by Bill Wimsatt and Stacy Rexroad
Part of the Oracle Experiences in Enterprise Architecture article series
Published November 2012
As a fundamental component of Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Architecture plays a critical role in many EA projects. Business architects help an organization define the architecture models, governance procedures, and transition initiatives needed to coordinate business and IT, especially at the outset of a large or transformative project.
Business architects are not just concerned with the current state and future state of the IT infrastructure, but also with how a business operates on top of its IT investments. This includes all of the associated business functions, business services, business processes, business information, business locations, and business roles. As shown in Figure 1, Business Architecture helps to elucidate the relationships among the strategy, operations and technology models of a business.
Business architects often get involved at the start of an IT project to confirm business goals and corporate objectives, identify valuable relationships both inside and outside the organization, verify IT standards, and establish a governance structure for managing change as a project evolves. They achieve this perspective by asking a series of key questions.
Strategy questions might include the following: Where is the company going? Is it becoming more global? Is management planning to conduct mergers and acquisitions? Is the business moving into new markets or expanding into existing markets?
Next they analyze fundamental operations: Are these operations centralized or decentralized? Does the company operate in multiple geographic locations and, if so, is business conducted in a unified and consistent manner from region to region?
Finally, Business Architects examine processes. How seamless and cohesive are the company's fundamental business processes? Do they differ from one line of business to the next? Is the flow of information through them traceable? Do they align closely with the company's operational structure?
After considering these questions, Business Architects explore how technology intersects with the organization's strategies, processes, and operational characteristics. How does the company exploit its technology investments to build for the future? In many cases, those technology investments are significant. The task facing business architects is to direct those investments to fulfill corporate strategy, and optimize those investments to meet current and future operational needs.
Consider Brink's, a leading provider of secure transportation and cash management services. In order to grow its business, Brinks management realized that they needed to understand how to globalize the company's operations and processes. Some customers were classified under national accounts, others under local ones, each with their own contracts and procedures. While this breakdown was simple and straightforward on a local level, it didn't allow Brink's to achieve that much vaunted "360 degree view" of each account.
While the branches used some of the same information systems, they often utilized different business processes and manual, disconnected contract management. This made it difficult to obtain a true picture of each customer with respect to the appropriate products and contracted services. In addition, each branch had its own business rules and many branches had created their own price lists, leading to an overly complex pricing model that lacked standardization and further contributed to revenue leakage.
Optimizing revenue and simplifying contract-management processes was the tactical objective. In addition, Oracle business architects encouraged Brink's to step back and consider the larger issues as well. As they saw it, Brinks didn't just have an invoicing problem or a contract problem. They had a customer experience problem.
Oracle conducted a comprehensive business value chain analysis to determine the organizational design that would help Brink's achieve an optimal value stream and business operation. This exercise helped the company achieve a high level of continuity among the various phases of the project. As it turned out, it was also an important aspect of user adoption: as Brink's built a road map for completing its Revenue Management project, the implementation team identified change agents who could help move the project forward.
The goal of Brink's revenue management project was to integrate core operations and achieve a more optimized business flow. The guiding principles of the project included the following:
Brink's used the Oracle Architecture Development Process (OADP) to structure the effort. OADP follows a proven methodology that is flexible enough to customize to individual company objectives. Oracle business architects built a "business transformation roadmap" and conducted a process evaluation for moving the project forward. They also evaluated the cultural readiness of various regions and lines of business to identify areas that could take the lead by participating in a pilot. The process evaluation included a "readiness assessment" to make sure managers understood what would be involved, what controls needed to be in place, what types of training would be required, and what types of roles and resources would need to be filled within the organization.
For example, the business architects determined that it didn't make sense to deploy a centralized billing system if the billing operations were going to be conducted in the branch offices. Thus, they standardized their billing capabilities and worked with the finance department to recreate its operation to support a centralized billing model. They also encouraged Brink's to coordinate information across branches, to create consolidated invoices for large accounts, and to share customer information based on common master records for the entire organization (see case study).
Today all field-billing personnel at Brink's utilize a central finance shared service driven by standard KPIs, standard data elements, and standard business processes. The new system will help the branches improve revenue and also eliminate an administrative burden.
Sometimes you don't know ahead of time when your technology project is indeed strategic. For practical and economic reasons, the stakeholders often limit the scope and make decisions to mitigate risk. But when the goals are clear and management seeks results, it pays off to keep an open mind. As a consequence, strategic planning commonly considers the extent to which business processes need to be transformed versus merely modified or improved. Management activities should include a cultural assessment, stakeholder and impact analysis, engagement plan, communication strategies, risk assessments, management plans, and overall adoption of change. One of the fundamental issues involves establishing standardized business processes for the entire company. In Brink's case, Oracle business architects brought an outside perspective and helped facilitate an important dialogue - one that made a profound improvement in their overall operations and ability to manage the business.
Bill Wimsatt is Director, Oracle Business Architect, Oracle
Stacy Rexroad is Director of the Program Management Office, Brink's