What do business leaders and their architects need from each other to design, manage and deliver their next strategic objectives? How do they both reap the benefits, needed by the business and promised by the strategic transformations, to deliver lasting value to all stakeholders?

As a leader, who will be your guide as you formulate and define the direction of travel — which will need stronger alignment between strategy, technology and the information needed by the process and the people that use them?

As an architect, what do you need from leaders to enable you to deliver what the business needs, when they need it, in the right format so that you can help them navigate past business traps and pitfalls, beyond technology and towards business transformations?

As organisations become more complex from all perspectives, we need to be mining technology, data and processes for business insights and supporting the organisation to drive growth and reduce costs — even as internal complexity grows exponentially through the integrations of legacy and cloud platforms, systems and applications. Your business ecosystem of suppliers and partners with their own processes, data and technologies need to do the same as they add yet more layers of complexity themselves.

In the meantime, increased regulation and more demanding customer expectations call for simplification and agility.

We believe that business leaders and architects could both achieve more by collaborating as a leadership team more often. Collaborating in a mutually beneficial feedback loop where the ‘business knowledge base’ that is managed by your architects, based on a holistic blueprint, provides transparency into the organisational ecosystem.

Working through this complexity is where both the leaders and architects can find their common starting points, or common ground, and work as one to chart the safest, quickest, easiest and most secure route to your strategic destination.

Who leads on what and when?

During strategic planning and delivery it is normal for leaders and architects to lead on different activities — at the same time, from different perspectives, and in different ways. Each will bring their own skills to the table for everyone’s benefit.

For example:

  • A leader may want to engage with their architects following:
    • Unexpected business performance
    • New laws or regulations
    • Reorganisation (with or without merger/acquisition)
  • The architect may want to engage with the leaders to validate whether the business model is delivering value as needed:
    • Do we have the right blend of business capabilities at an appropriate maturity level?
    • Do our value streams provide what our stakeholders expect today?
    • Do any recent innovations need to be considered?

For all these scenarios we’d expect different leadership aspects — a journey is a good analogy:

  • The architect provides knowledge leadership through the business context and from the business knowledge base, suggesting possible objectives and destinations
  • The leaders set direction, acting as the north star for later work
  • The architects review options and make recommendations to reach that north star
  • The leaders buy the ticket — they decide which option to take and secure funding
  • The architects design the journey and monitor progress, providing the organisation with clear steps and guidance for delivery
  • The organisation arrives at their destination and receives the benefits

The starting line

All journeys must start somewhere. For leaders and architects to collaborate well, we need create a level playing field where we look from both sides’ perspectives and adjust leadership styles accordingly.

Leaders are generally focused on delivering results for the organisation. If we want leaders to accept architectural guidance, that guidance needs to be relevant to what the leader (as a representative of the organisation) is working on. Architects can only lead and be relevant if they understand what the priorities of the organisation or context are — and, more importantly, only if they have accurate, relevant facts and data that add value.

The image below illustrates three things:

  1. How architecture evolves over time by maturing content and building rapport with the organisation
  2. How leadership styles need to adapt based on the organisation’s maturity
  3. How architects utilise their knowledge and insights to build relationship based on trust
Diagram showing the evolution of Architecture


Fig 1 Architectural maturity (click to view larger image)

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Blueprints for a success journey

This is where your business knowledge base, built on a common language, provides a return on its investment. Working from agreed blueprints that represent both the business and operating models the architect takes a servant-leadership position.

The architects need to ensure all leadership decision makers have a common understanding when making strategic decisions. By exploring ‘what if’ scenarios, impact assessments and much more, the architects can serve the leaders with relevant guidance on the pitfalls and hard choices as trusted advisors, supporting them in making the decisions only leaders can make.

By collaborating on the blueprints with the architects, the leaders can be confident in setting a realistic and achievable destination — the north star. The architect provides the map and directions for the making journey happen as intended.  

The hard road

As we all know, choosing a destination and writing the directions is much easier than making the journey itself. 

Leaders can take the organisation on this strategic journey to reach the destination — or, they could choose to delegate some elements, such as governance, monitoring and control, to architects. The longer the journey the more likely it is we will reach a roadblock or find that the directions have changed.

With the strategic destination still in mind, the architect can consult the business knowledge base and, based on progress so far, can suggest the best options and diversions. Once the leaders are happy, the map and directions can be updated for the rest of the journey.


Table 1: Adapted from Véronique Barrot
Table 1: Adapted from Véronique Barrot


Together, we’ve explored what we’ve managed to learn so far, which has given us a starting line. We know our destination: leaders and architects working as one for the good of the many. The real questions are:

  • If we don’t start this journey today, how will we fare in the future?
  • Which route should we take?

Working from these two key questions is the best way to begin and succeed on the right course towards collaboration between leaders and architects.

More information

How do I hear more about this exciting journey?

You can hear more about this and many other related topics at the next Architecture Conference on the 11 October 2024.

Who wants to come on the journey with us?

You can join or contribute to the debate by completing a short survey which will take approximately 5 minutes. There is one for leaders and another for architects.

The BCS Enterprise Architecture Specialist Group

Michael and Petra volunteer for the BCS Enterprise Architecture Specialist Group, which is the only BCS community for all architects. Everyone is welcome at their events, and all BCS members are welcome to join this architecture community here.