Learning about business architecture the hard way

I continually hear the following story from business leaders, "Our organization has recognized that our legacy IT systems are 1) expensive, 2) no longer competitive, 3) not meeting customer needs, 4) not flexible, 5) not able to integrate process and data across business silos, 6) do not provide operational metrics, business intelligence or internet capabilities."

When confronted with this perfect storm the leaders go on to make very costly mistakes by not managing information systems like any other strategic asset. For some reason, they think that buying solutions with the word enterprise in the title is all that is required. The political solution is to allow the business silos to purchase any assembly of solutions sold by enterprise vendors. But lately to my surprise I am hearing a change and a few C-level managers are beginning to realize that ad hoc COTS solutions have caused increased costs and an increase in pain points, while countless un-initiated keep stepping up to repeat the ad hoc solutions mistake.

If you ask the Governance, Risk and Compliance VP's "Were you consulted about governance, risks or metrics related to these massive expenditures?" Or, "What metrics did you design before acquisition to see if these IT investments did meet the desired results?" Or, "Show us the enterprise risk management analysis?" You will be shocked to hear that these massive information system expenditures are very rarely measured, monitored or reported

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over time.

I call this "Learning about business architecture the hard way. Rapidly procured silo-based enterprise solutions rarely utilize the skills of the enterprise or business architects. In my view, these organizations have now just missed a rare opportunity to leverage enterprise assets to build flexible and integrated SOA solutions for the future. Architected SOA solutions are highly cost effective and guarantee that an enterprise is on a firm footing to become a player in the next emerging economy.

Organizations need to treat Information and IT expenditures like any other business capability and bring in skilled Business Architects who understand how to leverage architecture frameworks (i.e,) TOGAF 9 to model the "as is" and "to be." These skilled people look for opportunities and solutions and then confidently perform migration strategy to deploy and build or buy aligned SOA solutions.

Business architects are skilled business modelers who use a rigorous fact-based language. Robust business reference models are available and used by business architects in many industries. These fact-based business models are usually a collection of TOGAF 9, OMG BMM, OMG SBVR, OMG UML, Erikson-Penker UML business patterns and other toolkits customized to meet the business needs.

Without business architecture the best we may hope for is SOA silos. I am interested to hear from you on how you have mapped your SOA silo's, or how you are moving to a more holistic view of business architecture to drive information and technology architectures and manage this area as a business capability.

Ramsay Millar is a Practice Leader, Business Architecture, Agile UP, BABOK 2, ISP, TOGAF 9 and Integrate IT LLC. Millar spends his time applying emerging trends in aligning business models with emerging technologies and software development trends to meet real-world challenges. He is always on the search for better ways to deliver and evolve business-critical solutions.

This was first published in September 2011

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