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The top lessons I’ve learned on business architecture

How to realign your business objectives and digital initiatives to deliver value

May 10, 2019 | By Burk Buechler, TEKsystems Director of Digital Solutions

top business architecture lessons

With my role in professional services at TEKsystems, I see organizations of all sizes struggle with digital transformation due to the misalignment of business objectives and digital initiatives. One key symptom of this misalignment is digital projects that fail or don’t deliver on promised benefits. Most succumb to natural organizational momentum, which keeps projects moving forward despite having a weak foundation of business alignment and planning.

On the surface, we typically find agreement on the overall direction and initiative. However, scratch beneath the surface, and there are ill-defined business models and goals that aren’t known to be so weak until the project advances to a point of no return. Getting projects off to a good start is not easy. Agile practices certainly help in development but not with identifying business value. A thoughtful application of business architecture is important. I recently had a chance to see good business architecture in action.

Business architecture is a framework to understand how the business delivers value to stakeholders and what capabilities support value delivery. It helps answer the following questions:

  • Are we working on the right things?
  • Are we getting the results we want and expect from our digital investments?
  • Do we have the right people and tools involved to create effective solutions?

All great questions, but how often have we seen these considered hastily, without quality or not done at all? More importantly, if most digital projects succumb to the momentum I mentioned earlier, how can we improve?

Recently, I’ve witnessed a few digital projects that struggled to achieve their expected benefits. The common gaps more often revolved around the business definition versus technical implementation. Ideally, business architecture is a discipline used throughout strategic projects—one that merits considerable time and attention. However, a few key steps at the beginning of a project can help focus the right level of attention and yield better results:

  1. Examine and reinvent the business model in question
    Business models don't have to be overly complicated. Assess and redefine the dimensions of your model: customer segments, partners, channels, value proposition, resources, cost and revenue streams. Focusing your attention on these areas will help illuminate a path forward, because the business model feeds everything else that's done.
  2. Identify how will you measure the goals
    Goals are the value you want to create for your customers, whether they are external or internal. Digital transformation positively affects many areas of business. Gain agreement on key metrics to measure, such as operational efficiency, financials and customer satisfaction.
  3. Walk through the current processes and identify pain points
    A facilitated session with key executive stakeholders works best. It may take time to get everyone scheduled and aligned, but it's well worth the effort. In parallel, be sure to analyze Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) and build on your strengths and opportunities.
  4. Envision and design a solution that meets your goals
    Design thinking is the framework that allows organizations to optimize their processes based on an outside-in view using principles of human empathy and storytelling. Rapid prototyping then ensures speed of execution that is so important in digital.

In short, successfully factoring in business architecture requires a commitment, a change of mindsets and behaviors. The steps outlined should be accompanied by a change-management plan to nurture its adoption and encourage more pervasive use throughout the project life cycle. You’ll find that taking the time to sketch out a proper business architecture will lead to more successful digital projects that deliver both business and digital transformation success.

Burk Buechler is the managing director of digital solutions at TEKsystems. Burk believes in a business-first approach to digital transformation. Digital is at the core of the enterprise and integral in driving business impact. A dynamic leader with over 25 years of experience across industries and sectors, ranging from healthcare and commercial to financial services and retail, Burk brings a distinctive blend of innovation, leadership and problem-solving expertise. Before TEKsystems, he most recently spent 12 years at Dell, leading their entry into digital services worldwide.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Burk Buechler’s personal LinkedIn, “The top lessons I've learned on business architecture” in January 2019.)