Enterprise Architecture and Business Process Management

We know that Enterprise Architecture is a logical framework that helps forge a relationship between business, strategy and technology. Within those macro concepts lies various organizational structures, processes and informational flows that help businesses meet their end goals.

With respect to business processes, businesses themselves are dynamic and must change to adapt with the latest market conditions in order to remain a going concern. Thus, proper attention must be paid to processes and the continuous improvement of those processes.

As organizations grow, they need to continuously analyze and refine their processes to ensure they are doing business as effectively and efficiently as possible. Fine-tuning processes gives an organization a competitive advantage in a global marketplace.(Project Management Approach For Business Process Improvement, 2010)

EA and business process management (BPM) are not mutually exclusive. Redshaw (2005. Pg. 3) defines BPM as “the management of all the processes supporting a business transaction/event from the beginning to the end while applying the policies/rules needed to support an organization’s stated business model at a specific point in time.” BPM offers advantages to large institutions as it enables a linkage between IT systems and business processes. Jensen (2010) offers this summarization:

“When done together, BPM provides the business context, understanding and metrics, and EA the discipline for translating business vision and strategy into architectural change. Both are, in fact, needed for sustainable continuous optimization. It is important to realize the value of direct collaboration across BPM and EA boundaries. Only when supported by appropriate collaboration and governance processes can BPM and EA roles work effectively together towards the common goals of the enterprise.” (Jensen, 2010)

EA can support BPM projects by helping project teams become better acquainted with the very processes they are trying to improve. A project manager assigned to a new project can simply access the EA repository to get up to date information on the current processes pertinent to his/her domain. With respect to EA3 framework, “The enterprise’s key business and support processes are documented at the Business level of the EA framework” (Bernard, 2012. Pg. 127).

As processes are improved and changed and project wins or losses are accumulated, this knowledge is shared back into the EA repository for reuse and can be leveraged across the organization.

Quick process improvement wins and one off pinpoint projects may embody a “silo-ed” or parochial approach not in keeping with a broader strategic outlook. Ignoring emerging business strategies can be a costly mistake. For example, energy and resources could be mobilized by a bank to architect a new customer account management or card/payments processing system within the enterprise, accompanied by revised processes. The bank could simultaneously be moving forward with emerging cloud strategies that render the new architected solutions meaningless and obsolete. This hypothetical example of creating solutions in isolation from the overall strategy would be a very costly endeavor in terms of time and money and should obviously be avoided.

By definition, business process management projects embedded within an EA framework are guaranteed to align to the overall organizational strategy. EA becomes a key enabler to ensure process improvement projects are aligned to the strategy for the existing enterprise, as well as any future state strategies.

Wells Fargo and its use of Enterprise Architecture and BPM

As with most organizations of comparable size, Wells Fargo wrestled with issues from both the business and IT (Information Technology) ends of the house. The business had to gain a better understanding of what it needed. It also had to become better acquainted with the capabilities and solutions available from IT. On the other side of the coin, IT had to remain agile enough to deliver and react to changes in business conditions. In this manner IT could be better positioned to deliver solutions that met various business needs.

Olding (2008) found that Wells Fargo operated a very decentralized structure but lacked the coordinated ability to understand what was occurring in other groups that were employing business process management initiatives. A disadvantage of not embedding the BPM experiences within an EA framework was the failure to capitalize on successes that were gained across other “silo-ed” groups. Integrating EA into the approach dramatically simplified the process of capturing those wins for organizational reuse.

At Wells Fargo, a BPM Working Group was established with EA as its champion. The business set out to capture the current state of BPM technologies and approaches around a dozen lines of business. The results indicated that there were over 20 different BPM technologies being employed, each with their own varying approaches to implementation (Olding, 2008). In order to maximize the value of BPM, coordination had to occur across these lines of business.

A seasoned Enterprise Architect within the company made use of a communications strategy to raise awareness of the duplicative uncoordinated approaches dotting the landscape. Business analysts, project managers, executives, and technology professionals were engaged and best practices from the various approaches were discussed and reworked into an EA framework.

A year later, senior executives were presented with the best practices from various approaches, which had since been re-developed using a common framework. The commonality gained from the EA framework allowed for patterns of success to be easily identified, communicated and thus ultimately standardized. With senior level executive backing, the EA framework will persist in the organization allowing the bank to quickly identify opportunities for standardization.

Burns, Neutens, Newman & Power (2009, pg. 11) state, “Successful EA functions measure, and communicate, results that matter to the business, which in turn only strengthens the message that EA is not simply the preserve of the IT department.” This dovetails into the approach that Wells Fargo’s Enterprise Architect employed; the communication of pertinent information back to various business lines to gain acceptance.

The lessons learned from Wells Fargo’s use of BPM and EA as paraphrased from (Olding, 2008. Pgs 5-6):

  • Communicate at all levels of the enterprise.
  • Build BPM adoption from the bottom up. Approach business groups with proven examples and internal successes that will help drive the willingness to adopt new approaches.
  • Facilitate, do not own. Allow business groups to manage their own processes aligned within the framework.
  • Build EA from the top down.
  • Use BPM to derive the needed context and then incorporate it into the EA

As of 2008 Wells Fargo Financial (a business unit of the Wells Fargo & Co.) currently had nine BPM deployments in production and another four projects in the works. Gene Rawls, VP of continuous development, information services, for Wells Fargo Financial has stated that not having to reinvent the wheel saves months of development work for every deployment (Feig, 2008). Project turnaround time from the initial go-ahead for a BPM project to its actual deployment, is just three months.


Bernard, Scott A. (2012). Linking Strategy, Business and Technology. EA3 An Introduction to Enterprise Architecture (3rd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Author House.

Burns, P., Neutens, M., Newman, D., & Power, Tim. (2009). Building Value through Enterprise Architecture: A Global Study. Booz & Co. Retrieved November 14, 2012.

Feig, N. (2008, June 1). The Transparent Bank: The Strategic Benefits of BPM — Banks are taking business process management beyond simple workflow automation to actually measure and optimize processes ranging from online account opening to compliance. Bank Systems + Technology, Vol 31. Retrieved from Factiva database.

Olding, Elise. (2008, December 7). BPM and EA Work Together to Deliver Business Value at Wells Fargo Bank. Retrieved from Gartner October 29, 2012.

Jensen, Claus Torp. (2010, February 10). Continuous improvement with BPM and EA together. Retrieved November 13, 2012.

Project Management Approach For Business Process Improvement. Retrieved November 12, 2012 from http://www.pmhut.com/project-management-approach-for-business-process-improvement

Redshaw, P. (2005, February 24). How Banks Can Benefit From Business Process Management. Retrieved from Gartner October 29, 2012.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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