The early stages of a company sometimes feel like building a plane while it’s taking off the runway. Older companies alternately often feel siloed, like the organizational chart possibly made logical sense in the ‘80s but it hasn’t changed in 40 years! Both of these are easily spotted as symptoms of poor business architecture.
Business architecture is basically a way of viewing your business’s macro functions (product development, sales goals, vision) against the blueprint of its micro functions (structure, interdepartmental relationships, technical tools, etc.). Just because your business has an architecture doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
Architecture: Challenging the pyramid
Unfortunately, when you talk about the basic architecture of a business, corporate American culture often brings to mind a pyramid. Important people on the top, other people on the bottom, and some people in suits sort of duking it out for the middle.
Perhaps you’re more sophisticated, and you recognize your business architecture looks a little more like a flow of research and development → manufacturing → marketing → sales → operations, etc.
The reality is, good business architecture is more difficult than having a chart with roles and duties assigned to various departments. In fact, there’s a cottage industry of people dedicated to studying how to build businesses with structures that work in the most sensible and efficient way, such as the Business Architect Guild.
It’s partly about the structure of your business, of course, but it’s also about analyzing what you do, what the basic strategic goals and vision of your business are, whether your structure supports that, and whether the flow of information and initiatives in your organization is effective.
Challenges in insurance architecture
The insurance industry faces particular challenges in this area, one from age, one from youth, and one from mashups.
Many carriers are built in such a way that they rely on legacy systems, “the way things have always been done,” and processes that have been in place for the better part of a century. Many processes have simply transferred from paper to electronic but remain the same.
Siloing – keeping widely useable knowledge locked in teams and departments in a way that stagnates the entire company – is common. New ideas and information must pass a sizeable barrier of entry. And, if there’s not an obvious choice for what team or role might take on new responsibilities as the business or industry grows and changes, those opportunities can be missed entirely.
Insurtechs and other industry startups suffer from a similar but opposite problem. When the chief tech officer is also the head of customer service and works with the sales team manager to decide how to handle human resource concerns, it can be difficult to delineate what roles belong where and how to organize and communicate in a way that facilitates growth.
Mergers & acquisitions activity in the industry is hotter than ever, and it exacerbates any architectural issues that may already exist in the organizations involved.
The business architecture shakedown
Reorganization. Anyone who’s been part of one may not have the sunshiniest attitude. Partly, business reorganizations are disruptive because uncertainty is bad for morale. Even when they go off without a hitch, there’s a period of slow-down for adjustments. It’s no wonder that when you talk business architecture, people automatically shy away from the idea.
Luckily, business architecture doesn’t inherently mean a restructure. Instead, business architecture is at its best when it’s used to find solutions that make the most sense for a particular organization, its culture, and its people.
One pain point across the insurance industry, particularly for legacy businesses, is change management. When new opportunities or challenges arise, it can seem to be easier to keep doing what you’re doing instead of overcoming inertia in the business to seize an opportunity. Let’s look at a hypothetical to see how business architecture can play a role.
Say your organization is having a problem with research content. You have writers, designers, and editors pulling together excellent content, but you never repurpose it and find yourself recreating the wheel with each new project.
Using a lens of business architecture, you could look at several different options. Consider the following scenarios:
- One enterprising employee is particularly invested in the problem, and passionately evangelizing about how to better use the content. Maybe they could take ownership of the content management and lead the charge for coordinating the other teams involved for better repurposing.
- Your content generation team managers work well together. Perhaps to handle the content management, they get together and work out best practices for how to ensure they have used previous research and repurposed the content before beginning a new project. They then relay the new protocols for saving, storing, and reusing assets to their teams.
- One particular content generation team recently experienced a shift in clientele and has more time on their hands. Maybe this team makes the most sense for “owning” the assets, adding it to their other duties in an organic way.
Any of those options may be a viable solution; the point is to recognize the various challenges and find a solution that is doable within your organization. In the previous example, if a team had a tendency to silo their information, then you certainly wouldn’t want to put them in charge of the content management unless you first addressed their siloing issue.
Business architecture used properly doesn’t have to mean a total shakeup. It means looking at your business’s goals, purpose, and products, and evaluating the tools and resources you have – in terms of employee talent, organizational structure, and technological aids – to make sure you are making the best use of your time and talents across the board.
For organizations looking to grow, business architecture is a big part of working smarter and not harder. If you’re interested in how AgentSync’s Manage tool can be part of that evaluation for your business, then book a demo with us.