What is business architecture?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who had looked at my LinkedIn profile and noticed that I had listed business architecture as skill/job of mine. He had never heard of this discipline and jokingly asked if I design businesses.

My gut reaction was to say “Of course not”, but the more I thought about it I started to realize that business architects do help clients to design/remodel their businesses.

The Object Management Group defines business architecture as:

A blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.

This quote aligns very closely with how I view business architecture.

Step 1 – Designing the vision
Blueprints for Willborough Home

The first step in building a house is to draw the blueprint. In order to draw a relevant blueprint you need to determine the purpose of the building. How you design a building is a lot different if you are building a home vs a store vs a factory. Similarly, the way you design a business depends on if you are building a manufacturing business vs a consulting business vs a restaurant. The strategic vision for the business is your blueprint…it guides all future decisions.

Step 2 – Laying the groundwork

IMG_0170

The next step would be to clear the land and to lay the foundation. This ensures that the building is stable and has a footing to stand on for years to come. Similarly, when designing/remodeling your business you need to determine what you are building it upon. In this case that would be the strategic planning. This involves performing a review of the business landscape and determining what your goals and objectives are.

Step 3 – Raising the roof

I has...part of a roof

The next main step is to frame the structure. In a building this framing is often done using wood, but in some applications metal is used instead. Again, the purpose of the building can impact implementation. Similarly, when you are building your business you create a framing which in this case is the collection of processes you use to run the business. You need to start with your particular strategy to define your processes…no one approach works for all.

Step 4 – Finishing touches

After you have finished framing your house (or defining the processes/operations) you need to finish the building. This involves putting in windows, doors, etc. In designing a business the finishing touches are the tools that you use to support your processes. Oftentimes, they are IT systems but they can don’t have to be. They can also be change management, training, or other support processes.
House in Boydton, 1912

Of course, there are additional steps between the steps I listed above in building a house (plumbing, wiring, etc). Similarly, there are additional processes needed to fully define your business (organizational structure, prioritization, etc). However, you should be able to see now that the term business architecture is not as nonsensical as many people think it is.

So from now on when someone asks me to define what a business architect does, I will not hesitate to say that we help build businesses.

Prototyping Tools

One of the best tools in the requirements gathering/clarification process is the system prototype. System prototypes allow you to get feedback from end-users to ensure that you are developing a system that meets their needs. Technology has made the creation of prototypes much more feasible and cost-effective. As such, you should ensure that every system you create has a prototype created for it. Below are the three main categories of prototypes and some of the most popular tools for each.

Low-fidelity – a low-fidelity prototype is a rough graphical representation of the system. It does not contain functionality, but rather aims to get feedback on the general design/look and feel.

  • Pen and Paper – has the benefits of being cheap and having a very low learning curve. Hard to version drafts without manually creating new papers.
  • Balsamiq Mockups – software tool that allows you to create mock-ups/prototypes very easily. Can export output to image files for distribution.

Medium-Fidelity – a medium-fidelity prototype is used to refine the look and feel of the system or define high-level interactions.

  • Photoshop – using Photoshop allows you to clearly define the final layout and look of the system. Users will get to see exactly how the system will look and can verify it matches their needs
  • Flairbuilder – allows you to create interactive prototypes that can convey high-level workflow/capability.

High-Fidelity – a high-fidelity prototype is used to gather feedback on the usability/workflow of a tool. These prototypes take longer to create, but can be used with end-users to ensure that the product works as needed.

  • Dreamweaver (or other HTML editors) – creating a HTML-based prototype allows you to build a prototype that looks and acts in a similar manner to the final product. Back-end code is not included, but the interface/experience should match.

SWOT Analysis

Definition of the technique
  • SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective.
  • SWOT Analysis is often visualized using a SWOT Matrix
When do you use the technique?
  • You should perform a SWOT analysis when you are conducting your enterprise analysis. This phase is described in chapter 2 of the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. A SWOT analysis helps you to assess the capability gaps of the firm/project.
Why do you use the technique?
  • You should perform a SWOT analysis to determine the current state of the organization and the environment. This allows you to more accurately evaluate possible solutions and incorporate external factors when deciding upon a final solution.
  • You can also perform a Personal SWOT Analysis to help you during your job search.
How do you perform the technique?
  1. Gather the team together
  2. Brainstorm on the topic at hand (ensure that you focus on all 4 quadrants)
  3. Document all findings in the SWOT Analysis Matrix
  4. Validate all findings
  5. Brainstorm on solutions that leverage the strengths and opportunities while offsetting weaknesses.

Top Business Analysis Blogs

Following up on last week’s post on the top business analysts on Twitter, I figured I would continue with the social media theme. Today, I will list what I think are some of the best business analysis blogs on the Internet.

Top Business Analysts on Twitter

As social media become more and more important to the lives of business analysts, I thought I would provide you with a list of business analysts and business analysis subject matter experts to follow on Twitter. Click on the links below to explore their Twitter profiles. My profile can be viewed at http://twitter.com/cmcspiritt.

If you have any others you think I should include in the list, please let me know.

Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) Knowledge Areas

Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring

  • Knowledge area that covers how business analysts determine which activities are necessary in order to complete a business analysis effort.
  • Covers identification of stakeholders, selection of business analysis techniques, the process that will be used to manage requirements, and how to assess the progress of the work.

Elicitation

  • Describes how business analysts work with stakeholders to identify and understand their needs and concerns, and understand the environment in which they work.
  • The purpose of elicitation is to ensure that a stakeholder’s actual underlying needs are understood, rather than their stated or superficial desires.

Requirements Management and Communication

  • Describes how business analysts manage conflicts, issues, and changes in order to ensure that stakeholders and the project team remain in agreement on the solution scope, how requirements are communicated to stakeholders, and how knowledge gained by the business analyst is maintained for future use.

Enterprise Analysis

  • Describes how business analysts identify a business need, refine and clarify the definition of that need, and define a solution scope that can feasibly be implemented by the business.
  • This knowledge area describes problem definition and analysis, business case development, feasibility studies, and the definition of solution scope.

Requirements Analysis

  • Describes how business analysts prioritize and progressively elaborate stakeholder and solution requirements in order to enable the project team to implement a solution that will meet the needs of the sponsoring organization and stakeholders.
  • Involves analyzing stakeholder needs to define solutions that meet those needs, assessing the current state of the business to identify and recommend improvements, and the verification and validation of the resulting requirements.

Solution Assessment and Validation

  • Describes how business analysts assess proposed solutions to determine which solution best fits the business need, identify gaps and shortcomings in solutions, and determine necessary workarounds or changes to the solution.
  • Describes how business analysts assess deployed solutions to see how well they met the original need so that the sponsoring organization can assess the performance and effectiveness of the solution.

Underlying Competencies

  • Describes the behaviors, knowledge, and other characteristics that support the effective performance of business analysis.

Business Analysis Key Concepts

Domains

  • Domains are an area undergoing analysis

Solutions

  • A solution is a set of changes to the current state of an organization that are made in order to enable the organization to meet a business need, solve a problem, or take advantage of an opportunity.
  • Examples of solutions and solution components include software applications, web services, business processes, the business rules that govern that process, an information technology application, a revised organizational structure, outsourcing, insourcing, redefining job roles, or any other method of creating a capability needed by an organization.
  • Business analysis helps organization define the optimal solution for their needs, given the set of constraints (including time, budget, regulations, and others) under which that organization operates.

Requirements

  • Condition or capability needed by a stakeholder to solve a problem or achieve an objective.
  • A condition or capability that must be met or possessed by a solution or solution component to satisfy a contract, standard, specification, or other formally imposed documents.
  • One of the key objectives of business analysis is to ensure that requirements are visible to and understood by all stakeholders.
  • A requirement may describe the current of future state of any aspect of the enterprise.
    • Requirements Classification Scheme
    • Business Requirements
      • Higher level statements of the goals, objectives, or needs of the enterprise.
      • Describe why a project has been initiated, the objectives the project will achieve, and the metrics that will be used to measure its success.
      • They are developed and defined through enterprise analysis.
    • Stakeholder Requirements
      • Statements of the needs of a particular stakeholder or class of stakeholders.
      • They describe the needs that a given stakeholder has and how that stakeholder will interact with the solution.
      • Stakeholder requirements serve as a bridge between business requirements and the various classes of solution requirements.
      • They are developed and refined through requirements analysis.
    • Solution Requirements
      • Describe the characteristics of a solution that meet business requirements and stakeholder requirements.
      • They are developed and defined through requirements analysis.
      • They are frequently divided into sub-categories:
        • Functional Requirements
          • Describe the behavior and information that the solution will manage
          • Describe the capabilities the solution will be able to perform in terms of behavior or operations
          • Non-functional requirements
            • Capture conditions that do not directly relate to the behavior or functionality of the solution, but rather describe environmental conditions under which the solution must remain effective.
            • Also knows as quality or supplementary requirements
            • Often include requirements related to capacity, speed, security, availability, and the information architecture and presentation of the user interface.
    • Transition Requirements
      • Describe capabilities that the solution must have in order to facilitate transition from the current state of the enterprise to a desired future state, but that will not be needed once that transition is complete.
      • They are differentiated because they are always temporary and cannot be developed until both an existing and new solution are defined.
      • They typically cover data conversion from existing systems, skill gaps that must be addressed, and other related changes to reach the desired future state.
      • They are developed through solution assessment and validation.

What is Business Analysis?

  • Business analysis is a set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.
  • Business analysis is performed to define and validate solutions that meet business needs, goals, or objectives.
  • The business analyst is responsible for eliciting the actual needs of stakeholders, not simply their expressed desires.
  • Business analysts often play a central role in aligning the needs of business units with the capabilities delivered by information technology, and may serve as a “translator” between those groups.