Is a Charter Necessary to Start a Business Architecture Discipline?
By Betsy Burton
Is a Business Architecture Charter Necessary?
This is a very common question from clients, particularly from clients in extra-extra-large organizations. I will also be honest that this was a topic that I used to debate with one of my colleagues some years back.
The answer to the question is, creating a charter may be key to helping your business architecture team focus its operations. However, it must not preclude or limit the ability for your business architecture team to immediately deliver value.
In other words, it is better to start doing business architecture and use the charter as a way to document the scope and focus of your efforts, rather than use a charter as a way to gain permission to even begin doing business architecture work.
What is a Business Architecture Charter?
A business architecture charter is a document or presentation that outlines how a business architecture discipline will operate.
A business architecture charter must be a dynamic document/repository that the business architecture team uses to clarify its work. A charter is not going to be very interesting to executives or peers, unless they are specifically accountable for the business architecture team.
What should a Business Architecture Charters Include?
- A charter should document your organization’s agreement as to what business architecture and what EA means within the context of your business (See Leading Enterprise Business Architecture in 2022).
- A charter might highlight the organizational structure for a business architecture discipline. What the different roles should be today and over time.
- A charter should provide some detail as to the needs and wants of various sponsors, peers and related teams. It should focus on the top 3-5 executive sponsors, 3-5 influencers and 3-5 critical peers/collaborators.
- A charter must provide some basis for the scope and focus of your business architecture work (see Aragon Research Business Architecture Framework 2022). In other words, is the scope the entire enterprise or is it specific parts of the business? Is the focus a specific business transformation effort or is it focused on evolving the business?
- A charter must include some metrics that can be used to guide the effort as well as report back on its progress. These metrics must be reflective of the overall business strategy as defined by the scope and focus (See Defining High Impact Business Value Metrics In The Digital Era).
- A charter should include governance that clearly defines the responsibilities of the team relative to other business and technology teams, as well as the responsibilities within the business architecture team (see Aragon Research’s Governance Framework: Achieving Business Outcomes).
- A charter could be used to communicate some of the early business value-driven capabilities and tools, such as a base business capability model or a future-state business model.
- A charter is also a great place to document the working budget, accomplishments, references, and best practices for the team.
The business architecture charter must not be a one-and-done type of document. It must be reflective of the on-going efforts and operations of the business architecture team as it realizes, clarifies, and guides the business strategy-driven future state.
What Are The Worst Practice Uses for Charters?
The worst practices for a business architecture charter, is for it to be the first and foremost deliverable that business and technology leaders see.
As I have said in other blogs, your senior executives do not care about business architecture or even EA. Your senior executives care about how your team is creating deliverables that helped them make Investment decisions.
The first deliverables you create for your senior executives and business peers should be focused on how you can help them address their challenges and opportunities. If they then ask you what you are doing, you might show them your charter. But the reality is, the primary audience for a charter is your business architecture team.
Another worst practice is to create a charter and then wait for someone to “sign it off” before you start working. This is very common in extra-large organizations where people feel that they can’t even move without senior executive permission. In most cases this will result in stagnation.
Last, business architecture is not about your charter. It’s about what have you done lately to help the business achieve the future state. Don’t expect that anyone will have read your charter.
It’s not about what you think you’re doing; it’s about if and how your executives and peers perceive you are delivering value.
What Are the Best Practice Uses for Charters?
The best practice use for charters is to create a high-level presentation that outlines the areas identified above. Don’t spend too much time on the first iteration of your charter. It is much more effective to understand the scope and focus of what you’re doing, and then start doing it.
I have seen too many organizations that have spent months defining their charter and not delivering value to management. The longer you wait to deliver value the more you are creating the risk that management will begin to question what you are even doing.
It is much better to define a quick high-level charter that is updated as your business architecture effort evolves and grows.
Another best practice is to use common methodologies to express the operations of your business architecture team. This might include a governance RASCI chart, key performance indicators, common roles, and organizational diagrams.
Last, but certainly not least, use your charter to reflect innovations.
We are seeing hybrid roles emerge, such as AI-enabled business architect, business security architect and digital business architect. Use your charter to document how you are evolving and innovating your business architecture practice.
A business architecture charter must not be primarily focused on making a business case for doing business architecture, or EA for that matter. The creation of a charter document must not just be a request for approval to move forward.
As we have discussed in previous blogs, most executives don’t care about EA or business architecture per se. Executives care about how you are helping them make effective investment decisions.
A charter will be used primarily by your business architecture team and its direct sponsors to help scope and focus a business architecture effort. It must continually reflect the context of your strategy, business, culture, people and deliverables.
A business architecture charter reflects the value your business architecture; it is not value unto itself.
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