Business architecture design - the blueprint for successful change

Every organisation today has to cope with change.  Yet most change programmes still fail to deliver the expected benefits.  

Why is this? I believe that most failed programmes were destined to do so because they were never designed to succeed. 

Businesses can be seen as “systems” with interrelating elements. These elements comprise the Business Architecture which must be in balance for a change programme to deliver the expected benefits.  If this architecture is not designed to support the changed state of the business it will fail. Each element must be addressed because each is affected by change.

The diagram below depicts the elements of Business Architecture as Process, People, Systems, Organisation and Culture.
Process is what is done and how & when it is done.
People relates to the skills and experience of those carrying out the processes.
Systems relates to the information systems that support the processes and the management systems that govern the processes and people.
Organisation is how the people are “configured” to carry out the processes, using the information and governance systems.

If all of these are addressed in the right way the organisation’s culture will evolve to support the desired change.

Culture is an outcome of the other four elements and when seen in this context it becomes the sustaining factor - the “non return valve” that will ensure that the organisation does not slip back to its previous state after the change programme ends.

Change can be stimulated by a number of factors, common triggers including a new strategy, implementation of a new IT system, responding to financial or competitive pressures.  The reason can usually be placed in one of the elements mentioned above.  Evidence shows that when this happens, the focus is then given to that element almost to the exclusion of the others. This is where the design of the change falls down.

A new IT system for example, will require people to do things differently; to do this, they will need to build new skills and experience. The management system and governance may need to be altered; the way people are organised may be affected. One would hope that accuracy of decision making would improve and cycle times would reduce. These changes affect, to some degree or another, all the elements of the architecture so the change needs to be designed and modelled in terms of the whole architecture so that the overall impact can be understood and the transition planned.

Begin at the beginning

If this sounds common sense as opposed to rocket science, why does it not get the attention that it deserves?

Organisations continue to focus on development and implementation at the expense of design.  Experience shows that any time “saved” on design is only transferred and increased, to rework in later phases of the change. The later the phase, the more chance of it having a terminal effect on the programme. 

How can a business know the scale of the implementation of any change unless it knows where it is starting from, where it is going to and can measure the gap between the two?

Senior executives often describe how difficult it is to make the final decision to embark on a change programme.  Like dropping a pebble into a pond, once let go it is impossible to catch the pebble before it hits the pond and when it does, the ripples stretch much further than one would expect.

The business architecture design can go a long way to reducing this anxiety. It provides a blue print for the change and can help identify the scope and reach - in short, the size of the challenge. There are standard techniques and pragmatic approaches that ensure that the blue print can be developed in an appropriate amount of time. It is the responsibility of the business sponsor to ensure that the programme scope includes this vitally important work.

Business architecture design is a fundamental component of a successful and sustained change that will ensure that if implemented correctly the investment made in the change programme will return the planned benefits


2010, ChangeKatie MayerComment