Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Role of the Business Transformation Architect

As our friends in the emerging I/T hot beds like India, Brazil, China, Eastern Europe, and the Philippines demonstrate they have excellent programming skills, many of us I/T folk in the US or Western Europe are frankly nervous about “What’s left for us?” “Will we eventually train our emerging market friends into taking our own jobs away?”

Perhaps I have been shown the answer to this perplexing and politically charged question. Have you ever heard of the job title “Business Transformation Architect” by any chance?

I had the good fortune to listen in on a conference call last week led by Douglas McDavid, an IBM Business Transformation Architect and Member of the IBM Academy of Technology on the role of the Business Transformation Architect and how this new role is developing into a formal career path in IBM. With his permission, I will share a few insights which I hope will be of interest to you.

Some quotes...

There is a well known gap between clients’ desire to solve business problems (enter new markets, gain competitive advantage, reduce costs..) and IT’s ability to enable required business solutions.

Industry outlook & trends indicate the need for new skills to achieve success in the business transformation domain:

Tighter alignment between business & IT is essential to execute on complex business transformations. This requires a blend of business and technical design skills and the ability to partner with business owners & IT executives” – Information Week

“IT needs new skills to accomplish the transformation to service oriented IT. IT can not expect to insert pure techies & geeks into business discussions & gain any stronger connection with the business.” – Forrester

The need for dedicated attention to detailed and rigorous architecture of business is apparent


  • On demand business requires synergy between business and technology
  • Valued business results require focus on business changes that work together with modular and flexible IT applications and infrastructures.
  • Clients increasingly demand small, incremental steps toward transformation.
  • There is increased interest in standardized architectural frameworks.


Business is largely a human social system that is intangible and invisible. Software is also intrinsically complex, malleable, abstract and invisible.

Information technology can be a jumbled mess, but architectures and patterns can help make sense of it. Business can be a jumbled mess too, but architectures and patterns can help make sense of it as well. The job of the BTA is to focus on how these architectural viewpoints come together.


BTAs may have (or work with people who have) some or all of the following specializations -- analogous to an IT Architect working with technical specialists

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Legal
  • Strategic Management
  • Operational Management
  • Organizational Change
  • Knowledge Management
  • Learning
  • Marketing
  • Product Development

(me - In a previous post, I talked about how good I/T Architects are “Pi-Shaped”)

Good Business Transformation Architects are “I-Shaped” and can be grown by adding business knowledge to architect skills or by adding architecture skills to business consultants.





(In the above chart EA=enterprise architecture and CBM=Component Business Modeling)

Business Transformation Architect Role Defined (partial)

  • Identify and advise on the On Demand characteristics of a Client Enterprise
  • Distinguish the differentiating from the non-differentiating parts of a Client Enterprise and advise on how to proceed with each
  • Recommend the actions necessary to prioritize and improve the On Demand characteristics of an Enterprise to deliver short and long term client value
  • Advise on coordinated business and technology transformation initiatives to Differentiate and improve Product Leadership, Operational Excellence and Customer Intimacy within a Client Enterprise
  • Bridge the gaps between business executives and IT architects to help the enterprise document its operational business design based on sound principles and standards.
  • Perform Business Design
  • Perform Capability Analysis
  • Perform value placement.
  • Perform organizational design and job role selection.
  • Lead business process change.
  • Perform requirements maintenance.
  • Design the total solution delivery environment.
  • Perform selection of business modeling tools
  • Perform business implementation.
  • Keep abreast of Board Room topics
  • Architect Solutions using business architecture components.
  • Architect Solutions using process change.
  • Architect intra and Inter enterprise solutions
  • Architect Solutions using organizational change
Now that you’ve heard more about it, do you see “Business Transformation Architect” on your next set of business cards? Those of us who are now too expensive to write programs anymore may need to embrace the idea.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

3 comments:

Deepak Kaul said...

"Evolution" isn't that what this is!

. . . process by which populations of organisms acquire and pass on novel traits from generation to generation, affecting the overall makeup of the population and even leading to the emergence of new species. . . .

We could consider skills/jobs/markets as species and newer versions of each of these are constantly emerging.

While with the improved education and basic infrastructure the people in countries like India, China and others have shown that there exist enough skills for the US based IT companies to shift more and more jobs, the fact remains that it is basically the cost advantage. This advantage applies to industries beyond IT and we have seen how other industries like manufacturing have coped with it.

My take on this is that in the long run this would create a whole new scenario in US with evolved markets/skills etc (BTA may be one :))

Anshul said...

It is quite obvious that jobs are shifting to low cost countries from US and Western Europe. I think, this is a win-win situation for both the sides. At one end US companies are getting IT services/products at lower cost and on the other end people in low cost countries are getting jobs.

This change is increasing the purchasing power of people in countries like India and China. This is opening new markets for western companies. For example, in Paris Air show last year, Indian Aviation industry alone ordered for 200 Aircrafts. There is another good example: In 80s there were around half a dozen domestic soft drink companies in India. But now India has only two big players: Coca Cola and Pepsi.

I think, all this is going to create new horizons and more competition and everybody neede to be prepared for that.

Philip Hartman said...

Deepak, Anshul,
Everyone wants change on their own terms. Everyone wants to leave a job when they want to.. not be forced into it against their will. I think we all have to be ready to adapt and be willing to let go of the comfortable things we used to do. I hope I'm up to it!