Enterprise Architecture and Business Process Management: A match made in heaven for current state insights

Accurate, comprehensive insight into your current state is the basis for any transformation project. It’s impossible to work towards an optimized future state without having a clear understanding of where you are now. As innovation, globalization and digitization continue to demand new operating models and business capabilities from every organization, the pressure for enterprise architecture to help their organizations move swiftly forwards is on.

Business Process Management: from strategy to tangibility

Business Process Management (BPM) puts business processes into the context of what your organization is trying to achieve. By translating the organization’s strategic vision into operational goals and the specific activities that contribute to those operational goals, Business Process Management is vital for aligning the ‘what’ (the business strategy) with the ‘how’ (the information and operational technology enablers).

According to Gartner, “Business Process Management (BPM) is a discipline that uses various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve and optimize business processes. A business process coordinates the behavior of people, systems, information and things to produce business outcomes in support of a business strategy. Processes can be structured and repeatable, or unstructured and variable. Though not required, technologies are often used with BPM. BPM is key to align IT/OT investments to business strategy.”

In addition to delivering benefits like increased operational efficiency and compliance with risk or control standards, Business Process Management allows the translation of something happening at a high, strategic level into something real and tangible that is happening in and across your organization’s processes – and how these could or should be changed over the course of the coming months, quarters, or years.

Of course, these tangible process descriptions are key to comprehensive insight into the current state. Business Process Management is about putting business processes in the context of what your organization wants to achieve, and using resources effectively in a purposeful way to achieve the desired results. We want to relate business processes to our business objectives through capabilities, and by doing it this way, we create a way to achieve real goals – instead of the end goal being merely the description of the business processes. This way, we answer the ‘why?’, and can achieve real business value. By measuring relevant factors like costs, people, technology and available knowledge, we can evaluate our business processes based on the objectives set.

Let’s take the example of traditional retailers in a digitizing world. Retailers previously reliant on physical stores continue to experience rapid changes in the market, with online and mobile shopping becoming a core standard for consumers. The impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic over the past couple of years has only amplified and solidified these changes in consumer behavior. Retailers need to adapt or die, and this requires significant new business capabilities.

New business capabilities like webshops, online payment systems and the supporting infrastructure that these demand. It’s a simplistic example, but illustrates our point – retailers must expand their IT landscape in order to meet the demands of their changing market. They need to restructure processes like procurement, delivery and inbound orders.

Enterprise Architecture: Guiding the change

The value of Enterprise Architecture, or architecture in general, is in creating effective and structured approaches to develop and execute business strategy.  By applying principles and practices that guide the organization through the business, information, process and technology changes needed to execute their strategies, Enterprise Architecture acts as the navigator through change.

But a navigator cannot guide the way without a map. While the architecture is tasked with responding to both internal and external drivers, the need for accurate and comprehensive insight remains.

At ValueBlue, we asked a number of CIOs and Enterprise Architects to tell us some of the most common challenges they encounter throughout the architectural process. We were frustrated, but not surprised, to hear that too much time is still going into the collection of the information and data required to describe the current organizational state.

Mapping out how the organization works now, and how processes, data and technology are connected is still a common challenge.

Here are some of the questions causing the architects we asked to scratch their heads. Sound familiar?

  • What business capabilities does our company have?
  • How are these business capabilities actually supported by my business processes?
  • What does our infrastructure actually look like, and what applications and data belong to it?

The good news, though, is that combining Business Process Management (BPM) with Enterprise Architecture is a significant step towards helping you answer these questions with confidence and start working towards your desired future state.

Complete and accurate insights

Let’s go back to our example of the transforming retailer. Due to changing customer demands, the retailer needs to add new business capabilities in order to achieve sales objectives. To understand how the organization can achieve this, the current capabilities must be mapped out – along with their associated processes, data, applications and infrastructure.  What do their business processes look like, and how are their applications used in those processes? What type of data flows through those applications and how does the infrastructure support the organization’s applications and business processes?

Once the current state is known, the retailer can start looking at what needs to be changed or added to the existing infrastructure.  Will the existing applications work? Or are new ones required? Can existing processes be extended? Or do entirely new processes need to be created? The answers to these questions may seem ‘obvious’, but only with accurate current state mapping can the retailer really be sure of the optimal path they need for successful transformation.

Enterprise architecture: from current state to future state

Interested in how your company could transform in an agile way? Read more about it in our Agile Business Transformation poster.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

We’ve talked about the challenges of architects and CIOs when it comes to Enterprise Architecture and executing those big transformation projects. One of the key challenges is that we don’t have an accurate understanding of the current state. But when Business Process Management and Enterprise Architecture come together in tandem, you achieve more than just the gathering of additional information. You can guarantee a more accurate understanding of your current state. By describing and maintaining your business processes (and their associated components like software applications and business actors) you are many steps closer to a current state that is continuously up-to-date.

Starting that new project feels less daunting now. There is no more reinventing the wheel with constant data-gathering exercises. With the right tooling (have you seen BlueDolphin?), you can move swiftly forward, thanks to continuous maintenance of your current state data.

Encorporating BPM into your Enterprise Architecture.

Learn how you can map your business processes in BlueDolphin and how you can encorporate Business Process Management into your Enterprise Architecture.