The concept of Business Architecture has come up in two different sessions I have been at in the last two weeks, one in the USA, and one in Europe. Put pretty simply the proposition is that if we are truly building solutions that will scale and will interact with each other as and when needed, internally and externally we need some further thought on how we define and express business process and requirements.

The USA session was at the Open Group, promoters of the forums to produce standards for ‘Boundaryless information flow’, the extended business processes that will cross more than one domain, entity and enterprise. The rational is that the desire will be to redesign business processes to be more effective and efficient to take advantage of this capability, and that means not looking at a part of the enterprise, not even looking at the whole enterprise, but looking at being able describe processes in such a way that they can be understood regardless of enterprise.
Seems too big a goal? Well its not about delivering it this year, it about making sure what is delivered this year takes into consideration the medium term of what is likely to become requested business requirements. Current status for this is that IBM and Capgemini will present a joint paper outlining the issues and recommending actions to the Open Group SOA working party at the next meeting. The proposition is the IT architects have the rigour and the methods and business people have the knowledge of specialist areas of the business, so how do you build a way of notating their knowledge into an enterprise business model.
Closer to home, in fact in the UK this week, I saw this brought down to a here and now level in a major local government authority. With 50,000 plus employees and a large geographic service area the challenges for improvement whether in cost or in the actual services provided to their citizens will not be meet by ‘more of the same’. The need is really rethink how things are done, and then to compare with existing processes, right down to checking the IT dependencies and resources at a server level.
Few years work right? Well not if you believe what I was being told and how using a Business Architecture approach with a set of tools from an Australian company has reduced this to several months work to produce a multi layer model. The abstractions ran from business process at the top to the physical entities at the bottom, the tools offered a variety of views to add ‘what if and dependencies’, and there is supposedly automatic feedback capturing the agreed changes so that separate groups can model and it will take into account unknown changes going on elsewhere.
Seen the theory, and the demo, but not yet the real factual output for some due diligence, which is the next stage, and here is where it gets interesting. Seems the only way we can really check this out is to take in expertise in local government authorities and their work. Why? We couldn’t work out if the processes were properly captured and if the optimisations were good as they required specialist business knowledge! We could see the outputs from an architectural point of view and they looked acceptable for use. It made me think though, when I realised that it was doing things at this level of modelling and optimisation.
If you are interested and this is not a recommendation for the company or its products as we have not carried out any due diligence at this stage, see Avolution.