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Gilles Morin

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6 things to consider when implementing a business architecture

Gilles Morin Gilles Morin on August 4, 2016


There are many things to deliberate when looking to implement a successful and meaningful process-based business architecture.

1. Organizational readiness

The first key consideration factor is synchronisation, or organisational readiness.

Implementation is very difficult to do in a very low-maturity organisation, or one that does not care, speak or talk about processes – an organisation where success is based on individual heroic efforts. In this case, we clearly recommend that the organisation starts by delivering successful process-improvement projects.

2. Issues with process improvement

If your organisation has been doing process projects (lean, or other improvement performance projects) for a while and is experiencing some pains when dealing with transversal processes initiatives, then this may be the time to seriously look at a process-based architecture initiative.

3. Current strategic or business viability

If  you are planning a major strategic initiative, or suffering major pains related to your existing operating or business model – or if you even doubt you have a realistic reading of what’s going on in your whole organisation. This means you have a major organisational or BU burning platform. 

4. Organizational leadership

A fourth consideration factor is the leadership, ownership of your CEO, or the CXO, leading the BU, or a major corporate functions like the CFO, the CIO or CHRO.

This is truly a top-down business exercise. This approach seriously engages the whole management or leadership team. You can’t delegate this down. Would you delegate your strategic plan down to your supervisors?

5. Time to implement

Time is key success ingredient.

You can’t race your way through this; you can’t condense it. People need time between workshops. You may need to collect critical data and information at the start to substantiate or validate performance issues. This is not a weekend job!

6. Organizational Culture

Culture is also a key consideration that may ease, or put at risk, the whole exercise.

In some organisations – those allergic to performance metrics and to measures – the approach may have to be adjusted; but, you cannot embark without a minimal commitment to performance measurement. Performance management behaviours and managerial systems can, in certain cases, hinder your capacity to execute the realigned investment plan. This might require that you adjust or realign your performance measurement system. Excluding this at the onset could jeopardise your chance to realise the full benefits of this investment.

Before embarking on a process-based business architecture implementation, it is important spend some time understanding the context of your organisation. This reading is key to anchoring the project – or to ascertain that this initiative might not work for you.

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Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

14 Benefits of a Valid Process-based Business Architecture

Gilles Morin Gilles Morin on July 15, 2016


CIO, CXOs and middle managers that face major challenges – like: going digital; implementing a ‘customer experience’ program; planning a major new business technology platform; wanting to beef up innovation; or reducing unit costs. They know what must be done, but are looking for ways to increase the probability of success. They are fully aware that there are more failure examples than success stories.

We all have doubts about past recipes. What are we missing? How can we break away from the past? How can we avoid falling into the trap of doing the same things, over and over, and hoping for different results? How do we balance this when everyone is time starved and must generate results fast?

Those who decided to invest – to trust the approach, to bite the bullet recognising that alignment comes from hard collaborative work, and a different thinking and way of working – got significant results. The interesting, and perhaps most telling, part is that very few CEOs will go to the market place bragging about this. Would you go on the market place to tell your competitors that you found a highly competitive way to leverage acquisitions faster and better than they do? Would you publish in business journals how you were able to cut your IT investments by 30% or more while meeting your business objectives? Similarly, what organisation would talk publicly about its strategic game plan?

This is exactly what designing and managing a valid process-based business architecture is about: a real business game-plan to win or differentiate, transform, and execute.

Examples of benefits

Some of the harder benefits to recognise are:

  1. Realigned or better aligned performance investment plan with traceability
  2. Realigned or better aligned performance metrics
  3. Increased performance of your IT investment portfolio
  4. Faster decision-making
  5. Better investment project scoping
  6. Reduced IT investment waste
  7. Reduced execution risks for core or strategic programs.

The softer benefits are not so soft!

  1. Shared meaning and common language among leaders
  2. Stronger engagement and ownership
  3. Clearer sense of direction
  4. Reinforced leadership team
  5. Reframed thinking and visioning
  6. Alignment, alignment, alignment
  7. Breaking down of siloes.

We often get healthy doubts when helping management and executive teams to start their journey. This is a top-down approach – the CEO must take ownership and trust the approach. When starting conditions are appropriate, benefits come. 

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Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

Is your process-based business architecture valid?

Gilles Morin Gilles Morin on June 29, 2016


In my last post, I used the blueprint analogy to explain what a business architecture is – a visual business model used to facilitate or accelerate coherent decision-making. Another way to look at it is to view it as an insurance policy against siloed thinking and management.

In this post, I thought it would be important to explain how build a valid process-based business architecture.

First things first – from KYC (know your customer) to KYS (know your stakeholders)

Your business architecture has to be valid from a business-strategy perspective.

Your model must be anchored on a good and shared knowledge of your key stakeholders’ needs, and from which you derived your core strategic intents. This is the first, and one of the biggest by far, traps that management or executive teams fall in to. We are often tempted to race through this, either because we think this is day-dreaming and not about real life, or because we think we know all about our strategic priorities, our stakeholders and our stakeholders’ needs. More often than not, this is not quite true. As CEO, you may think that your organisation’s strategic plan is known and understood, and that it means the same thing to everyone. Well, surprise, it does not! Your business architecture is a key governance tool, and ought to be purpose-outcomes driven, not just a pretty picture of what your organisation does.

Designing your process architecture model is a critical ‘social’ and ‘business’ act, as important as building your strategic plan.

Your business architecture has to be valid from an ownership/engagement perspective.

Many executive teams think the a strategic plan is solely the job of the strategic planning department. They also treat it so confidential that only the executives should have access to it. These leaders then wonder why is the plan not executed well! A valid business architecture is the same –  it is a very powerful collaborative alignment lever.

During the next steps, we design your value creation or business model. We may or may not use an existing industry process referential to help us spark the work. The design is done through a series of workshops with all the key leaders. We sweat it out, make sure we agree on triggering and ending events, outcomes and possible KPIs, and validate that the model reflects who you are, how you think, and support where you want to go from a process perspective. We confront visions, understandings, readings of our external and internal contexts; we talk business, how it flows or does not flow. This is a first moment of truth for the management team. The methodology is anchored on ‘lean thinking’, and the socialisation of the model is as important as the model itself. The approach reinforces ownership and engagement.

It’s about processes, not functions!

A process-based business architecture is valid when it’s building blocks, nomenclature, and design comply with best practices, the BPM Manifesto, and design and semantic rules.

A business process is not a function, and we often find that organisations confuse functional architecture and process architecture. They are not the same – their purpose is different. Functional architecture may be useful for IT, but not as useful for the business leaders. The key focus here is business and transversal view (end-to-end view). Clients do not care about your organisation or your functions. They care about value delivery, and this is done via your people and your processes. A process-based architecture shows how the value is created from an end-to-end perspective. It shows all the disconnect and failure points to deliver your targeted customer experience. You cannot map or model your customers’ experiences with a functional model – you need a process model.

It’s about an actionable and aligned investment plan

A process-based business architecture ought to be valid from an execution point of view, and must facilitate alignment and traceability between strategic priorities, performance projects portfolio, and results.

The other big moment of truth – and key critical success factor to make the model actionable/useful – are the steps when we prioritise processes using a ‘High Pain – High Gain’ matrix, and take time to add a process capabilities perspective to it (using Roger Burlton’s Hexagon). This forces the management and leadership team to agree on priorities, critical capability gaps, and a story board (execution plan). Again, the approach forces ownership and engagement, because it is done by the team. They sweat it out. At this stage, we often hear the wows and astonishment comments like: “We should have done that before!”; “This really helped us to get where we needed to be together!” – lots of aha moments.

No magic tricks or thinking here. A working methodology needs to be executed in a disciplined way, yet leaving space for engagement, discussions, healthy confrontations, paradigms, and dictionary (words and meanings) collisions, etc. This is not about command and control – marching orders; it is about the team, and about leadership building –  getting the organisation ready to write its next sustainability chapter.

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Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

What is a process-based business architecture?

Gilles Morin Gilles Morin on June 20, 2016

16_Business_Architecture.jpgHave you ever tried to build a house without blueprints, or even hoped to get the costs right without any plans? There is a single master blueprint for the general contractor, and different views for the electrician, the plumber, the foundation specialist, etc. The architect works with you trying to capture your needs, dreams, big projects, intents – in short, to really understand your overall context.

They suggest that you look at different ‘dream house/cottage’ reviews and bring them some examples of what best captures your vision. The idea is simple – to help you make your vision concrete and actionable with reduced construction risks, while also helping you to make optimal choices and accelerating your decision process.

Process-based process architectures are essentially the same: critical business blueprints.

The process-based business architecture – a critical governance tool!

A process-driven business architecture is a key executive team business blueprint, as well as a key governance and management tool for decision makers. It is an agreed business model showing how your organisation is, and will be, creating value. It does this by illustrating its prime value chain, value streams and processes, as well as reflecting its strategic intents, key stakeholders’ needs, and performance logic. More than that, it helps the executive or management team to agree on investment priorities with required traceability to the organisation’s top strategic priorities.

You might have a big IT investment coming in. Have you checked to see that you have the right scope from a process and capability perspectives. Are you missing anything? Do you really have a realistic view of this project? This is an example of a situation where executives would like to have their organisation’s blueprint handy and valid.

Your transformation program requires that you start by creating new and stronger operational and business synergies – where do you start? How can you hope to do this without some baseline model that reflects your organisation’s capabilities? Hope, surely, is not a strategy; and guts may work, but you might not want to rely only on your guts. The stakes are too high, and instincts may, in some cases, be your worst enemy.

Why not just use existing industry-specific models and just copy them?

There is a number of industry-specific process model out there: SCOR, APQC, Panorama 360, just to name a few. Why not save yourself time and just copy them. This may well be a good idea for non-strategic processes – but it is not recommended for your core processes. You may use these models to help kick-start the designing exercise, but will rapidly discover that they have limitations for your core processes, especially when they come to reflect your core processes model – your actual and targeted competitive distinctiveness. How you deliver value, which are your core value streams and processes, is unique and a matter of strategic choices.

Designing your process-based business architecture is fundamentally and truly a business exercise, as important as doing your strategic plan.

The design of a business architecture is done with and by the business and thought leaders of your organisation. Process-based business architecture isn’t about IT – it is  about your business - your view about the present and the future, and your key capabilities (capacity to act). It’s about how key works get done in your organisation from customer to customer, and end to end. It’s about agreeing on meanings, views, visions, internal and external readings, key performance gaps, key capability gaps, etc.

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Topics: BPM - Business Process Management