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What is a business architect and how do you become one?

Business architecture is a foundational practice that bridges the gaps between business and technology.
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A business architect is a link between strategy and execution. It is similar to how a service level objective helps set the stage for service level agreements between the business and its users. Business architecture helps define scope. This is ironic because business architecture as a career sort of fell into my lap and fit the scope of my desired career trajectory perfectly.

I have an MBA and a master's in business intelligence and analytics. This role supports my career goal of bridging the gap between business and technology. When a recruiter approached me about the position, I knew my place on the team was a match made in heaven. I enjoy challenges and exposure to new things, and it's been an incredible pivot for my career.

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I want to share a few reasons why I believe the business architecture practice should be better known.

What is a business architect?

An enterprise architecture is comprised of different kinds of components (business strategy and outcome, technology platforms and infrastructure, and security), and a business architecture encompasses how all these things come together to best serve the business. It is a component of enterprise architecture.

My responsibility as a business architect is to manage the business architecture practice and its governance. I primarily focus on establishing standards and best practices for our team's deliverables and developing relationships within our organization. I also collect information on our business and map domains (including capabilities, value streams, information, and organization) according to the business architecture framework to gain insights.

I think business architecture is foundational to organizations today. A strategy is a plan of action to achieve a goal. My team receives business ideas and potential projects that align with our organization's strategies and influence our performance as a leader in our market. After exploring the business areas potentially impacted—what we call discovery—we take these business ideas and potential projects and define the scope and identify impacts, risks, assumptions, constraints, and the overall resources necessary for execution.

We approach discovery from a multidimensional, holistic view of our organization from the lens of business needs. This permits business architecture to align strategies across business units, improving decision making; reducing operational duplicates, timeline fluctuations, and budget increases; and supporting business and IT execution. In my experience, this approach is unique to business architecture.

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How do business architecture and technology architecture differ?

A business architect represents the business and its needs. Unlike IT architects, business architects do not practice data, application, or technical architecture. We provide solutions from a business lens, establishing strategy alignment, which may be technology-enabled. But we do not define the technology component.

The business analyst role is commonly confused with the business architect position. While a business analyst defines requirements for specific business cases and is typically project-focused, a business architect provides cross-portfolio transparency. Our efforts provide a basis for business analysts to drill down into granular requirements.

What are a business architect's typical deliverables?

You'll mainly hear of a business architect using capability maps or providing mapping of domains. We map out the solutions of business ideas, and initiatives are the deliverables. I believe the true deliverable is achieved once a practice is fully integrated within an organization's ecosystem. It utilizes the business architecture framework that is solidified by its business strategy, which a business architect, or team of architects, helps put in place.

I think one of the coolest aspects of business architecture is its exposure to almost all areas of an organization. To represent the business, you must understand the business areas' capabilities and their deliverables. Depending on the project, we collaborate with various business units, partners, and vendors. We also commonly collaborate with neighboring technology teams and our project management office during the development of business solutions and the delivery of a project.

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What does a day in the life of a business architect look like?

A typical day for me consists primarily of meetings and emails. I'm relatively new to my team and business architecture. I try to make time to learn about the different business areas within my company, including its capabilities and applications. I've also been trying to understand the ins and outs of our business architecture framework. I've been busy with baseline mapping (core domains capabilities, value streams, information, and organization) and developing best practices for our team.

What steps can someone take to become a business architect?

The Business Architecture Guild offers a certificate to become a certified business architect (CBA). There are also plenty of online courses available to gain knowledge in the space. Depending on your team's needs, there are variations of a business architect that require specific skills. But at the core, you must be a subject matter expert of your organization. Communication skills are a key soft skill, as collaborating is where we spend most of our time. Problem-solving skills are beneficial when building out complex solutions. It also helps to be a self-starter.

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How does business architecture benefit organizations?

The value-add of business architecture is its ability to explain what a business does, provide transparency for smart decision making, and improve the business outcomes from planning and executing initiatives. You'd be amazed at how far your solutions can go once you understand what you're solving for in the first place. You provide so much stakeholder value once the needs of the business and the strategies to best serve it are on one accord.

Topics:   Day in the Life   Career   Business  
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Renee Biggs

Renee Biggs is a Business Architect for Independence Blue Cross. She has a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Business Intelligence & Analytics. Renee specializes in analytics, using data to gain insights for smarter decisions and to improve business performance. More about me

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