About a month back, I asked if it was time to create an MBA in Business Architecture. I’m going to follow up with a suggestion for a curriculum for such an odd degree.

The degree is provocative on its face.  After all, an MBA is first and foremost, a business degree.  Yet most Enterprise Business Architects are employees of IT departments.  How do we mix the two?

I honestly believe that the core business skills focused on in the MBA are necessary but not sufficient to be a good EA.  I believe that core technology skills are necessary but not sufficient either.  You need a mix of both.

A good EA needs to be able to operate in both spheres: business and technology.  They need to have excellent skills in both.  That is why I wonder if the program at RMIT in Australia is sufficiently business oriented.  On the other hand, the McCombs school of business in Texas has an undergraduate degree that mixes business and engineering.  That seems interesting.  There is also a university in Switzerland that has a degree in Business Engineering, but I couldn’t get many details.

The following curriculum suggestion was derived from two primary sources.  The first is the Austin Texas MBA program mentioned above.  The second is the listed curriculum of the Harvard Business School.  In a few cases, I copied the course descriptions verbatim from one of these two sites.  In most cases, I modified the course descriptions to represent the “flavor” that I would wish to see for a Business Architecture MBA. 

Basic Modeling and the visual representation of business concepts Basic understanding of models, and using modeling to recognize, represent, and improve the information, relationships and clarity of business activities.  Students are introduced to Business Process Modeling, Computer systems modeling, Conceptual modeling, and the concept of metamodels.
Financial Accounting Covers concepts and issues in the preparation and interpretation of financial statements and the use of financial information in evaluation and control of an organization.
Financial Management Examines the theory and practice of corporate finance. The focus of the course is on investment and financing decisions. Structural impacts of financial decisions are described using models.  Major topics include risk and return, valuation, asset markets and market efficiency, capital budgeting, capital structure, dividend policy, agency considerations, and derivative securities.
Business Structural Evaluation, Modeling, and Transition planning Operational Models are studied, along with transition strategies for companies moving from one operational model to another. Structural approaches to the division of responsibilities and the use of incentives and scorecards to drive organizational behavior are studied.  Students will be expected to develop a full enterprise model of an existing business or governmental institution from case studies and publically available information.
Business, Government, and Economics

This course introduces tools for studying the economic environment of business to help managers understand the implications for their companies. Students will learn the impact of: National income and balance of payment accounting, Exchange rate theory, Political regimes, and regional global integration issues.  These integration issues include: International trade, Foreign direct investment, Portfolio capital, and Global environmental issues.

Marketing Management Studies three distinct marketing issues – market analysis, developing a marketing strategy, and constructing the appropriate marketing mix for a product. The course highlights the development and visual representation of action strategies, development of products and services, establishment of effective pricing, determination of distribution intensity, and promotion of business solutions. 
Business Process Improvement / Lean / Six Sigma Examines the operational measurement view of business.  The first unit discusses statistical measurement systems for business.  The second unit focuses on business process understanding and modeling, along with methodologies for simplifying and improving business processes.   Students will be required to produce detailed BPMN models and then use Lean and Six Sigma techniques to improve them.
Strategy Development and Alignment

The objective of this course is to help students develop the skills for formulating strategy. Strategy development provides an understanding of a firm’s operating environment, competitive advantage, customer value proposition, activity configuration, and balancing the risks and opportunities available to an enterprise with the business strategy in mind.  The first module focuses on  competitive positioning; understanding comparative costs; and addressing issues such as cannibalization, network externalities, and globalization.  The second module focuses on the analytical tools of business modeling, and the alignment of business structures and behavior to strategic concerns.

Finance Based Decision Making and the Planning of IT investments Illustrates the essentials of managerial planning and control, for any business function, with a special focus on the planning and management of Information Technology investments.   This course examines topics like short-term and long-term decisions, activity based costing, strategic alignment, and benefits realization.
Negotiation, Presentation, and Influence This course focuses on the communication skills that are critical to the success of the Enterprise Business Architect, including the ability to negotiate for success, the ability to understand concerns and inform stakeholders at all levels of an organization, and the ability to influence the decision making and outcomes of teams outside your direct control.
Leadership and Corporate Accountability In this course, students learn about the complex responsibilities facing business leaders today. Using case studies that highlight difficult managerial decisions, the course examines the legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities of corporate leaders. It also teaches students about management and governance systems leaders can use to promote responsible conduct by companies and their employees, and shows how personal values can play a critical role in effective leadership.
Enterprise Architecture Models and Frameworks This course focuses on the history, evolution, and comparative study of the uses of various frameworks that target the enterprise.  This includes discussions of the Zachman framework, eTOM, TOGAF, FEAF, MODAF, and others.  The development of mature Enterprise Architecture programs, and their relationship to various business functions including Information Technology, Strategic Planning, Human Resources, and Finance are studied.
Business Architecture Patterns and Practices This course focuses on the specific terminology and practices used in the modern Business Architecture environment, including the use of heatmaps, capability maps, enterprise roadmaps, investment prioritization, IT portfolio management, Enterprise Project Management Office, and structures for corporate governance and compliance.
Electives courses
  • Business Program and Project Management
  • Information Security
  • Statistics for Decision Making
  • Software Development Processes (from Waterfall to Agile)
  • Software Operations Management and IT Service Management
  • Manager’s Introduction to Software Development
  • Software Development Languages and Environments
  • Information Modeling and aspects of Data Design

That’s my take on a potential degree program.  I know this is a bit off-topic for an Enterprise Architect, but it is good to illustrate a wish list sometimes. 

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".

11 thoughts on “Suggested Curriculum: MBA in Business Architecture”
  1. Nick,

    A good starting point. I would personally give a bit more focus to disciplines covering ‘soft’ subjects, which may drive or be a constraint to any more structured approaches. In that respect, I would add the following Business Transformation / Change and organisational behaviour.

    These would be IMHO highly desirable.



  2. Are you kidding? How you can make "Information Modeling and aspects of Data Design" an elective? 🙂 Without information architecture and domain modeling…

  3. Hi Alex,

    In the first course, there are elements of information architecture included: Conceptual modeling, and the concept of metamodels.

    The elective course goes deep on data design.  It’s an IT course.  

    The necessary elements of information modeling that we both consider as "required" are interspersed throughout about five or six of the courses.  

    — N

  4. Hi Jiri,

    The course: "Business Structural Evaluation, Modeling, and Transition planning" addresses many of the issues you’d expect.  That said, there is plenty of room for improvement to this suggested degree design.

    — Nick

  5. What would be different if you’ll take an MBA with an IT technical background ?

    MBA is made for experience people and executives so I think MBA in business Architecture is creating another Silo in the company …

  6. Because information is the "currency of the realm," any MBA for Business Architecture would be remiss without a mandatory course in Enterprise Information Management (with topics on Business Intelligence, Semantics, Governance, Information Security, Compliance and Auditing, and Information Quality).

    I agree that information modeling itself should a elective, and I see your point about these topics being touched on in the various other courses. Managing information, however, is probably the most neglected business process in companies today, precisely because of the fragmented distribution of information-related responsibilities.  To coin a phrase– "If everyone is in charge of information management and data quality, then no one is."  

    A holistic treatment of the subject needs to part of any business architecture curriculum, so that it can be understood that information must ultimately be owned and driven by the business, and not by IT.

  7. Hi Clement,

    You asked "What would be different if you’ll take an MBA with an IT technical background ?"

    You’d have a technologist with a business degree.  You would NOT have a person that is prepared to understand or use the particular approach that successful business architects use to model, analyze, and improve a business.

    All graduates of an MBA program are expected to fill any business role, including general manager, corporate vice president, CIO and even CEO.  We are talking about human beings here.  A degree prepares you.  It doesn’t pigeon-hole you.

    — N

  8. Hi Rob,

    I’m not going to disagree.  In general, the degree program that I outlined has a long list of required courses.  Most MBA programs have fewer requirements and more room for electives.  

    I’m slow to add a requirement in the recommendation for that reason.  

    That said, I agree that information issues should be well understood by anyone who embarks on a career in business architecture, if for no other reason than the MBA in BA degree would be an entre’ to Enterprise Architecture, where a well rounded understanding of information management is essential.

    — N

  9. We agree!

    DePaul University’s MBA program has business-side course in Business Architecture, begun in 2002. It is accredited by the Business Architects Association and counts toward the BAA’s Certified Business Architect (CBA) professional certificate. http://commerce.depaul.edu/About/index.asp


    The coursework is also taught on a nondegree basis: http://www.learning.depaul.edu/standard/content_areas/continuity_pages/coursegroup.asp?group_number=231&group_version=1

  10. Hello Paul,

    It is great that DePaul has a course in business architecture.  I’m glad to hear it.  I was calling for an MBA in Business Architecture, on par with an MBA in Finance or an MBA in Marketing.  Big difference.  

    That said, it is good to see a reputable university develop a single elective course in Business Architecture.  It is a start.

    For my readers, the course that Paul is referring to appears to be: INFO TECH STRATEGY/ARCHITECTURE (MIS 683)

    — Nick

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