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Architecture Strategy

by Ruth Malan and Dana Bredemeyer, Bredemeyer Consulting, April 2003


The rate of innovation, already astounding, is ever accelerating, and competing products are proliferating apace, even while revolutionary new products reshape the order of competition. Add to this ethical, political and economic upheaval, and the business world is characterized by turbulent change in every sphere—in the competitive landscape, the supply chain and more broadly the value network, technologies, regulations, the national and global economy, and so on. This change has to be anticipated and its implications recognized and integrated into an evolving strategy that takes advantage of emerging opportunities and takes into account new threats. As a result, business strategy needs to be a continual process, and strategy implementation must be responsive to this continual change in direction. 

Typically, we respond to the shifts in the environment with quick-fix adaptations to the socio-technical systems impacted. In enterprise systems, these accommodations to the architecture give the immediate appearance of responsiveness, but they increase inconsistencies, divergence and idiosyncrasies that make the systems very hard to integrate or leverage, ultimately ossifying the organization along the lines of its increasingly rigid systems. In software systems, these accommodations to the architecture amplify the (mis)conception that software is infinitely pliable, but they increase coupling and erode the architecture. The accommodations are like rebar in concrete—the coupling turns the system into a rigid, monolithic unit. With each shift in the environment, and each urgent and well-intentioned, even rationalized, accommodation to the architecture, the architecture degenerates. To make matters worse, these devolving “architectures” tend to be around a long time, and certainly much longer than we think they will be. 

If accommodations to the architecture do not work, then the architecture must make the accommodations. The architecture must provide the foundation for flexibility and evolution. At the same time, however, the architecture must provide points of stability. It is this stability that allows for organizational learning and improvement, leading to excellence. 

Architecture strategy choreographs this dance of change and stability. Architecture strategy translates business strategy into objectives for building, enhancing, or replacing business and system capabilities together with an implementation roadmap, all-the-while maintaining resilience to change as a key architectural objective. To do so, it must, perhaps even more than business strategy, take the "long view"—the term being chosen here to call to mind Schwartz's groundbreaking work on scenarios in Art of the Long View (1991). 

Given this positioning of enterprise and system architecture as the critical link between business strategy and effective strategy execution in a dynamic and volatile world, it is reasonable then to ask: What is strategy? Further, what is architecture strategy and how does one create and implement architecture strategy? 

In the next section, we address the first question. 

Part I: Business Strategy: A Primer for Architects

As organizations enhance their architecture competency, architects will come to play a more and more active role in the strategy setting process, in addition to the crucial the role they already play in business strategy implementation. However, strategy is not part of the curriculum of the average computer science program, nor is it a competency that organizations necessarily foster in the technical community. In this primer, our goal is to provide you with a “strategy for the intelligent” introduction to state-of-the-art business strategy thinking and models. Our aim is to help you develop the language, sensibilities, and tools that will enable you to quickly position yourself to make a useful contribution to the strategy process.

We pay attention to this competency because it is emerging as a critical avenue for competitive distinction. The trend has been for technology to become more essential to basic business capabilities as well as to creating differentiating value propositions that distinguish the business in the marketplace. At the same time, technology is complex and fast moving enough that it requires its own kind of attention, and it falls to the architects to bring this insight to the strategy table. With this foundation in the formulation of the business strategy, architects can also be a more effective bridge between business strategy and the technical strategy that implements it.

As an architect at any level, you have a role to play in the strategy process at that level, from product strategy to platform and portfolio strategy to business strategy (Malan and Bredemeyer, 2002). This gives you an opportunity to learn about strategy, just as your peers in management learn about strategy, from the product up. In this primer, however, we focus on business strategy, and the most direct relevance is for enterprise architects (IT background) and chief architects (product development background).

This primer is presented in three modules:



Bredemeyer, Dana and Ruth Malan, "Architecture Strategy Choreographs the Dance of Change", slides from the presentation to be given at the Enterprise Architecture Conference in Phoenix, AZ in November, 2003.

Malan, Ruth and Dana Bredemeyer, "Strategy Competency Elaboration", part of our Architect Competency Framework, which is published on the Papers and Downloads page of the Resources for Software Architects web site at September, 2002.

Malan, Ruth, and Dana Bredemeyer,  "Enterprise Architecture: Balancing Centralization and Decentralization", published the Resources for Software Architects web site at April 2003.

Schwartz, Peter, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World, Currency Doubleday, 1991. 

See also:

Recommended Books


We would like to thank Raj Krishnan who inspired and championed the Business Capabilities Architecture as the cornerstone of our approach to Enterprise Architecture. He recognized the centrality of capabilities, and drafted our Enterprise Visual Architecting Process (E-VAP) using capabilities as the organizing theme. We have taken that initial work and advanced it, used it with clients, and moved the whole frontier forward, but Raj deserves credit for the inspiration and genesis of the capabilities approach that we promulgate. Aaron LaFrenz, too, was instrumental in moving us into the Enterprise Architecture space. His ideas and energy have had a great impact on our work, and we are much indebted to his influence.

Restrictions on Use: All material that is copyrighted Bredemeyer Consulting and published on this page and other pages of our site, may be downloaded and printed for personal use. If you wish to quote or paraphrase fragments of our work in another publication or web site, please properly acknowledge us as the source, with appropriate reference to the article or web page used. If you wish to republish any of our work, in any medium, you must get written permission from the lead author. Also, any commercial use must be authorized in writing by Bredemeyer Consulting.  

Copyright © 2003 by Bredemeyer Consulting
Page Created: April, 2003
Last Modified: September 23, 2004