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Business Capability Driven Enterprise Architecture

        posted by , June 08, 2011

If you were tasked with planning this pyramid: where would you start?

Business Capabilities

Common EA Pitfall — Bottom-up Planning

Bottom-up planning is the wrong approach to Enterprise Architecture.

Let's say for example that you start planning at the infrastructure level. Infrastructure is the foundational base that supports information, applications, business processes and capabilities. There is no way to know what the base should look like without understanding the layers on top of it.

Despite the weaknesses of bottom up planning — it is a common approach to Enterprise Architecture.

Common EA Pitfall — Hearsay Business Architecture

Enterprise Architects usually report to IT and have little leverage with the business beyond personal relationships.

This leads many EAs to try to understand the business by talking to IT line managers — instead of interfacing directly with the business. Much is lost in translation when you gather business architecture through IT people.

When business strategy is misinterpreted — the impact reverberates throughout the entire architecture.

Business Capabilities Pitfall

Common EA Pitfall — Processes First

Another common EA pitfall is to dive into business processes without looking at business capabilities.

Processes can be quite complex. Have you ever tried to explain the gaps in a front-to-back process to someone? It can be just as daunting as explaining complex technical concepts.

Processes implement business capabilities — it is better to agree on what the business wants to achieve and why before diving into the details of how.

Business Capability Planning

Business Capability Driven Enterprise Architecture

Business Capabilities are simple descriptions of business functionality. They are usually broken down into a hierarchy of two or three levels.

Capabilities are essentially a business vocabulary that describe what the business does. Business goals and strategy can be specified in terms of capabilities. Metrics can be defined at the capability level.

business capability example

There are several benefits of business capability driven enterprise architecture:

1. Define what the business requires in a standardized hierarchical model.

2. Top down planning — define why and what before how.

3. Business capabilities can be standardized across industries.

4. Business capabilities can be represented as simple visual models that are easy to communicate.

5. Defining metrics at the capability level is a great tool for aligning IT with business and tends to simplify architectural planning.

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