In terms of business innovation, there have been so many ideas that swirled the web since the popularization of startups. But, I believe, we're way past the startup era and we're now diving into the phase of another economic shift where good... nay, great businesses thrive.
It's not just a matter of "who's the best" or who's got more connections. It's about having the basic foundations that will make your business thrive. It's about making the best products that provide a customer-centric approach.
Business architecture is rarely talked about, but it's the one thing that most of us forget.
Before we move over to tackle business architecture, I just want to highlight that this does not only concern big companies, but SMBs (small to medium businesses) as well because business architecture is all about creating a system for your company and all companies need that.
Background: Where Did It Come From?
So business architecture is a new concept that only started in 1980s. Enterprise companies started the trend and then it developed into a discipline of "cross-organizational design of the business as a whole."
By the early 2000s, the concept has been institutionalized and papers were published regarding the idea of business architecture.
Bodine Hilty noted back in 2009 that the creation of cross-organizational design should fall on the hands of the Business Architect. However, this role has been passed on to most CEOs or their management teams supported by consulting firms.
Business architecture is more than just the macro view of the business structure. According to Bernus & Noran (2010), you can treat it as a blueprint for the business. They added that there are two types of proposals in business architecture: (1) blueprints that involve the activities that create the enterprise and (2) the organization of the creation process and the organization's adaptation to its lifecycle changes.
Business architecture is ""maturing into a discipline in its own right, rising from the pool of inter-related practices that include business strategy, enterprise architecture, business portfolio planning and change management – to name but a few."
- Whelan & Meaden (2012)-
Tackling Business Architecture
Business architecture is the foundation of scalable businesses. (Image via iStock)
According to Accelere, there is an argument into what business architecture is really about. Is it the product (blueprint), the service, a profession or none of the above?
Though most people see business architecture as an enterprise approach on analysing business systems, there's another side to the practice.
Business architecture is not just process mapping. It's connecting all the dots.
Business architects’ primary role is to create broader perspectives. Most business architects will talk about this as creating an enterprise perspective but that isn’t completely accurate. Informing IT leaders of all the technology the organization owns before buying additional technology is creating a broader perspective for those decisions. Helping one business unit understand how it might leverage the capabilities of another business unit or how its actions might impinge on another unit is another example of creating broader perspective. Creating broader perspective might also go beyond the enterprise in the cases of marketplace, competitive, and new innovations perspectives.
Business architects also provide an "objective" analysis by collecting data and making sound conclusions based on the results. This way, businesses can adapt and evolve by minimizing the risk of failure.
One of the biggest roles of business architects is to provide solutions to complex problems. Since they have an macro perspective on how the business is run, they can create integrated solutions within the departments to show how to better execute a strategy or a plan.
This becomes even more crucial in today's businesses. As I've mentioned earlier, now that business structures are different and unique from each other, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses in the operations as well as how these tie into the growth of the company within the coming years. It's creating a strategy for how to be better now and a plan for growth.
Most companies only plan within the month or the year, but without seeing the larger picture, you won't have a clear direction of where you want your business to be.
In business architecture, the end point of your vision is tied into the planning. Business architects reverse engineer the process to figure out the actionable steps on how you can get there.
Strategy & Execution
Business architecture is mostly comprised of analytical thinking, but it's not just about theoretical improvements on your business.
Business architects "clarify their organization’s strategic intent by looking at both aspirational strategic statements and day to day tactical reality. They clarify, expand, structure, and illuminate strategic intent to make it consumable across the organization.."
This helps organizations create a strategic approact in alignment to their business goals. The plan becomes more focused because of the different factors that come into business architecture (market researach, company history, future analytics and more).
Execution is also an important part on business architecture.
While few business architects are meaningfully involved in creating corporate business strategy they do play a significant role in how that strategy gets translated into business unit operational strategy and tactical action.
It also helps that business architects adapt quickly on the trends. It's one of their roles to recognize new business opportunities. This can be in a form of finding a new target market, creating innovative ideas in new products and services that the coporation can focus on. In our ever-changing digital market, this is needed now more than ever.
Ultimately, business architecture is the brains behind the business success.
Marketing Architecture, Integrated
Marketing architecture is a deeper strategy that involves high-level corporate planning. (Image via iStock)
The rise of digital marketing is inevitable. As eCommerce and the globalization of B2B services become the norm, marketing... digital marketing now plays a bigger role in a company's success.
Going back to the basics, marketing is the starting point of any business acquisition. This is the first stage of sales, the first point of contact with your consumers.
Though marketing planning has drastically improved, thanks to the introduction of content marketing and effective sales funnels, marketing architecture offers a more in-depth approach in strategy and planning.
Integrating the concept behind business architecture, marketing architecture applies the interconnectedness of each part of the company towards marketing and sales success. As Hubspot puts it, it should be about SMARKETING and not marketing alone.
What companies do wrong is simply plan out content in a short amount of time (a month, for example). They do this with almost to end goal in mind and no structure in as to where this content would lead.
Instead, there has to be a pathway and a reason for why that content is being created and promoted across channels. What is the goal and how will it serve your audience?
Marketing architecture, as a sub-group of business architecture, focuses on the day-to-day execution as well as the entire flow of the content cycle.
It's all about making sure that each part of the puzzle, even the guys from accounting, can become a proponent for a good marketing strategy.
Business and marketing architectures both serve the purpose of giving the best options to the company as well as its employees. If there is a clear line of action, the soldiers can easily follow through and deliver. At the same time, if there's a strong vision for the company's leaders, the generals can make better decisions.
It's a collaborative and evolving process that doesn't just stop with one pattern or blueprint. It's not a one-trick pony solution that will make your business shine overnight.
It's a process of business innovation that has to be implemented with proper guidance and finesse.