Business and IT Alignment

It is increasingly recognized that when modeling enterprises and the ways they do business, a starting point could be to identify the main actors and the values transferred between them. This can be expressed in terms of business models. A business model is created in order to make clear who the actors are in a business case and explain their relations, which are formulated in terms of values exchanged between the actors. At its core all business models capture the relations between the economic concepts resource, agents, and the events that result in resource creation and distribution among agents.

Business modeling can be used as a starting point for an enterprise when setting out to model its processes. A natural way of working for a business analyst is to first establish in a business model what kinds of business elements, like actors, resources and resource exchanges that exist and later determine how they are to interact with each other in activities and processes.

There are examples in literature where it is argued that the design of a process model is motivated by business decisions made explicit in the business model. But if the design of a process model is motivated by a business model, what motivates the design of the business model?

One can argue that the motivation of a business model can be found in the goals of a business, which are made explicit in a goal model. Goal models and business models are parts of a chain of models, together with process models, that have distinct purposes and describe different aspects of a business. A common view is that:

– Goal models are used in the earliest phases of business and information systems design, where they help in clarifying interests, intentions, and strategies of different stakeholders answering to the “why” of the business.

– Business models give a high level view of the activities taking place in and between organizations by identifying agents, resources and the exchange of resources between the agents. So, a business model focuses on the “what” of a business.

– Process models focus on the “how” of a business, as they deal with operational and procedural aspects of business communication, including control flow, data flow and message passing.

Current SYSLAB research is focussed on the properties of those models and their alignment.

Aligning Business and Process Models
Business process models explain how agents co-ordinate their respective activities to achieve a common goal. But how can we be sure that an operational business process does support these common goals? How can we be sure that the goals are well understood by the agents and that all agents have converging goals? If we focus on the process activities, we can note that some of them may be considered as truly value-creating activities in that they contribute to the achievement of the formulated goals; others may be seen as being more of a coordinative or supporting nature, in that they facilitate the communication among the agents.

Aligning process models and business models raises two major questions. First, what are the basic concepts in a business model? Secondly, how should the gap between business models and process models be filled? These are questions that have recently started to attract attention in a wider research community.

Aligning Business and Goal Models
In goal-oriented requirements engineering (GORE), one usually proceeds from a goal analysis to a requirements specification, usually of IT systems. However, GORE can also be used for the design of IT-enabled value constellations, which are collections of enterprises that jointly satisfy a consumer need using information technology. The requirements analysis needed to do such a cross organizational design not only consists of a goal analysis, in which the relevant strategic goals of the participating companies are aligned, but also of a value analysis, in which the commercial sustainability of the constellation is explored. Research questions are: what exacly is the relation between goal models and business models? How can this relation be exploited in order to improve the models? What would a method for this exploitation look like?

The main rationale behind such a method would be to facilitate the construction of business models that not only describe what entities exist in a business setting but also include motivations for why those entities are there. Some benefits are that business models becomes more closely connected to the strategic concerns of an enterprise and that it creates a possibility to validate the business models against the enterprise’s goals.

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