then moved into silod business units, relying upon senior managers to translate their sliver of the strategy into business unit objectives and measures that their teams can act upon. These team members approach projects from a downward-facing perspective, focusing on the areas where they have the authority to impact change and resources under their domain to manage.

Without a business architecture model, the portfolio of initiatives that are created often remain disconnected from each other, from the operations of the business, and from the overall enterprise strategy.

Business architecture provides the glue to connect enterprise-level strategic objectives and measures to the changes that multiple business units or departments need to make to execute on the strategy. Business architecture enables these connections by focusing on capabilities and establishing a common view of the business that can be leveraged to improve each step in the corporate planning process. By providing better information into the corporate planning process, the projects and changes executed are aligned to the strategic objectives and measures—resulting in improved corporate performance.

Without a business architecture model strategy, plan, execute. With a business architecture model strategy, plan, execute, measure, each stage informing the others.
Sue Alemann

Sue Alemann is a leader in Slalom Seattle’s strategy and operations practice and a Certified Business Architect (CBA)®, specializing in strategy execution through business architecture. She is a primary author of A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge® (BIZBOK GUIDE®). Connect with Sue on LinkedIn.


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