Business & IT Diagrams
Business and IT diagrams (B&ITs) provide a framework to map an organisation’s people, process and technology. They consist of six layers, separated by horizontal lines.
The layers, arranged from the top of the diagram to the bottom, are called: Ownership, Business Process, Application, System, Hardware and Infrastructure. In case you hadn’t spotted it, their first letters spell the word OBASHI.
Into the layers we place “elements” which represent an organisation’s assets – be that people, process or technology.
The rule of thumb for reading a B&IT is if an element is below another one, it uses it. If an element is above another element, the one below supports the operation of the element above it. We can connect elements too, signifying that data flows between them.
Explore B&ITs in more detail
Try clicking the top right corner of the images below to explore this selection of Business and IT diagrams in more detail. You can zoom in and pan around the diagrams. As you can see reading a B&IT diagram is easy to do, but for the first time you can understand your assets in context.
You’ll notice the Notes column on the right hand side of the diagram where you’ll find a description of what the B&IT is portraying.
By looking under the “Client Order Processing” business process on the left you’ll see the applications needed for the process to work, then hardware it runs on and how it connects back to the head office through a Vodafone Modem.
By looking up from the modem at the bottom, we can see what will stop working should that modem fail.
Here we have a diagram showing a before and after picture of a proposed project change. You’ll see from the annotation and the notes column what is going to be done and the benefits it will deliver. This single diagram is great for communication, auditing and documenting the change.
With OBASHI B&ITs you don’t always have to use every layer. Sometimes you might want to create an overview which can be drilled down into later. This way, you don’t need to boil the ocean. In this B&IT you can see ` hierarchy or owners (LOU reports to COU, and COU reports to ROC), business processes and Applications.
Looking at the Business Process layer you can see that the “Initial registration and assignment of LEI” element is made up of four sub-processes, the first being “First-time Application”. As it’s a different colour to the standard Business Process layer elements there is a legend in the Notes column with some more information about that element. In this case, it signifies that the element is broken down into more detail on another B&IT – which is shown below.
Here we show the Business Process element “First-time Application” from the previous drawing in much more detail, and it consists of many more sub-processes. In this way you can model simple or complex hierarchies in any of the OBASHI layers.
Note also the use of the Red Triangle to draw attention to the Notes column, and the Hold Cloud which signifies more information is needed in this area of the diagram.
For this organisation we can see that SAP Manufacturing supports five key business processes for the Production Manager. If I was to pose the question “What does SycroSys do?” you’d be able to see it underpins the “Parts” business processes as part of the “ProSes” application. Looking closer at the diagram you can see that
- ProSes is, in turn, part of the SAP Manufacturing application
- ProSes needs the Oracle RDBMS to operate
- Oracle and ProSes run on the MANU001 server
- The MANU001 server is running the Bull AIX operating system
- The MANU001 server is plugged into the switch called “Manu ORDERS”
I’ll leave you to think about how the business would be affected if that server failed. OBASHI gives the clear link between business operations and IT.
We”ve taken a slice of a B&IT diagram here to show you how clear that linkage to business can be. There is a named individual “P SMITH” on this diagram in charge of Logistics. The Planning processes of Logistics reply on three applications which run on two servers.
Because we can use the Ownership and Business Process layers you get to see the IT assets in a business context, so more informed decisions can be made, impact analysis can be performed and stakeholders can be easily identified.
As we mentioned earlier, the standard OBASHI colours can be overridden, and with the use of a legend it is a powerful way to depict even more information on an B&IT diagram. In this example we document the different service providers offering IT support and have colour coded the assets (elements) to their support provider. This provides a great way to see if your support contracts make sense and are likely to provide problems.
For example, looking at this diagram, perhaps the XP on the right hand side should be supported by SAP Global Support rather than the Internal IT Service Department. Having one supplier splitting the support of another between layers can cause conflict and make problem resolution more difficult – you get to spot the potential problem before it happens so you can engineer it out before it starts, or be ready for when it does happen.
And there’s nothing stopping you making a handwritten sketch to help get the point across. Even someone with no previous knowledge of OBASHI can quickly understand what you’re trying to say. You’ll also find it makes you think differently about the context of the environment in which you’re working … so sketching it out is a great way of testing your own understanding.