Debasish Mishra, a colleague of mine, posted recently that we should let Business Architects out of the “Business Process Optimization Prison.”  (link)  He raises some good points.  Chief among them is whether process optimization should be the sole focus of the business architect.  Quote:

… a business architect who is narrowly focused on business process, organizations, and roles may have something interesting to tell the business sponsor but risks not being able to tell a complete story.

I completely agree, but I urge care when reading his post.  Debasish is not suggesting that business architects don’t care about business process.  He is simply saying that business architects have to care about many other things as well. 

Using your business architect for business process optimization is a bit like buying a Maserati race car to drive to the grocery store.  It can be done, but it’s not really practical, and certainly not cost effective. 

Sure, many business architects are quite good at process optimization.  By way of comparison, I’m good at coding, but I don’t code anymore. 

Similarly, a good business architect may have, in his or her past, been responsible for process modeling, measurement, and optimization.  But it’s no longer a focus of the work.  I’d go so far as to say that process optimization is not a necessary prerequisite skill for being an effective business architect.

So use your business architect to do the work of a business architect: to model the business, and the business drivers, and to develop feasible well-aligned roadmaps for achieving goals.  That is where the real value of business architecture lies.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

5 thoughts on “Business Architecture — includes process architecture?”
  1. I have been following your blog for a while as i have recently transitioned into a "Technical Architect" role and have a Enterprise or Business Architect vision in my career path.

    I do find your blogs interesting, but i think this one contradicts the previous one. Looks like you are trying to justify why a BA should do a lot less work then entitled 🙂

  2. Hello PY,

    Curious.  Let’s say that you work in a building architecture firm, led by a renouned architect who creates stunning designs for very large projects.  Should that lead architect spend a lot of time on the drafting table, generating detailed blueprint revisions whenever a small spec change occurs?

    No.  The renouned architect CAN do that work, but why would that make sense?  Their time is best spent in leadership and creative endeavors, while the junior draftsman can update the detailed drawings.

    Similarly, the business architect is best used to perform a broad level of analysis that references the business processes, while the process engineer models the processes and works on detailed optimization.

    I hope that helps.

    — Nick

  3. Process Architecture is but one element of Business Architecture. Process understanding, optimization, management, etc. are some of the things that come naturally to IT architects. Hence, an IT-centric view generally leads to equating business architecture to process architecture.

    But, in general, if one had to take a more "business centric" view of an enterprise (and its ecosystem), the various dimensions (in addition to process) that need to be considered under business architecture are : business strategy (e.g. Porter’s value chain, 5-forces,etc ), operating model (e.g. level of vertical integration, geographies, etc.) , marketing strategy,  sales strategy (channel or direct, etc), product portfolio strategy (make v/s buy), or service strategy, organizational design, etc.

    Each one of these dimensions requires an optimal level of corporate resources / capabilities.  Identifying these resources/capabilities, procuring and sustaining them under a well-"architected" framework is the purview of of business architecture.

  4. Of course business process management is a part of business architecture.

    Every business ultimately is a construct of processes to deliver value.

    So business process management has to be part of business architecture.

    But business architecture is so much more

    – Strategy and Value Management

    – Organizational Structuring

    – IT Alignment

    – Risk Management


    Business Process Management is just a sub topic of Business Architecture

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