During my professional development this year, my organization advised me that they would like me to work towards the Cisco Business Architecture Specialist certifications. My first thought was, “How is this going to help me?” My belief was that I need to focus all of my attention on things such as ACI, Cloud and SD-WAN. I consider myself to be all things technical and really couldn’t understand how the “Business”could truly help me. It’s one of those things where you don’t “assume”, you discover.
As I began my studies, Cisco laid out three tracks to becoming a Cisco Business Architecture specialist. The three tracks are:
- Cisco Business Architecture Analyst
- Cisco Business Architecture Specialist
- Cisco Business Architecture Practitioner
I set my sights on completing all three tracks in becoming a Cisco Business Architecture Practitioner. When starting this journey, I knew there would be some growing pains as I traditionally did not look at “Business” as a requirement for being a successful consultant. It’s amusing how quickly my mindset changed after truly working through the material and gaining a fundamental understanding of the Cisco approach.
Cisco Business Architecture Analyst
The Cisco Business Architect Analyst certification is focused on building your knowledge on the Cisco Business Architecture approach and methodology. The methodology is focused on people, process and technology. This was driven home numerous times through the study material. A few key takeaways from this track was determining the impact of business outcomes by how well you establish business strategies. Understanding the difference between views and viewpoints was something else that caught my attention. This allows successful mapping to business capabilities that ultimately drive the customer’s business architecture.
Cisco Business Architecture Specialist
The Cisco Business Architecture Specialist certification is focused on the process. It builds on the foundation of the previous track where you develop tools that allow business architects to drive home change and emphasis the importance of a business-led engagement. There were a few takeaways from this track that helped shape my thought process around a business-led approach. The Cisco Business Model Canvas is one of the key tools in understanding the business. Its information is essential to the long-term strength and success of the business model. Understanding internal and external business influencers was another topic with some important concepts. There were two tools I recall that focused on influence. They were the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and Stakeholder Analysis Grid. The SWOT analysis focuses on both internal and external factors with strengths and weaknesses focusing on internal influencers, while opportunities and threats focus on external. The Stakeholder Analysis grid allows you to focus specifically on the characteristics of each stakeholder in the business-led approach. This allows a business architect to drive conversations that are valued and place emphasis on the specific needs of each business leader and relevant stakeholder.
Cisco Business Architecture Practitioner
The Cisco Business Architecture Practitioner certification is focused on the execution. At this level you should be able to lead a business-led engagement with the customer. It strengthens the concepts of the two previous tracks, but really drives home the execution for both the customer and the organization. Meaning it also gives insight into partners leveraging the tools provided to develop their own business architect practice. At this stage in the game, it is all about building credibility and rapport. One of the key takeaways from this track includes the business proposal. The business proposal focuses on the value of the business and consists of five key elements:
- Executive Summary
- Business Roadmap
- Business Impact
- Financial Considerations
There is also the business roadmap. The business roadmap is essential to delivering business outcomes. The business roadmap is what helps determine business solutions and helps leverage current and new business capabilities.
Overall, completing these tracks help drive home customer maturity levels and how they determine an engagement. There are four levels of customer maturity and they are:
- Technology Specific – Completely silo, one dimensional (SD-WAN).
- Technology Architecture – This level is multifaceted covering several technology domains (SD-WAN, Wireless, Collaborations).
- Partial Business Engagement – At this level, customers want to know how the technology they invest in will impact the business.
- Business Transformation – Technology does not drive the Business, Business drives the technology.
I bring this up because of a recent meeting that was held with a customer. It was interesting to watch the conversation shift immediately from technology to the business. Understanding specific business needs and outcomes changed the direction of how technology would be used to approach this engagement. The conversation became business-led and Cisco’s Business Architecture certifications allowed me to navigate that discussion with an understanding of exactly how to approach the customer engagement.
I look forward to any and all comments regarding this subject. I look forward to sharing part two of this discussion, titled “How Business Drives Technology.”