What is Business Architecture?

A business architecture is a precise description of an enterprise.  A business or other organization may want answers to the following questions about itself and its relationships to other organizations (the enterprise):

  • Why does the organization exist?
  • Who’s accountable to whom?
  • Who does what?
  • What patterns and rules does the enterprise follow?
  • What resources does the enterprise need?

Thus the business architecture documentation may describe goals, policies, governance, clients, suppliers, partnerships, programs, services, products, roles, functions, capabilities, processes, cycles, information, locations and more.  The work begins with an organization’s existing documents, such as a mission statement, organization chart, website, procedure manuals and IT documentation.  Managers and staff are consulted to summarize, detail, or otherwise refine this information into a business architecture.

There are many reasons to create a business architecture, including:

  • To clarify unwritten goals, rules or other fundamentals;
  • To establish a common language and understanding amongst staff who need to communicate;
  • To resolve gaps & overlaps between departments;
  • To prepare for changing relationships with clients, suppliers or partner organizations;
  • To analyze and change governance, accountabilities or responsibilities;
  • To explain how the organization works, to outsiders or new staff;
  • To discover opportunities for integrating functions or sharing information; and
  • To establish the scope of an IT project, so that it automates all similar functions and shares information.

The architecture may describe the organization’s current state (as-is) or target state (to-be).   The architect may also recommend changes to reach the target state, but the architecture is not a project plan.

A business architect uses a wide array of facilitation methods and models (diagrams, charts and text) to describe an enterprise.  The information and processes are diagrammed in a standard IT modeling language such as UML.   The Government of Ontario has established more methods and diagrams specifically for business architecture.  The architect can add and adapt these models according to an enterprise’s needs.

Business architecture is part of various Enterprise Architecture frameworks.  It constitutes Rows 1 and 2 of the Zachman Framework, and Phase B of TOGAF.  If an IT project is required, business architecture is followed by data, application, technology and security architecture, before designing and developing the solution.