Transformation Starts With Your Business Architecture
When I begin work with organizations on their content management projects, the project teams jump right in to focus on the technology execution: ‘lift and shift,’ automated compliance, on-premises to cloud. While all of these are worthy of discussion, to make sure our investment and work really counts we must first ask what business problems we’re trying to solve.
Modernizing content management means change at every desk, transforming how we do business with our customers. Taking on this or any major initiative should start with a deep understanding of what is most important for our customers and our ability as a business to deliver it.
Business architecture is defined as “a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.” Business architecture demonstrates how elements such as processes, human resources and information work together. It provides a foundation to aid in prioritizing investments and ensuring the day-to-day workings of the business support the larger strategies of the business.
When employees can see how their role connects to the goals of the organization, it builds engagement. Information management and governance programs are prone to losing momentum because stakeholders and users do not clearly see why changes are being made and where the organization is going. Business architecture draws a direct line between the vision and goals of the organization and the work taking place in IT or sales.
Business Architecture Aims to Understand and Solve Real Business Problems
Business architecture is comprised of a series of value streams, activities that the business performs to deliver measurable value to its customers. When a consumer purchases a product from a retailer, there are several discrete steps leading to the purchase. Each step has a defined outcome and value and offers the retailer an opportunity to improve the customer's experience.
For example, the customer may start by searching the market and comparing prices, then reading the details of the retailer’s online product description, making a decision, and finally, payment and delivery.
With business architecture we strive to understand our value streams and the experience of our clients at each stage of the value stream. We don’t try to tackle all value streams, but rather select those that are critical for our current business scenario, whether merger and acquisition, regulatory compliance or new product launch. Each stage should have its own success metrics to help identify problematic areas in the stream.
We then evaluate our ability to deliver at each stage of this selected value stream, i.e., business capabilities. Capabilities may be core to that customer service activity, such as payments, or supporting and shared, e.g., customer care.
We can drill down several levels of the capability map to more and more detail, until we have a small enough package of work to identify any software application or information needs. Gaps or redundancies in our ability to serve a critical service will become clear during this exercise. At the end, we should have a heat map of:
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- Priority value stream and its component stages.
- Internal business capabilities for that value stream that show room for improvement.
- And for content management, critical focus areas for the CMS program.
The business architecture practice answers the important questions:
- Where are we going? Why are we doing this? (Through the organization’s vision and goals.)
- What are the business problems we’re trying to solve? (Through the value stream analysis and customer journey.)
- Where do we start?
- Are we achieving what we set out to do? (Through key performance indicators, KPIs.)
This way, we can build a roadmap and stay focused. With so many elements in the content management ecosystem and the sheer volume of data, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Whenever I have felt unclear about next steps in the project, I come back to the problem I’m trying to fix. It could be the comptroller saying, ‘I can’t find my purchase order.’ In returning to this core problem, I get back on track and set the foundations for other use cases to address later.
In our example of value stream activity where the customer is researching and purchasing a product, the content management project may focus on a digital asset management solution (DAM) to maintain and publish product images or videos to demonstrate how to operate the product.
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Business Architecture, Like the Business Itself, Is Dynamic
Business architecture provides a framework to view the organization from multiple perspectives: its products and services, policies and rules, projects, vision and information. The organization will apply the architecture framework in different ways depending on the scenario. And as we transform the business — say, add new products, digitize services — the business architecture itself changes, so we will come back to it over time to ensure it continues to provide an accurate story of our business.
The business architecture practice gives us the view of our business that helps us to grow and transform in a more strategic way. Content management is not just a technology solution but an important part of the customer journey and our organization’s success.
About the Author
Andrea Malick is a Research Director in the Data and Analytics practice at Info-Tech, focused on building best practices knowledge in the Enterprise Information Management domain, with corporate and consulting leadership in content management (ECM) and governance.
Andrea has been launching and leading information management and governance practices for 15 years, in multinational organizations and medium sized businesses.