Defining your Personal Business Architecture

Choose the right viewpoint

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The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do”, is a classic way to express disapproval of perceived hypocrisy – there’s a presumption that what you feel is right for others should be right for yourself. In Silicon Valley, they call it ‘eating your own dogfood’. Recently I had cause to look at the O-BA standard, which defines a set of required capabilities for business architects (as the authors see them). Now, some make an argument that only organizations have capabilities, individuals have competences… but regardless, I cannot help but feel that if it has value for an organization, it has value for an individual. And just as with organizational-level business architecture, there’s a sweet spot tradeoff between effort put in and value received.

But it’s an interesting exercise, at the least, to consider what one’s personal business architecture might look like and what use the exercise could offer.

The first, most obvious business architecture viewpoint that is relevant here is a capability map (or a competence map, if you prefer). In particular, there may be real value in rating personal capabilities as a first step to defining a roadmap for how those personal capabilities need to be enhanced. At the same time, it can be useful to map the desired capabilities, the ones that need enhancement (or acquisition) to supporting skills – this then forms the basis for a study program. Where this exercise has particular value is where it seems difficult to identify what areas need the most work – the formalism of the exercise provides structure in this regard.

A second, less obvious business architecture viewpoint is a motivation model. A common piece of advice is that people should write down their goals, as a means of solidifying them… but it can sometimes be difficult to order one’s thoughts, and a motivation model can act as a starting point for this.

The third, and perhaps most interesting is a personal stakeholder map. Here, I’m not talking in terms of warring split personalities; a stakeholder map can include external stakeholders, and we all individually have external stakeholders – at the professional level and at the personal level. Creating a map of external stakeholders can be useful to think about and understand the motivations and concerns of the external stakeholders who affect us most. Again, this information is probably known at an intuitive level – but a personal stakeholder model might be useful in calling out the details and solidifying them in your mind.

In each of these cases there is a common theme – the value of engaging in a formalized exercise is that it provides a structure to enable the necessary analysis.

Creating a formal model of your own personal business architecture might seem like either a silly intellectual exercise, or a disproportionate case of overthinking things. However, there are times when the exercise can have value. In particular, the formalism and structure of modeling can help to kick start understanding and ideas for personal progress – and after all, enabling insight is really the whole point of any modeling exercise.