Business Architecture: The Ins and Outs with Whynde Kuehn

Whether you’re learning about business architecture for the first time or dreaming of ways to grow your BA career into a business architecture role, my conversation with Whynde Kuehn will help you discover the value of this role in an organization and what you can do to bridge that gap in your career.

In this video, you’ll discover:

  • The difference between business architecture and business analysis
  • The foundational skill sets needed as a business architect
  • How to become a business architect

If you’re interested in learning more about business architecture, be sure to check out Whynde Kuehn’s new book Strategy to Reality: Making the Impossible Possible for Business Architects, Change Makers and Strategy Execution Leaders by visiting https://strategyintoreality.com/.

 

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Hello, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging The Gap here today with Whynde Kuehn to talk about all things business architecture. Whynde, why don’t you just start to tell us a little bit about what business architecture is and maybe why it’s important to us and why you are so passionate about this topic.

Business Architecture Defined

WHYNDE KUEHN: Absolutely. Very simply said, business architecture is a macro level view of an organization, of everything the organization does from end to end, very high level of elevation. And specifically, business architecture includes or can include 10 domains. It represents the capabilities of an organization, what it does. It represents the value streams. Very high level flows of the organization delivers value. It includes the vocabulary. What’s a customer, what’s a partner, what’s an asset, those words that we use. And then other focal points, including organization, stakeholders, products, policies, strategies, metrics and initiatives.

And so that’s the what, but why I’m so passionate is the why. It’s the how we can use business architecture, and it’s kind of a Swiss army knife, which can make it confusing to people. But I like to say there are three sort of value propositions of business architecture. The first is that business architecture plays a role. You appreciate the Bridging the Gap to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. It is a discipline that can help inform strategic decisions. For example, understanding impacts, it can help us to translate strategies. For example, to catalog the changes that need to be made by value streams and capabilities across business units and products and geographies. Then it helps to shape initiatives and the scope at a very high level. That’s the first thing is translating strategy.

The second is helping organizations to design or redesign. Again, macro level blueprint. For example, to streamline our systems, or to build reusable solutions around what we do. And then the third is just making better business decisions and bringing this sort of holistic perspective to, you name it, risks or cost or compliance, sustainability, investments, and many more things.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: It sounds like an organization that has their business architecture in place is going to be a really well run competitive, forward thinking, innovative, evolving organization. Is that really what you’ve seen in practice?

WHYNDE KUEHN: I’m just smiling because you couldn’t have said it better. Competitive, or if they’re a government or non-profit, they’re going to better deliver on the mission. They’re competitive because they can get ideas into action, and more effective because of the way they design and can streamline. So you could not have said it better, exactly.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Well, thank you so much for that. Our audience here at Bridging the Gap is mostly business analysts. Our core teachings are around process analysis, like in process analysis, use cases, data modeling, which goes to that glossary of terms that you were talking about, and how to manage a whole project or really an initiative. It would be part of that translating strategy to reality, but maybe not so much the strategy piece. I know you work with a lot of people who were business analysts and have expanded into business architecture roles. Could you talk about the difference between those two roles and the difference in what they need to bring from a skill set perspective?

The Difference Between Business Architecture and Business Analysis

WHYNDE KUEHN: Oh, you bet. Because these are mutually beneficial, like tight, tight, tight partnership roles. We are better together.

Just some ways to think about. So business architecture is more of like the macro scale. If we think the scope we look at, it’s often going to be either full enterprise wide or maybe we’re looking at a capability of the organization from an enterprise perspective, so the scope is broader.

Second, we’re going to get involved, as you’re saying, earlier upstream as we’re translating ideas, we’re going to shape and describe the change at a very macro level. In other words, we want to do something to the payment management capability. And here’s a really high level people process, technology changes, but we’re not going to go into the detail.

This also means that we have different deliverables, different scenarios that we’re involved in as well. That’s a little bit of the how we might describe the disciplines, but we would actually, literally, tie things together in that you could tie a requirement, I’m speaking generally; however you define those. You could tie a requirement back to the capability that it is improving. Now we have traceability back to the strategies and the objectives and the other things going on in the enterprise. And as you mentioned, business architecture can bring the common vocabulary for everyone to use as well.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Across the organization.

WHYNDE KUEHN: Exactly.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: And I feel like one of the challenges that BAs get stuck in, we might create a glossary for our project and then it gets lost. So much of what we create that could be holistic kind of gets lost in the documentation for our project. How does a business architect transcend that, so to speak.

WHYNDE KUEHN: That is an extremely important question because this is baked into the approach. Business architecture, in its spirit and intent, is meant to be an enterprise discipline. For us to transcend that, we actually bring together a cross-functional group of business people, business sponsorship, business people in a room to build the business architecture to define the terms at a high level, the capabilities, the value streams, and then they continue to own and steward that going forward. It has to be business owned and driven to transcend and to be able to do these cool things that we’re talking about.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Yeah, and I can imagine your projects just run so much more effectively once you have that organizational understanding in place.

WHYNDE KUEHN: Exactly. It’s like put in the time up front to speed up later. Exactly.

Business Architecture: Foundational Skill Sets

LAURA BRANDENBURG: So what are some of the key skills and mindsets that are really essential to be successful in business architecture?

WHYNDE KUEHN: Yeah, I like to think of six of them. The first is just being very business minded. I know that sounds obvious and that’s pretty natural, but, it’s really thinking business first. Even if we’re doing digital transformation or building solutions, it’s really saying, “What does the business need?” This is really about the business.

The second is a focus on value and a focus on value in the bigger picture. Not just what’s the value of maybe delivering something to the internal person, but how does this fit in the bigger picture with our customers and stakeholders. So, value.

The third is related to big picture thinking and just being an enterprise advocate because that’s how I think about it. There are lots of people that maybe work in silos, but someone’s got to be an advocate for the enterprise and what’s best for the bigger picture.

The fourth skill or sort of mindset that I like to think about is around information abstraction in synthesis. The ability to see patterns, the ability to see similarities. “Hey, you’re doing this over here, but so are you. I know it seems different, but is there a way to build a solution or collaborate?”

Then I would also say bridge builders and dot connectors. That is just naturally part of what we do.

And then lastly would be just visualizers and storytellers, helping people to take complex ideas and boil them down into simple concepts and pictures and influence people towards change.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: The picture that you’ve just given, sometimes I think I had this vision of business architecture being in this kind of almost up in this marble tower of we’re going to go figure all the things out. But that’s really relationship driven. It does not happen outside of everything else. It’s within. There are a lot of relationships and cultivating relationships within that.

WHYNDE KUEHN: I love that because the business architecture teams around the world that are successful again and again, they do two things. They focus on delivering value with business architecture and they focus on building partnerships.

Business architecture, itself, is a bit of a scaffolding. And it does have a unique role, as I was saying, to inform and translate strategy, but it’s a partner; it’s another perspective that we can add to so many disciplines and decisions. We’ve got to be out there building relationships. We can’t be in the corner. It’s not about the models, it’s about the value we deliver.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Yeah. And I know from one of our conversations, historically, one of the things we share as a mindset is really a very practical orientation, and that’s definitely coming out of what you’re sharing here. And it can feel, the scaffolding can feel a bit abstract around business architecture. Do you have an example of how somebody has really used it to deliver value for the business? Or how do you coach people to really ensure it’s really best? Really practical and valuable for the organization.

WHYNDE KUEHN: It’s all in the approach of leading with value, not leading with model. Honestly, I say there’s a secret of business architecture, and the secret is it’s not about business architecture. I know that sounds silly coming from me, but it’s about what we do with it. The way to make it work is we literally lead with “why.”

When we start business architecture in an organization, and by the way, this is if it’s organic, bottoms up or top down from the CEO, we pick one thing that we’re going to do. Maybe we say we’re going to help translate strategy, or maybe we’re going to help with investment decision making. Maybe we’re going to help with application portfolio management.

We’re going to decide how are we going to deliver value first. Then we build the baseline, which is capabilities and value streams and information concepts, minimally, the least we need to do. And then we’re going to use it. In my example, let’s say we’re using it for application portfolio management. We might tie some capabilities to applications. We start creating views. We might start to see some heat maps of where we have system redundancy or some changes we want to make, and then we’re going to help people sort of see the story, see the value, and then we’re going to come around and do it again. And we’re going to find another scenario. And if we don’t have the business architecture knowledge base where it needs to be, we’re going to build out a little bit more.

We’re going to use it. That’s absolutely the key. It’s essentially building the plane while you’re flying it. But that’s how we make it real. That’s also how we help organizations find their way. Because how organizations use business architecture is a little bit different. It’s also about the mindset and helping people to think about things at the enterprise perspective and crossing business units at macro level. It’s often some organizational change there, so it’s bit by bit one step at a time.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Yeah. I love that because I feel like when we’re embedding business analysis in the organization, it often needs to be the same way. Like you start with that first project that just maybe is a little different than what the organization has done before and you need to use the tools effectively to help that project versus bringing the whole kit and caboodle, so to speak, and demanding that.

How to Become a Business Architect

LAURA BRANDENBURG: What I really like about business architecture, I feel like it’s a career path for somebody to rise up who is a great business analyst, who doesn’t want to be a project manager, maybe doesn’t want to be a product manager, doesn’t necessarily want to go into management itself, but really wants to analyze at a higher level. And I could imagine people in our community are listening to this and are like, “This is the role that I’ve been thinking about for a while.” What would you suggest to them as a path if they’re in a business analyst role and this is where they want to go next in their career?

WHYNDE KUEHN: Absolutely. Well, this is not self-serving, but I wrote a book called Strategy to Reality, and I wrote it with all my heart for current and aspiring business architecture practitioners. It breaks down all of business architecture and helps us kind of understand the what and why. That is actually a good place to start because there’s a lot of information out there and it helps you sort it out, so that’s a place to start.

Then there’s an organization called the Business Architecture Guild. That is the industry not-for-profit organization around business architecture. There’s a body of knowledge called the Biz Box. There’s also a certification called the CBA, or the Certified Business Architect.

A next nice step is to join the Guild. Start learning about the resources. If you want to take it to the next level, get your CBA and the business architecture discipline is such that this juncture, having a CBA and getting into this field is very, very doable. You’ll be still very distinguished. The demand is growing and getting the CBA is just the first level of understanding the body of knowledge. But that prepares you enough, then, to start looking for a job or engaging in the community. I even see people that really want to be in this field, they’ll just go volunteer. They’ll find a nonprofit or a small business and they start using business architecture for them to start sort of getting their footing and trying it, and then the opportunities really come from there.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: We see the same thing with business analysts. I have to say go and start doing business analysis somewhere, whether it’s in a non-profit, on a project, a new company, just like taking that first step.

Is there a way that somebody who is a senior business analyst today could apply a model or a piece in their project just to experiment with a tool and kind of build some of that experience in the work that they’re already doing?

WHYNDE KUEHN: That is an excellent question. Absolutely. That’s so good I should have mentioned that. For sure. Start bringing those approaches to what you do. The key when you do that is you still have to think enterprise. Think global, think enterprise, but bring it local, bring it to your project. For example, on an effort, maybe you’re writing some requirements and you’re tying them back to the overall capabilities so that you can sort of create an overall view of change and how that’s touching stakeholders that are involved in those capabilities. But just make sure the capabilities are from the enterprise perspective, not getting too detailed. That is a brilliant idea and that is also how business analysts can be change agents for business architecture in an organization.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: I love that kind of on the job career growth is one of our, definitely our pieces of advice.

You talk a little bit about this, but I do want to give you a chance. This is a relatively new book. I know that it’ll be out a month or two by the time we launch this video, but Strategy to Reality. Congratulations. I love this cover and the colors. All of it is just beautiful.

Do you want to tell us a little bit more about the book? You told us who it is for, but what somebody might really take away from reading it?

WHYNDE KUEHN: You bet. So the book casts a vision around strategy, execution as an enterprise muscle with end to end teams working together, accountability, business ownership, a function that is as important as other functions. We don’t always think about it that way.

And then it’s focus. The book is really unpacking the “What is business architecture?” :Why does it matter?” There’s an entire chapter on just different usage scenarios for it.

And then how does an organization, kind of a playbook, how does an organization go about establishing business architecture in their organization successfully and give it the ability to scale. And then also how do you relate business architecture to disciplines, like business analysis or customer experience design or strategies?

I wrote the book. It’s oriented a little bit nontraditionally. It’s oriented around questions, but those are the questions that I hear and I wanted people to have sort of a bite size way to consume this book. Whether it was cover to cover or like a reference guide they can go back to and consult from. I wrote it for them and because of them. Just really excited to help people out on their journey.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Yeah. And I could just tell from your energy around the book this is coming from a total place of service and a give back to the community and you are just so excited to have it out there.

Learn More: With Strategy to Reality

LAURA BRANDENBURG: Where do they go to find a copy of the book if they would like one?

WHYNDE KUEHN: Yeah. You can go to StrategyIntoReality.com. If you go to the book, there’s a place where you can see book orders, you can find it in your region. However, just simply said, you can go on Barnes and Noble or Amazon or Book Depository, pretty much whatever book seller is in your region, you should be able to find the book there.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: That’s awesome. And we’ll leave a link to that below in the video notes and in the blog post as well.

Well thank you. Whynde, is there anything else that you would like to share before we close off?

WHYNDE KUEHN: I just want to thank you for your time today. Thank you so much. I really appreciate our just alignment on these ideas, the practical, the delivering value, the service. Just all the best to you and thank you for all you do for the discipline and just wishing everyone the best of luck.

LAURA BRANDENBURG: All right. Thank you so much.

More About Whynde Kuehn

Whynde Kuehn is the Founder of S2E Transformation, helping clients bridge the gap between strategy and execution, and achieve their greatest visions for business and digital transformation in a practical, business-focused way. She is recognized globally as a highly sought-after pioneer and thought leader in business architecture, with a distinguished track record of creating successful strategic business architecture teams worldwide. Whynde has worked with an extensive array of organizations to build their capacity for end-to-end strategy execution, including Fortune 500 and global enterprises, governmental and non-profit organizations, social enterprises, startups, and cross-sector initiatives. Whynde is the creator of Biz Arch Mastery, a dedicated online platform and community that helps professionals master the art and science of business architecture. She is also a co-founder of the Business Architecture Guild, a Fellow with the Institute for Digital Transformation, and a member of the Fast Company Executive Board. Whynde is author of the book Strategy to Reality.

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