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  • Writer's pictureNavid Kheradmand

Business Ecosystem

Updated: Feb 1

I have always been fascinated by Systems Thinking, the fact that everything around us from the universe to planet Earth, down to our own human body is an ecosystem, built up from a set of components and the relationships among them.

Think of the human body for a moment. It is an extremely complex ecosystem with a set of abilities; the ability to see, hear, speak, walk, think, synthesize, reason, communicate, etc. and has a set of systems (nervous, skeletal, digestive, respiratory, etc.) and organs, all as components of these systems to enable distinct human's abilities.

These systems and organs need to work in a perfect harmony for the human body to function well. If a virus enters the body it causes an imbalance of its ecosystem and the body will do everything to recover from that.

Understanding all the complexities of the human body requires a methodical approach and framework (i.e., the anatomy and relevant scientific discoveries). The more we learn and expand our knowledge of how our body works as a whole, the more we can innovate to prevent or cure disease, evolve our abilities to adapt to new and unfamiliar conditions, and even plant a chip into our brains to enhance our abilities!

Organizations are no different. Every organization has a set of abilities (what we call "Capabilities") and is a living and breathing organism, an ecosystem that goes well beyond the boundaries of the organization itself. This is what we call a "business ecosystem".

The Business Architecture Metamodel Guide V2.1 published by the Business Architecture Guild defines a "business ecosystem" as:

One or more legal entities, in whole or in part, that exist as an integrated community of individuals and assets, or aggregations thereof, interacting as a cohesive whole toward a common mission or purpose.

Making sense of how a business ecosystem works is vital to infuse innovation, successfully execute business strategies, and enable change from small to large transformations. Any change imposed to the business ecosystem is treated like a virus, and the organization will do everything to bring itself back to its state of equilibrium, which is why making change sustainable is very challenging. Typically, we fail in our change initiatives or the change becomes marginalized and ends up functioning in a corner as a small standalone sub-system.

The business ecosystem needs to find a new state of equilibrium to be able to absorb any change and that requires an understanding of how the whole ecosystem and its parts work. But the challenge is that the complexities of a business ecosystem also goes beyond our natural ability to understand without using a methodical approach and framework.

The Business Architecture Metamodel Guide is a comprehensive guide that formalizes the business architecture metamodel. This guide provides a methodical framework to map the components and relationships that exist across the business ecosystem. This, in turn, brings an unprecedented clarity and a line of sight into the complexities of a business ecosystem, supporting decision makers to make faster, better, and more informed decisions.

Based on The Business Architecture Metamodel Guide, Archist has created an interactive model that includes the core and extended domains of business architecture and their relationships, along with relationships to components in business process, requirement, and customer experience disciplines. Added to the model are also IT architecture related components and relationships based on Part 6 of A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge® (BIZBOK® Guide) V12.0.

The main purpose of this interactive model is to first demonstrate the complexities of the relationships across a business ecosystem, and second to highlight how we can make sense of and simplify these complexities using business architecture.

In the model, you will find that there are about 90 different relationships among the 32 entity types. In practice, when you start building your business ecosystem knowledgebase, in other words, adding actual entities for each of these entity types and mapping the relationships among them, you will easily end up with thousands of entities and relationships.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of this complexity, consider a typical organization that has over 1,500 capabilities and over 20 value streams (around 100 value stream stages). Assuming each value stream stage is enabled by an average of 45 capabilities, just the cross-mapping of value stream stages and capabilities requires 4,500 relationships to be mapped.

As a side note, value streams, capabilities, and their cross-mappings is the core baseline of your knowledgebase, i.e., the least mapping that you need to build to be able to provide full analysis and insights in business scenarios. In practice, we take an opportunistic approach to populate the knowledgebase, as an organic source of information that we build gradually through different engagements that we have in different business scenarios.

Continuing with our example, if we also add an average of 3 participating stakeholders for each of the 100 value stream stages, we need to map another 300 relationships. And these are just 3 entity types and 2 relationships (value stream stage to capability and to stakeholder) out of the 32 entity types and 90 different relationships in the metamodel.

Yes, a business ecosystem is indeed extremely complex. No wonder going through an execution of a business strategy or trying to navigate through a business transformation without knowing the cause-and-effect relationships across a business ecosystem most likely leads to a failure. It is like taking a medicine without knowing how that medicine impacts the body, and what side effects it can have on the whole body.

When we feel a pain and take a painkiller, we are just taking away the effect without fixing the cause. That's why getting to the root-causes of business problems is critical to identify long lasting business solutions that not only work, but also have minimal to no side effects across the whole business ecosystem. A wholesome remedy!

And here is the interactive model of a business ecosystem metamodel.

Need help? We understand that building the business ecosystem knowledgebase is a time consuming and complicated task. Archist can simplify and accelerate this process by providing the knowledge, experience, and expertise in designing and developing the knowledgebase tailored to your organization. The knowledgebase brings a high level of transparency and agility in enabling your business strategies and transformations. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can support you in building and maturing your business ecosystem knowledgebase.


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