Businesses today are swept up in widespread change and market disruption. Technology changes including the advent of social media are forcing companies to embrace an ever-increasing pace of change. Communicating with customers can occur any time, any place, and any medium. Organizations must create broad new visions to keep up with this fast-changing environment. System implementations or enhancements are often used in the midst of prevalent change to help bring these new visions to life.
When undertaking an implementation that furthers the enterprise vision, the foundation of success is in consistently aligning deliverables, milestones, and project decisions with the goals of the business initiative. Well-intentioned projects can lose any real value when the focus is on implementation milestones, rather than meeting true business needs.
The Business Architect
When approaching a new initiative, the key designers and decision makers are often pulled from the organization’s current Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). SMEs are, by definition, experts in a specific subject. They know one piece of the puzzle. Pulling together the pieces to create a cohesive vision requires a broad overarching view made up of cross functional expertise and a deep understanding of the often complex and conflicting goals of the project. Business Architects are the answer.
The Business Architect has business operation improvement skills and business system implementation expertise. Business Architects help you make the right decisions based on best practices and lessons learned in similar projects across your industry.
The ideal Business Architect is cross-trained and consistently works in both Operational Improvement and System Implementation. The two skill sets are complementary. The Operational Improvement skill is used in the project to define the new operational workflows. The system background allows the Business Architect to easily integrate and assist in the functional/technical design and definition of the system solution. The architect utilizes industry-standard Project Management methodologies to understand the foundation and create blueprints of the best way forward to ensure that the project outcomes will be sustainable and valuable to the organization. The job of a Business Architect is to ask better questions and elicit detailed information from the teams.
Experience and training allows the architect to predict potential pitfalls and asses both current and future workflows to determine the optimal implementation decisions. The goal of the Business Architect is to work with the team to design the best solution for the business team, leaving them not only with a successful technical implementation, but a sustainable business implementation for the solution as well.
At Zelus, we recommend Business Architects use a series of tools and methodologies to assist the project team across the different phases of the implementation.
Gather Information: The Business Architect works with your SMEs to enable them to dig into the details to understand each process, its business value, problems, and any process conflicts within the organization. A process conflict occurs when one process negatively impacts another upstream or downstream process. The goals of the department using the process are being met, however the needs of the upstream or downstream teams that leverage the outcomes of the process are not efficiently met. As an example, an enrollment process may meet the needs of enrolling the member in the enrollment system, but may not meet all the needs of the customer service area that interacts with that member. Simple changes like adding the contact preference for the member or obtaining an email address during the enrollment process adds value for Customer Service without adversely affecting the Enrollment Team. An ideal Business Architect is trained to strategically analyze the entire process and utilizes specific interviewing techniques to pull the knowledge from the SMEs across the teams. They are able to quickly evaluate the information gathered to help shape the operational decisions for the new workflows to meet the needs across processes and departments.
Design: A Business Architect is a key participant in the functional requirements and operational design process. The Business Architect uses his system expertise to build a strong partnership with the IT and business teams to help define the “how” for the realistic solutions that will fulfill the enterprise goals. Our research and experience has shown that integrated business participation in designing the end product is key to delivering a viable solution that meets the business goals. Examples include:
- Data Modeling/Mapping: Understand what data is vital to the implementation and ensure the right data is being pulled and populated to the appropriate systems by referencing and comparing the planned end-state workflow into the data migration plan.
- User Interface Design: Determine a streamlined and effective interface for end user satisfaction, by reviewing the data exchange decisions with the proposed workflows.
- User Acceptance Testing Scenario and Test Case Development: Truly test operational readiness by aligning user acceptance testing with the real-life business scenarios by modeling the business process from new workflow to new workflow.
- Communicate: A Business Architect continually communicates with the key stakeholders of the organization to understand implementation issues and success, deadlines met and missed, and impacts to upstream and downstream processes due to inevitable issues that occur in every implementation.
Part of the Team
The Business Architects hold a unique role in the project structure. During our many implementations, we always see a gap in the communication and design process between the project team and end users. It can be seen in project outcomes in many ways: missed requirements, inefficient user workflows, lack of user adoption, and the need for workarounds or the development of the dreaded Phase II Project that will never get funding. The Business Architect works as the bridge between the Business SMEs, end users, and the vendor and internal technology teams while keeping an overarching view for the organization as a whole. They hold the role of tying the technology implementation back to the business.
At Zelus, we believe the ideal Business Architect must be exceptionally nimble and flexible. Business Architects must have the experience and skill sets to move beyond a traditional project management role. If critical issue arises, the Business Architect has the skill set to actively facilitate SMEs and technology teams to identify the problem and determine possible solutions, rather than being passive assessors. Business Architects must be involved in the scoping and de-scoping discussion and decisions. Often a scope change in one process has a significant negative impact on an upstream or downstream process that the original decision-maker did not understand because they were focused only on their process, their deadlines, and their goals. When facing key decisions in an implementation, the Business the Architect is constantly asking: As an organization, what decision gets us closer to our operational goal and creates the best available final solution for the end-user teams?
Beyond process, Zelus delivers results. Zelus helps clients build a strong operational platform through process, training, and implementation expertise. Zelus uses a flexible, critical-thinking based approach to assess and validate business challenges. We are focused on improving profitability, streamlining operations, boosting employee productivity and performance, and increasing customer satisfaction to maintain our clients’ bottom-line. We work with our customers at an accelerated pace through collaboration and deep expertise in the industry. Our experience allows us to target and resolve underlying problems by reviewing upstream and downstream processes as we work with our customers. We work with you to increase speed-to-market of comprehensive high quality work. Zelus Business Architects are ready to ensure your processes are built on a solid foundation.
For more information, please contact Zelus at email@example.com.
Jenny Graham, co-founder of Zelus LLC, is an expert in operational performance and excellence with over 15 years of experience developing and implementing innovative operational strategies to improve overall business performance and utilization.