Business Design – the synthesis of Enterprise Architecture and Design Thinking

Chris Aitken

Over the last five years, we have been on a journey that has led us to a unique design space that both provides a means to understand customer and business problems more deeply and achieve traceability from goal to required change.

Our journey has its origins with The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) which we have progressively adapted over time to better align to client needs. Over the course of many consulting engagements we, like many enterprise architects have gradually incorporated Design Thinking elements into our practice.  Early leaders such as Milan Guenther described the commonalities and mutual reinforcement between the disciplines of mainstream Design and Enterprise Architecture.

About two years ago, however, we reached the point where the term ‘Enterprise Architecture’ as traditionally understood no longer described all that we were doing nor what our clients were asking from us.  This realisation led us to embark on a process that required us to re-imagine and re-invent ourselves from the ground up.


Our Evolving Business Design Story

From Industry Standard Architecture (2000) to Human-Centered Business Design (2016)

TOGAF Architecture Development Method

2000   - Industry best practice standard approach – ‘engineering’ heritage


- Industry best practice standard approach – ‘engineering’ heritage



2012   - A refined, stable, repeatable pattern that extends and enhances the ADM  - Focus on business architecture and the role of the Business Model Canvas and the Business Capability Model  - Beginnings of co-design approach


- A refined, stable, repeatable pattern that extends and enhances the ADM

- Focus on business architecture and the role of the Business Model Canvas and the Business Capability Model

- Beginnings of co-design approach



2014   - Definition of Service Model and the incorporation of the Customer Journey and Value Proposition Canvas


- Definition of Service Model and the incorporation of the Customer Journey and Value Proposition Canvas



2016   - Focus on human-centred architecture, and customer design experience   


- Focus on human-centred architecture, and customer design experience


The Journey Starts

A review of our consulting engagements highlighted a cumulative trend that reads like a potted history of the enterprise architecture discipline as a whole - from an initial focus on Technology and Application portfolios and their effective management, to a period where Business Capability was the primary focus, to a more recent period in which the focus has shifted to Business Services, to the current phase where Experience Architecture is centre stage.  As we have ‘moved up the stack’ from technology to customer experience, we have refined our frameworks and tools and meshed them with newer perspectives.

Our intent has always been to assist businesses to answer fundamental questions – such as - Do we have the right mix of people and technology assets to deliver our services? Do our strategies align with our drivers and goals?, Will our current change program realise our goals and ambition?, and Do our services align with customer need?. The last question in particular quickly leads to a perspective that sits wholly outside ‘the business’ (i.e., the customer’s perspective), and challenges us to reconsider some fundamental assumptions of a TOGAF-based approach to Enterprise Architecture. The following key themes have caused us to re-think and re-design ourselves.


TOGAF’s definition of the term enterprise “The highest level of description of an organization and typically covers all missions and functions. An enterprise will often span multiple organizations”, is obviously ‘organisation’ centric (i.e., treats an organisation as something in its own right). A truly human-centric definition starts with ‘people’ and so a human-centric definition of the term enterprise might read a bit like “The description of one or more groups of people drawn together around one or more common or shared goals or interests”. This positions the term ‘enterprise’ to squarely address human endeavour rather than describing an organisation in the abstract.

To be fair, TOGAF based Enterprise Architecture has always been ‘concerns-based’ – that is – centred on the priorities and interests of stakeholders. However, these concerns are nearly always considered from the perspective of the business. An example of this is the way that the customer concerns are typically considered within the context of the business’s business architecture, rather than as part of a completely independent enterprise – namely that of the customer.

Figure       SEQ Figure \* ARABIC    2      : Experience Execution Loop

Figure 2: Experience Execution Loop

Consequently, a human-centred approach to Enterprise Architecture has led us to define an additional architectural domain – that of ‘Experience Architecture’ which is probably best understood as a domain that sits between enterprises.  The Experience Architecture domain addresses the design of both internal and external experience from the perspectives of brand, employee and customer. It documents the current and target states, identifying ‘experience gaps’ within a three-way Experience Execution Loop – the measures needed to address these gaps in customer, employee and brand experience ultimately feed into a roadmap and change program.



Rapidity of Change

Although the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM) is itself cyclical and iterative, the roadmaps that are often produced are waterfall and sequential in nature. Along with many of our clients, we can testify as to how unrealistic such an approach is given the rapid rate of change in the world at large.  It is increasingly common for project deliverables to be outdated or worse still - obsolete before the initiative has been completed.  This driver of rapid change has been a primary reason for the widespread adoption of agile methodologies over the last 15 years or so. Meeting the dual challenges of delivering rapid iterative change initiatives without losing sight of longer-term imperatives and goals has led us to re-imagine the ‘traditional’ roadmap as an artefact that is fluid, highly organic and indeed a design process in its own right.  

Outcomes and Outputs

To be human-centred is to focus on people and outcomes. While traditionally Enterprise Architecture has arguably been pre-occupied with outputs (i.e., various domain specific models or views of the business) a human-centred approach demands a shift in focus to the outcomes that a design process delivers (including the experience of the design process itself as an outcome). This dynamic has seen us re-think the TOGAF ADM as a series of design activities that each require a meshing of both Enterprise Architecture and Design Thinking to deliver not only the blueprints and plans needed to guide change, but also carefully crafted experiences that change individuals, organisational culture and create opportunity for insight.

Our Business Design Method

The latest evolutionary step in our thinking about the synthesis of both Enterprise Architecture and Design is called our Business Design Method (BDM). Our method follows a logic from the determination of motivation, vision and purpose, the perspective of the customer, services and business model through to the particular transition design needed to realise a vision.

Each ‘box’ within the BDM represents a separate design activity that can be spun up and revisited as needed. Each design activity delivers a set of standard Enterprise Architecture viewpoints, that leverage a common meta-model though out. Each design activity also follows a diverge/converge design process pattern starting with an initial problem statement, exploration and working to clarify the design challenge, and then iterating and refining over several plausible prototypes before landing on a valid target state.

The BDM is itself circular and iterative, together with an underlying logic that guides businesses and change practitioners as to which steps might naturally follow from whichever point in the process of transition they find themselves.

Figure 3: Our Business Design Method

Figure 3: Our Business Design Method


The BDM represents an evolution of our practice and thinking – one which will surely continue to evolve. The BDM is an expression of the FromHereOn vision of a design firm with a unique ability to offer human-centred business design services that leverage both Enterprise Architecture and Design Thinking.

We are keen to grow our community of practitioners and friends, providing real opportunity for you to participate in our continuing design journey. You are invited to register your interest below.