Tag Archives: architecture

Business Architecture & Design Thinking

I often take on the role of Business Architect for my clients to design for them front-to-back enterprises that embody future state visions, innovation, and sustainable competitive advantage. Business architecting is a blend of science and art with the role of the Business Architect requiring the integration of multiple perspectives and multiple disciplines to create a tight package for the client. Some call this “Design Thinking”.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, and Roger Martin, Dean at the Rotman School of Management, currently evangelize the application of Design Thinking in the context of entire businesses, going well beyond traditional product development role of designers. Brown and Martin have both developed powerful frameworks that drive mindset change for interdisciplinary teams as those teams develop creative solutions to business and social problems. Brown and Martin have authored books on Design Thinking (among them, “Change By Design” by Brown and “The Design of Business” by Martin) which I highly recommend.

Multi-Layer Business Architecture

Here is a Multi-layer Business Architecture framework that I have used successfully on consulting engagements with numerous senior executives over the years. Layers and “plumbing” comprise the architecture model, which provides an executive a means to envision the transformed business. The framework also gives interdisciplinary, cross-functional teams a hard deliverable to create as they formulate the right, insightful problem statement and develop innovative solutions to tackle the complexities of transformation.

By design, the framework sets up detailed planning, management of business impact, mitigation of risks, establishment of implementation teams, integrated execution, and comprehensive transformation management. Business architecting applies Design Thinking to an entire enterprise. The Multi-layer Business Architecture helps business design teams organize work, provides structured play areas for creativity, and serves as an integrated rendering of a senior executive team’s vision.

Substructures of the Architecture Serve to Both Inform and to Define the Outputs of the Business Architecture Process

The Layers and Example Substructures

  • Macro-economic environment
    • Trends and forecasts
    • Growth or decline
    • Globalization
    • Deep and prolonged recession
    • Slow recovery to the new normal
  • Context of the industry or industries
    • Industry constructs and constraints
    • Eco-systems and sub-systems
    • Influencer maps
    • Porter’s 5 forces
    • Disruptive innovations and chasms
  • Business strategy
    • Chosen markets
    • Unique, attractive, and defensible value propositions
    • Portfolio of companies and products
    • Growth scenarios
    • Long term vision and short term objectives
  • Financial model
    • Revenue generation processes
    • Internal strategic costs
    • Capital structure
  • Interactions with the Enterprise
    • Interaction design
    • Empathy and insight
    • Customers’ experiences with the enterprise’s products and services
    • Ease of doing business with the enterprise: channel partners, suppliers, service providers, financial capital providers
  • Organization and process
    • Organizing principles
    • Facilitation of strategy execution
    • Core processes along the value chain
    • Inter-organization coordination
    • Support processes
    • Key performance measures
  • Information technology
    • Information strategy
    • Technology and systems architecture
    • Competencies
    • Right-sourcing
  • Business integration
    • Frameworks
    • Connections
    • Dependencies
    • Communities
    • Performance measures and performance management

The  Plumbing and Example Substructures

  • Leadership
    • Decision process
    • Leadership style
    • Management changes
  • People
    • Human capital strategy
    • Staffing levels
    • Skills and development
    • Organization knowledge and learning
    • Rewarded behaviors and cultural alignment

Change Spectrum

Change is not an absolute. Degrees of change reside along a spectrum ranging from incremental change to larger scale, strategic change to up-heaving, fundamental change. As a Business Architect, I map the change occurring or required along each layer of the Multi-layer Business Architecture. The end goal is to aid an executive to achieve or sustain competitive advantage and other measures of business improvement for the executive’s firm. The leadership of a firm might choose to lead change in certain layers, follow a leader in others, and do nothing for the rest. Senior executives pick their spots. Map it out. Select a change strategy. Manage it. Beat the competition.

Reverse Architecting and Forward Implementation

For implementation, an executive team cannot simply jump in and start transforming an enterprise into the vision captured by a Business Architecture. The team must know enough about the current state to know where to begin the transformation. Here, a process of Reverse Architecting lays out the current state of an enterprise in the same framework as the future-state vision. With this construct, leadership and implementation teams have detailed blueprints and plans for transformation. Consider the remodeling of a kitchen. It is best to know where the plumbing and wiring are behind the walls before beginning to tear down, re-plumb, re-wire, and re-build.

Become a Draftsman

Consider adopting the role of Business Architect when your enterprise is challenged with the need to transform. Use the mindset, techniques, and tools of design thinking to create a vision for the transformed business. Develop a Multi-layer Business Architecture to provide detailed blueprints and plans to implement the vision. Do not neglect the Reverse Architecture to know what you are changing, where to start, and how to direct implementation teams.

Knowledge Architecture


Not all knowledge is created equal.  Knowledge is one of those vague, global terms of which people assume they know its definition.  Very seldom in conversations about knowledge or learning will someone raise a hand and ask, “Hey, what is knowledge anyway?” unless he is Aristotle or some philosophy major.  One can postulate that there are different types of knowledge.

A hierarchical structure is one method to use to classify knowledge.  We show here a knowledge architecture that has seven levels: null, data, facts, know-how, memories, wisdom, and connections. Notice that the model begins with a state known as “void”. In this state, even the recognition of nothing does not exist.

Each layer of the hierarchical knowledge architecture is separated from other layers by a specific type of insight. Insights differ according to the particular level of knowledge on which they are acting. Seven insights elevate knowledge through the hierarchy: instinctual, definitional, contextual, utilitarian, experiential, reflective, and networked. The progression of insights up through the hierarchy represents increasing sophistication in thinking with “connections” as the highest order of knowledge.

Void + Instinctual Insight = Null

We see “instinctual insight” acting on the void to create null, the first layer of knowledge. This is the base level of knowledge. Null emerges from void as primal instincts create an awareness of one’s environment. This level of knowledge is deemed null because this level is the level at which simple consciousness of existence or non-existence occurs. Expressed another way, null takes on a binary state, 1 or 0. In the void even this simple a consciousness does not exist. Note that null represents the “whole” as within Zen philosophy.

Null + Definitional Insight = Data

We see “definitional insight” acting on the null to elevate knowledge into data. At this level, thought processes give definition to objects and actions in the null. In other words, definitional insight labels a collection of unnamed and unidentified things so that distinctions are drawn between them. Each object or action is now defined and becomes data.

Data + Contextual Insight = Facts

“Contextual insight” acts on data to create facts in the next layer in the hierarchy. Facts represent a richer and fuller set of knowledge than pure data. For example, if we take the word “coffee” as data there is no context for what coffee actually means. Given some context such as the commodities trading market, coffee takes on the meaning of a traded good. If food service is the context, then coffee takes on the meaning of a beverage. Contextual insight allows distinctions be made between data to create different facts.

Facts + Utilitarian Insight = Know-how

“Utilitarian insight” acts on facts to create know-how. How is an object to be used and for what purpose? In our coffee example, utilitarian insight emerges to provide the know-how for what to do with coffee. In the commodities market context, know-how would be how to trade coffee on the spot or futures markets. In the food service context, know-how would be how to prepare coffee for consumption. Without utilitarian insight, coffee has no real value. Simply speaking, utilitarian insight provides the knowledge of utility.

Know-How + Experiential Insight = Memories

“Experiential insight” acts on know-how to create memories. Actions taken or the execution of know-how generates experience that can be remembered and used for improved execution. Following the coffee example, experience in making coffee enables a barista to remember how much foam to put on top of a latte.

Memories + Reflective Insight = Wisdom

“Reflective insight” acts on memories to create wisdom. Reflection works on a “meta-plane” of thinking and takes on a new layer of abstraction in the knowledge hierarchy. Insights are not simply generated on single points of execution but on a set of memories. For example, remembering how to make a latte is a memory but being able to forecast demand in a coffee shop during the course of a day takes wisdom. Wisdom emerges as a person can take a step back to reflect and learn from prior actions and decisions.

Wisdom + Networked Insights = Connections

“Networked insights” act on wisdom to create connections, which represent the highest order of knowledge in the hierarchy. Making connections links related or unrelated pieces of wisdom to generate knowledge that would not emerge otherwise. For example, connecting the preparation of a perfect latte to the film “Seven Samurai” in which one of the samurai has dedicated his whole life to perfect his skills as a swordsman represents connecting two topics that on the surface are completely unrelated. Networked insights create connections that drive thinking further and generate the highest order of knowledge, connections.

At what level of knowledge do you work most of the day? At what level do you believe your colleagues, subordinates, and superiors work? Do you drive yourself to think at higher levels within the knowledge hierarchy? At what level do you believe you can add the most value to your work group or your organization during times of large-scale change?