Standards, based on core principles, best practices, and the collective experiences of communities of practice, form the basis for advancing the maturity of a given discipline. As that discipline matures and the community of practice grows, standards serve as a critical foundation for enabling scalability and ensuring the integrity of the results delivered to those stakeholders who benefit the most.
Standards form the fundamental building blocks for a wide variety of professional and technical fields. Accountants, lawyers, manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry, human resources, engineers, software developers, product designers, communication providers, and a wide range of other professionals rely on and benefit from standards. The limited constraints that standards may impose on some individuals are easily offset by the numerous advantages that they provide to consumers and practitioners as a whole. The same benefits of standardization also apply to the discipline of business architecture, particularly as the practice continues to expand and scale across regions and industries.
Benefits of Standards Adoption
When considering the impact of standards, we can look at other industries to see the benefits. Consider the significant discrepancies in railway track gauge size in North America in the early 1800’s. There were more than a dozen unique gauge sizes used across the country. While northern U.S. states standardized over a period of decades, southern states delayed, which resulted in high costs and delays in moving freight and people.  “Before standard gauge, freight would be loaded into railroad cars at the factory, then moved from one car to another when crossing from one railway to the next. The standard gauge allowed one car to go from origin to final destination without being unloaded. This created an economically lean process for freight travel and provided access to the trade market which would explode across the continent over the next decade.”
As the aforementioned railroad example demonstrates, it is through the use of standards that interconnectivity and interoperability requirements can be assured. More modern examples abound. Today’s smart phones and the Internet would not be so widely used without standards. The purveyors of AOL and the Palm PDA devices, for those old enough to remember, learned this the hard way. Standards enable consumers to benefit, with the cell phone being one of the most rapidly adopted technologies in history.
When standards are widely adopted and applied across markets, they fuel adoption, which in turn fuels trade and competition that benefits consumers. It is through the application of standards that the credibility of new products and new markets are validated and verified. Standards fuel the development and implementation of technologies that influence and transform the way we live, work, and communicate.”
Business Architecture: Why Standardization?
We turn the standards discussion to the rapidly expanding discipline of “business architecture”. Business architecture is a business discipline that provides a foundation for formulating business strategy; assessing related business impacts; designing and innovating solutions; optimizing initiatives and related investments; and deploying solutions to a variety of business challenges.
To date, business architecture has delivered significant benefits to businesses worldwide across multiple industries. Conversely, many businesses have only scratched the surface as far as exercising business architecture’s full potential, often applying limited or selected aspects of the discipline against a short list of potential business scenarios. Yet business architecture as a discipline continues to grow more popular by the day and, as a result, has reached a critical tipping point that now demands standardization.
As business architecture matures, organizations are discovering the need to formally govern the practice and expand its use across more and more business scenarios. Maximizing the benefits of business architecture requires a robust business “knowledgebase” that businesses can leverage as a source of insight for business planning and deployment. In addition, maturing the practice requires providing guidance on how business architecture integrates or aligns with related disciplines, including information technology (IT) practices. In other words, as in-house business architecture teams evolve and scale their practice and scope, the need to formalize and adopt industry standards grows increasingly important to streamlining these efforts and ensuring the integrity and continuity of the results and related benefits.
Why would business architecture benefit significantly from formal standardization? One key consideration is that the value of business architecture scales with the breadth of the business to which it is applied. Business architecture provides significant strategy and investment alignment insights across business units and broader business ecosystem perspectives. Facilitating scalability requires adoption of common concepts and shared principles across the ecosystem represented by a given business architecture. This common perspective of the business is the key to establishing the transparency required to deliver on a wide variety of business objectives. If no common, formally defined perspective of the business exists in certain pockets of an enterprise, it creates transparency gaps, which in term inhibit business architecture’s ability to support high value, high payback business scenarios.
Consider one common business scenario that exemplifies business architecture scalability and related need for standardization. Business architecture provides significant insights into planning and coordinating program definition, business unit engagement, overall impact analysis, and related investments. By definition, this level of cross-business unit, cross-program transparency means that a common business architecture perspective be articulated on an enterprise scale. If each business unit has its own view of what comprises a business architecture, it nullifies business architecture’s ability to expedite impact analysis, define scope, frame solution options and requirements, and expedite delivery for a given program or programs and related investments.
In addition to program and investment alignment, numerous other business scenarios benefit from standardization. These include policy compliance, merger analysis, product planning, business transformation, customer experience impact analysis, digital transformation, crisis management, IT investment planning, and a host of others. Each of these scenarios share a key characteristic; applying business architecture to any of these scenarios requires a degree of scalability that is enabled and streamlined through standardization.
Table 1 summarizes a number of key benefits of business architecture standardization.
In general, demonstrating that any discipline is ready for primetime is aided by the fact that the industry can point to a set of formal standards. In addition, a given industry should be able to not only share best practices and common perspectives, but formalize those practices and perspectives in a way that relieves practitioners from the burden of enforcement.
One key aspect of business architecture is its reliance of a central, business knowledgebase. The knowledgebase serves as a foundation for storing and exchanging information related to what the business does, how it delivers stakeholder value, the language of the business, and interactions across business units and partners. Expanded views of this knowledgebase include policy, product, strategy, and initiative (i.e., program) perspectives and their respective relationships. This information forms the underlying intelligence used to plan and execute business scenarios. The bottom line is that the business architecture knowledgebase requires a standardized format, which would be defined through the use of formal business architecture standards.
The business architecture knowledgebase also provides a guide to software vendors as they seek to support and enable business architecture based on a common framework for viewing a business. Business architecture automation is fundamental to scalability and a standard enables automation and scalability. In addition, the knowledgebase facilitates business architecture alignment to related disciplines such as business process, requirements, and case management; IT architecture definition and alignment; customer experience mapping; and program and project management.
Standards for Business Architecture: Now and In the Future
Business architecture standardization is well underway on multiple fronts. For example, there is widespread and rapidly growing adoption of a common set of business architecture best practices, based on principles established in “A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge®” or “BIZBOK® Guide”. This expedited rate of adoption is evident from and further enabled by the fact that multiple, vertical industry sectors have or are adopting common business architecture perspectives through the concept of “reference models”.
While a body of knowledge establishes a baseline standard of practice, standards definition and alignment within formal standards organizations reinforces those best practices, paving the way for even more rapid expansion of the discipline as well as fostering and encouraging a wider set of business architecture automation options within the vendor community.
As with any discipline, there are varying degrees of focus for standardization that may be achieved. Each focal point provides a variation of benefits to the boarder community of practitioners, beneficiaries, and supporting vendor community. Standardization focal points include:
- Best practices, principles, and methodology
- Formal alignment of knowledgebase content
- Automation and tool interoperability
- Alignment to related disciplines and standards
Business architecture practices, principles, and related approaches are framed within the Business Architecture Guild’s BIZBOK® Guide. The BIZBOK® Guide evolves incrementally based on the collaborative contributions of a large and growing member community of practice. These formally defined practices allow practitioners to articulate, communicate, and utilize business architecture for a wide variety of business scenarios. In addition, BIZBOK® Guide reference models help frame those best practices from a given industry sector perspective.
The BIZBOK® Guide further frames additional standards related perspectives that enable business architecture content and infrastructure management as well as vendor adoption; this is called the “business architecture knowledgebase”. The business architecture knowledgebase represents all business architecture domains and related interdisciplinary perspectives in a highly formalized way that enables various business stakeholders to reference information about the business when they need it and in a form that is useful to them.
For example, planning and portfolio management teams would be interested in viewing impacted value streams and capabilities associated with a given program or project. The knowledgebase would readily serve as a source for this information and a myriad of other related content as required by the audience interested in the information. Figure 1 represents the business architecture knowledgebase, the ability for tool vendors to leverage that knowledgebase, and the practitioner and beneficiary community who can view and leverage the knowledgebase.
A knowledgebase is most effectively deployed when it is based on a formalized structure that leverages a business architecture metamodel. The metamodel establishes the means for a tool vendor to formalize how they represent and cross-reference business architecture domains. Tools that align to a formal metamodel would have the added advantage of being able to provide a standard and ad hoc set of blueprints that align with and encourage best practices.
In addition, the metamodel provides a means by which any metamodel-conforming tool may exchange content with another metamodel-conformant tool. The ability for one tool to exchange business architecture content with another tool is particularly relevant to larger companies with a wide variety of tools that support various aspects of business architecture or need to leverage the information in alternative ways, such as business/IT transformation.
Alignment to related disciplines and standards is the last key area of standardization and in this regard other disciplines also have frameworks, bodies of knowledge, and related standards. Therefore, interdisciplinary alignment to IT architecture, business process management, case management, and so on can leverage these existing perspectives. Alignment to related disciplines is a business architecture practice topic that ensures broad application of the discipline across teams and the overall business architecture engagement model.
For example, business process analysts should have clarity as to how business architecture is used to improve the value of their work. Similarly, business architecture may be framed to help specify and reuse requirements, design case management business solutions, and drive IT architecture transformation and related investments. While the BIZBOK® Guide provides interdisciplinary alignment guidance, these associations should ideally be formalized in a knowledgebase.
For example, the business architecture knowledgebase defines relationships between capabilities and business processes via a formal association to the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) 2.0 standard. Similar relationships are established to the Business Motivation Model (BMM) and Case Management Modeling Notation (CMMN).
Perhaps one of the more widely known alignments to business architecture and IT architecture is The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF™) standard. While the BIZBOK® Guide defines the association between business architecture and various TOGAF elements, the Open Group has work underway to similarly align to business architecture from the other direction. For example, the Capability Guide and the Value Stream Guide align nicely with the Business Architecture Guild’s principles and practices as defined in the BIZBOK® Guide.
Pathway to Business Architecture Standardization
Moving forward, industry can expect to see more standards driven alignment and support for business architecture and the business architecture knowledgebase is a prime target for standardization. While the BIZBOK® Guide provides knowledgebase associations and usage guidelines for practitioners, there is no formal standard in place at this time to align best practices in a formal standard. Fortunately, work is underway on the standards front.
Prior to identifying some of the specifics related to standards evolution, it is important to note that certain tool vendors have taken the initiative to align to business architecture best practices, effectively getting out ahead of the standards community based on their own initiative. And certainly, businesses have taken notice where this has occurred. While standards do not force any given vendor to conform to a certain practice or knowledgebase alignment, they certainly do place pressure on vendors that would not exist in the absence of standards.
The Object Management Group (OMG) has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a Business Architecture Core Metamodel. RFP submissions are due for this standard in March 2018 with standardization to follow. In order to fulfill the RFP demands, a submission must not only define a basic metamodel for business architecture but must also discuss how that metamodel aligns to other standards. The resulting Business Architecture Core Metamodel standard will ideally establish a baseline that formalizes support for best practices, which in turn will help ensure that business architecture reaches a new level of formalization and further ensure that enabling tools and technologies are aligned to best practices.
Additional activities are underway at Open Group to update TOGAF™ as previously noted. In addition to the business architecture guides being developed at Open Group, a reworking of TOGAF™ Phase A (the strategy phase) is well underway to adopt a more industry aligned approach to business architecture. These changes should be forthcoming with the next TOGAF™ release. Further business architecture update efforts will continue across other areas of TOGAF™ over the longer term. One other focal point of these efforts involves the content model, which can also benefit from alignment to a formal knowledgebase definition.
In summary, widely disseminate best practices of business architecture via the BIZBOK® Guide and related content has established a global community of practice. It is now time for the standards community to catch up. The good news is that these efforts are well underway and the winners at the end of the journey are the larger and growing number of organizations who have adopted and are using business architecture today.
 “The Ties that Bind: Railroad Gauge Standards, Collusion, and Internal Trade in the 19th Century U.S.”, Daniel P. Gross, Harvard Business Review, Working Paper 17-044, 2016
 “Standard Gauge”, Bradley D. Harrison, August 2007,
 Quote from the article entitled “What are Standards? Why are They Important?”.
 “Business Ecosystem: One or more legal entities, in whole or in part, that exist as an integrated community of individuals and assets, or aggregations thereof, interacting as a cohesive whole toward a common mission or purpose”, Source: BIZBOK® Guide, Appendix A, Glossary.
 Business Architecture Guild®, www.businessarchitectureguild.org
 Business Process Model and Notation 2.0, OMG, http://www.omg.org/spec/BPMN/2.0/About-BPMN/
 Business Motivation Model, OMG, http://www.omg.org/spec/BMM/About-BMM/
 Case Model Management and Notation (CMMN), OMG, http://www.omg.org/spec/CMMN/1.1/Beta2
 Open Group, www.opengroup.org
 Business Architecture Core Metamodel (BACM), OMG Document: BMI/17-03-02, http://www.omg.org/cgi-bin/doc.cgi?bmi/2017-3-7