Proprietary Methods sold as “the” standard.

The other day I came across a list of myths about business architecture  that were being dispatched into the “shredder” with vigour in attempt to claim ownership of the topic by a particular organisation.


One myth that was being torn down was:

“There is no commonly defined approach to business architecture”.

The myth was dismissed by saying: Yes there is!It is well defined and used across the world, it goes on to say that: those that claim otherwise -saying “business architecture is an art not a science – are self-serving and prolonging the journey to achieving business architectural value” Wow…. I was really unhappy about the language being used and the message being promoted. A pretty radical claim– perhaps a bit arrogant – don’t you think?

The myth still stands and it is not a problem in any case.

In other words “We know what business architecture is; we created the standards and everyone else outside of our club can just go away”.

This would be a more accurate and genuine statement:
“There are organisations who publish proprietary methodologies for the application of business architecture.”  


There is nothing wrong with the standards that this group is promoting, in fact most of what they say is pretty sensible. However, what is objectionable is the idea that this then becomes the so called de-facto standard.  It is a standard – yes – but to claim it as a common standard – the only way- is “pushing the envelope”.


Are we saying that  – “if you don’t use these standards or methods then you not doing business architecture?”, Are we constraining business architecture by trying to get everyone to produce the same stuff? I would argue yes – many other agree too.


On another occasion I saw a post saying “we had a consultancy in here that produced a slide deck that didn’t conform to standards” – as this this was a heinous crime. In reality why would I pay high day rates to get standard materials? I want consultants to be innovative and present new ways of thinking and ways of communicating messages.


On reading the myths and the proposed approach, business architecture as described must be a much tighter environment. I and many I associate with disagree. For example, I know one respected individual that dislikes capability maps intensely and he thinks value chains are they way to go; is he less of a business architect than others? In fact, this  individual is a substantial strategy author with many books to his name over the years, with years of experience; but if he doesn’t use capability mapping his work isn’t business architecture, say the standards body!


Many colleagues find that their business stakeholders don’t like the artefacts that these so called standards produce and therefore produce different materials which are artistically crafted to communicate skilfully their messages. They use their skills to craft models and diagrams to satisfy messages and client needs. 

There are two forces at work here: standardisation and innovation and your view will probably be different depending which camp you sit in:

  • If you are an I.T. person looking outwards to get clarity from the business and then communicating those findings back to your software developers then standards are great. Observe, record and populate the standards.Same format, same look; consistency is great for coders and analysts all of whom know the language and taxonomy – super. 
  • However if you are shaping a change and need to select techniques that to: identify requirements, create clear messages and present pictures of the future then standards get in the way.

Let us postulate which group the standards body originate from?

Some say The I.T and project management world has been ruined by methodology based standards, accreditation and certification. Only last month articles were on LinkedIn saying PMP and Prince2 were the worst thing that has happened to PM, devaluing the profession and turning project managers into administrators.    Why has this happened?


“Surprise – Surprise” Money. Professional Associations, Clubs, Guilds and the like have membership fees, they run accreditation and certification programmes – more fees. They appoint and certify training organisations – more fees. They work with software vendors to produce tools that work to the standards – licensing fees and so it goes on.

Fine create a methodology to sell and promote – carry on please – but have the courtesy to promote it as it is a proprietary approach not as a panacea or universal standard.     

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1 Comment

  1. Looking back on this written in 2017 it does read a bit as a rant but at the time this land grab of business architecture was fairly annoying. Three years on and several bodies offer business architecture certification designed to fit in with the I.T. professions fixation on certification. The bodies – names were not mentioned -have given focus more to the business analysis community because that was where the revenue opportunity lay. This is where this “do the course on our methods and take a multiple choice test at the end of the week approach” has gained some traction; elsewhere less so.

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