Use Business Architecture to Link Strategy and Execution
Many organizations spend a lot of time and effort defining that “wow” strategy hoping to entice audiences. That is fine, but how many of these organizations do indeed realize that strategy? Well, in my experience I would say only a handful and I am sure most of you agree with my sentiments. One of the primary challenges many organizations encounter is the inability to execute a well formulated strategy. In today’s competitive world, an “average” organization would be expected to have a well-articulated strategy but a “successful” one would go out of its way to execute and realize the anticipated strategic outcomes. But what would be the reason behind failure to execute a strategy? Let me first highlight some of my key observations about strategy:
- A strategy would mainly focus on the anticipated outcomes; the strategic agenda usually emphasizes “what” is to be achieved and not “how” it should be executed.
- There is inadequate consideration of an organization’s readiness during strategy formulation; a lot of assumptions are made regarding the existing organization capabilities.
- A strategy is usually generic in nature; hardly do you see a strategy that clearly spells out the individual responsibilities of each and every party to that strategy.
- The strategy formulation process hardly analyzes the resulting impact of the strategy; little is known about its impact on the organization.
- A strategy is prone to misinterpretation; lack of a clear enterprise context may dilute the meaning as different business stakeholders gain freedom to use their own interpretations.
While most of us would attribute these to a weak strategy or strategic planning process, the reality on the grounds is a little bit different. In my quest to understand why the execution of strategy remains a challenge for most organizations, I noticed the strategy function is usually left to strategists to ponder on their own. My honest observations about most of these so called strategists are as follows:
- They usually work on tight schedule to put together a workable strategy
- They lack adequate visibility on current business operations
- They hardly understand enterprise connectivity and relationships
- They are deprived of proper impact assessment and analysis tools
- They easily get influenced by organization politics and culture
- They struggle to understand and define business priorities
- They hardly validate the correctness of information provided by business stakeholders
- They prefer to leave implementation details to business operations managers.
These scenarios are akin to our day-to-day experiences which in most cases result to “ad hoc” execution of the strategy. This approach most certainly leads to chaotic and unpredictable events that necessitate frequent fixes, over spending and tireless efforts trying to achieve some form of control within the organization. But how can we achieve a controlled execution of the strategy? The answer to this lies in the architecture of the business itself; a unifying structure which enables the execution of the strategy through properly qualified initiatives that bring along anticipated results. “Business Architecture” is the formal link between strategy and execution; it is a structured discipline that involves blueprinting, simplification, analysis and presentation of the complex business ecosystem. So how does business architecture link strategy and execution? Below are some of the ways business architecture facilitates the link:
- The business blueprint becomes a common language for communicating and creating a shared understanding of the business across and throughout the organization.
- The business viewpoints improve visibility and understanding of the existing business operations from different stakeholder perspective.
- The formalized relationships between different elements that make up a business provides clarity on business areas impacted by internal and external factors.
- The clarity of existing business maturity status helps to identify business priorities during strategy formulations.
- The detailed knowledge of business areas and elements impacted by proposed changes helps to validate, qualify and align strategic initiatives.
- The difference between the current and future business blueprints helps to define a clear business transformation roadmap.
- The knowledge of dependencies between different business areas helps to plan and sequence the execution of proposed strategic initiatives.
- The availability of properly analyzed business artifacts like processes, capabilities, services and organization structures assists to identify activities necessary for strategy execution.
Business Architecture isn’t new to most of us; it has been informally practiced under different names before. As long as its value proposition is visible and realizable, it doesn’t matter where the function sits in the organization. Needless to say, business architecture shouldn’t be construed as a too disciplined engineering approach; it only brings along formality to the way we present and try to understand complex business ecosystems. In fact, there are two possible ways business architecture could be implemented as a practice:
- Embed it as part of your strategic planning function such that all existing deficiencies in the strategic planning process are addressed.
- Implement it as a separate function preferably as part of enterprise architecture function to help translate strategy into actionable architectures and business transformation plans.