As data professionals and other analysts master their fields, they start to look for ways to advance. Many business analysts in particular move into the role of business architect. This is a logical next step especially for BAs who feel comfortable approaching companies from a high-level view.
Understanding the role of a business architect can better prepare business analysts to grow their skills and prepare for the future.
Business Analysts Are a Natural Fit for Business Architecture
As business analysts grow in their careers, it makes sense that they would want to expand their roles from helping with individual projects and assisting certain teams to taking on big picture challenges within the companies they work for.
“It is a natural career progression because the jobs are two sides of the same coin; one side comes up with the strategy, the other works out the fine details,” writes Benjamin Brandall at workflow management software provider Process Street. “Once you have an understanding of how systems work at a low level, you are more qualified to implement them from the top down while understanding how it works in practice.”
Many business analysts currently work within IT departments or help other teams make data-based decisions. As the workplace becomes increasingly technical, business analysts are needed in spaces where they previously weren’t. So it makes sense that business analysts would become business architects in order to review the company’s relationship with technology and advancement as a whole.
“With the growth of cloud-based services success in [the digital transformation] process is less a technology challenge and more a Business Model challenge,” says Scott Comte, talent acquisition manager for technology consulting business DWS. “Digital Transformation can provide an opportunity for organizations to do business in a totally different way. But the fundamentals of business in a digital and traditional world remain the same.”
Instead of working within a specific department, business architects have a place alongside the executive team. They research ideas, determine what is and isn’t possible and serve as a liaison within the organization.
“Executives and other business leaders are typically responsible for creating strategic direction and goal setting,” writes Jeff Scott management consulting firm Accelare. “Business architects may play a part in helping define the strategy but more often their role is creating a more structured view of the strategy work so that it can easily be communicated to and consumed by others within the organization.”
While the executive team still maintains the overall vision, business architects make sure that vision is realistic, possible and profitable.
Business Architects Are Important for Growing Revenue
Technological advancement costs money, but it is supposed to make companies more profitable. With the continued rise of digital tools, companies weigh the costs and benefits of developing technological infrastructure.
Business architects need to focus on identifying revenue streams (often in relation to technology) and making sure the company is maximizing its value. The team at IRIS Business Architect explains that this goes beyond finding cost reductions or staff redundancies. Business architects explain why something is profitable and why certain steps will provide value. They take qualitative investments and provide quantitative benefits.
Business architects also review processes to make sure the value is maximized, and how much a company can benefit from further investment.
The value in investment is particularly important to note, as cost-cutting isn’t always the best solution for a business. For example, Balcroft Consulting Services founder and CEO Richard Cronin says companies have a habit of cutting training and stopping improvement projects when it’s time to cut costs. What looks good on paper can be detrimental to the organization as a whole.
Without training, employees are less effective at their jobs and less engaged with the company — reducing productivity. By stopping (or limiting) improvement projects, companies waste the money they invested and never reap the benefits of the full result.
Saving a few dollars in the short run diminishes revenue over time. Business architects identify when it is wise to spend (or save) money and the benefits of the move.
More Companies Have Business Architects
The need for business architects is growing, but not every company knows what to do with employees in this position. As companies better understand the value of business architects, their role will change, consultants Mike Clark and Whynde Kuehn explain in their whitepaper “The Evolution of the Business Architect.”
It’s actually not that different from the typical career path of business analysts. Many businesses underutilize their BAs at first, and then start to expand their roles and gain more value as they understand what BAs can actually do and how they can move the business forward.
Marketing accountability consultant Stephen Diorio shared some valuable insights into big data usage in an article for Forbes. Almost 90 percent of marketers cannot quantify the ROI on their data and analytics investments, despite the fact that the average company spends about eight percent of its marketing budget on data analytics. Also, only 38 percent of CMOs believe investments in data and people fully support their decision-making process.
While companies are allocating funds to analytics and business analysts, they aren’t getting the most out of their investments or using BAs to their fullest potential. The same can be said for business architects. An executive might identify the need for a business architect, but that architect might only step into their role fully after a year or more on the job.
Business Architects Need to be Clear About Their Roles
Despite the rise in demand for business architects, many companies are still confused as to what these professionals do.
“The Business Architect is the liaison between the business and IT: when the Data Architect ‘speaks data’ the Business Architect must speak data; when the business talks about its information needs, the Business Architect must ‘speak information,’” writes business architect Geoffrey Balmes. “The Business Architect must know enough about the information needs of the business to convey them to IT and enough about data constraints to translate them into something the business can understand.”
To clear up confusion on the role, the team at Capstera took some time to dispel the common misconceptions of business architects. These include:
A business architect is not a business analyst. While both employees might borrow skills from each other, their roles are significantly different.
A business architect is not a product manager. A product manager benefits from the systems and processes of the business architect, but they are mainly focused on the product.
A business architect is not a project manager. While the architect may work with project managers to implement better systems and processes, they do not work through each of the project’s individual steps or track its progress.
The business architect is a high-level position. Their job is to support the product managers and operations teams with better systems that project managers implement. Meanwhile, business analysts can help them with insight and research, but not with the actual development process.
That said, business architects use the skills of business analysis and project management to achieve their goals. Business architect is a natural next step for many people in these fields.
“For those in traditional Business Analyst and Project Management roles, one of the most opportunity-laden directions to evolve into is Business Architecture,” the team at enterprise architecture products and services provider Real IRM explains. “As businesses reposition themselves for digital transformation, new ecosystems and new markets appear. As we move from manual to automated, from process efficiency to customer-centricity, and from products to platforms, a myriad of new challenges emerges.”
In many cases, it is up to the business architect to define what they will do and won’t do, so that they can protect their careers and their value within the organization.
Business Architecture and Agile
One of the main benefits of business architects is that they can work within any type of organization. Many step into companies that utilize agile project management and are better able to provide direction and goals for internal operations teams.
“Agile teams are too often by nature self-organizing and do not always have line of site to other teams’ efforts,” writes business strategist Daniel Lambert. “Having an enterprise and business architecture practice in place making its framework available to all involved business and IT stakeholders will contribute in closing the external communication gaps that an agile team may experience.”
The result is that agile teams can still work on their own projects and within their own time and budget limits, but will also have the leadership and guidance of the business architect. In the past, we have discussed the role of business analysis in the agile framework, so it only makes sense that a business architect would have a seat at the table, guiding agile teams through their project goals and plans.
Business architects also have a role in companies that use SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) for their process improvements. “The business architect’s role is distinct and separate from the other SAFe architecture roles, but complements those roles by providing a baseline understanding of the business and context for the solution,” explains business architect Cari Brose.
The knowledge and skill sets of business analysts are valued in a SAFe environment. BAs who have become familiar with SAFe can easily slide into architect roles while using their knowledge of the business.
Comparing Business Architecture and Enterprise Architecture
As the role of the business architect continues to be defined and implemented across organizations, some companies are wondering how these architects work with enterprise architects and how their roles differ.
“Enterprise architecture (EA) is the practice of analyzing, designing, planning and implementing enterprise analysis to successfully execute on business strategies,” writes Sarah K. White at CIO. “EA helps businesses structure IT projects and policies to achieve desired business results and to stay on top of industry trends and disruptions using architecture principles and practices.”
Enterprise architects are meant to move businesses forward and make sure they are staying on the cutting edge of technology. Business architects determine which steps are most effective for immediate implementation and which tools companies might not be ready for yet.
Wolfgang Lindner, enterprise architect and IT strategist, says organizations need to incorporate business architecture into the EA process. This is because business architects have a clearer view of the company as a whole and how the project will affect team members outside of IT. For EAs to be successful, they need to have a big-picture view of what they are implementing.
“We consider business architecture to be an important domain within the broader scope of enterprise architecture,” says Marc Lankhorst, managing consultant at BiZZdesign. “Others take a more IT-oriented view of enterprise architecture, considering it to be enterprise-wide IT architecture, and position business architecture next to it as a separate discipline. A third group sees business and enterprise architecture as largely synonymous.”
As companies take on more business architects, they can determine how these employees help or supervise enterprise architects based on how the business is run and what it needs.
Many business analysts may not have the opportunity of advancing into an existing business architect position. However, by working closely with the executive team and highlighting the benefits of business architecture, BAs can convince their leaders to create the position and utilize business analysis skills to improve revenue streams across the company.