Sunday, December 1, 2013

The CFO as the Chief Business Architect

Few enterprises today have descriptive representations that depict how the enterprise works. Therefore, change can only be accommodated by trial and error. As complexity and the rate of change increases, risk of trial and error increases. Architecture provides the structure to predict the impact of change, reduce the risk and maintain enterprise viability in a changing environment.-John Zachman

Enterprise Architecture is a complex framework that has emerged from the IT world as a way to clearly describe the enterprise IT environment to now represent an impressive tool for orchestrating enterprise behaviour and change.

I would not go into the intricacies of what Enterprise Architecture really means, there are enough experts to battle it out forever. I only have a simple perspective and I enjoy keeping it that way.

It is no secret that the business world has already shifted its expectations for CFOs from being the guys in charge of the financial model and perhaps of the control environment to the guys in charge of the integrity of the entire business model of an Enterprise. 

Therefore, a CFO is uniquely positioned to take on the Chief Business Architect role because s/he is at the nexus of all business model perspectives. Let's examine them one by one:

1. The motivation model - the markets the Enterprise operates in, the goals, the strategies, the external change vectors.

A CFO is required to scrutinize and keep abreast of all these. SWOT analysis? Check. PESTEL? Check. Macroeconomics analysis? Check. Competitive intelligence and benchmarks? Check.

2. The organizational model - the org chart, the motivation systems, the functional design of departments, the roles and responsibilities, the back-up systems, the outsourcing / partnership strategy.

A CFO must contribute to the organizational model because maximizing the return on the human capital is the most comprehensive way to maximize enterprise value. Yes, it is rarely measurable and therefore not obvious, but that is precisely why the CFO must be involved. 

3. The process model - the process taxonomy, the task successions, the business rules matrix, the data model (the master, the transactions, the unstructured data), the adaptation strategy.

4. The technology model - the technology stack, the IT architecture, the support and services model.

The CFO is the best positioned executive to drive the internal innovation agenda, both in terms of how things get done (the process model) or what tools are appropriate to support the Enterprise (the technology model).

And of course all the business model perspectives but be tied together into something that holds water, and that is done by linking everything to the financial model  - the P/L, the balance sheet, the capital mix, the investment & dividend policies.

One could argue that it is the CEO's job to reconcile the business model perspectives. But there is a lot of in-depth work and understanding that is required by a Chief Business Architect role and in my opinion this can only be accomplished effectively by the CFO.

photo credit: NathanaelB via photopin cc