Architectural Scope vs. Project Definition

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys S.W.  Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Gladys S.W. Lam
Excerpted with permission from Building Business Solutions:  Business Analysis with Business Rules (2nd Ed.), by Ronald G. Ross with Gladys S.W. Lam, Business Rule Solutions, LLC, 2015, 308 pp.  URL:

Managing the creation and deployment of a business solution requires a project.  Project definitions (or charters) should never be confused, however, with architectures.  They are fundamentally different.  Many approaches stumble badly in this regard resulting in confusion, waste, and missed opportunities.

Let's suppose your company today has an inadequate business capability in some area, or none at all.  The business wants to address the problem.  The challenge you face as a business analyst is determining what the new business capability should look like.  That's the purpose of the business architecture.  The business architecture details the new or revised business capability in the form the business capability is to operate in the future.

Engineering Future Form

Engineering future form is an architectural issue.  It's the same kind of challenge you would personally face if you needed a new home.  Let's say your family is growing and you need more space with the right features for children and pets.  You also need more storage space and enough room to entertain a widening circle of friends.  What should the new or remodeled house look like?  How do you go about envisioning that future form?

You hire an architect.  Together you brainstorm the new family solution and she draws up a blueprint.  Then you hire a contractor to build to spec.

As a business analyst, you too need to be an architect, but for business capabilities instead of homes.  You too need to develop a business blueprint before the contractors (read 'software developers') are 'hired'.

Project vs. Architecture

Let's say today some business capability in your business is operating at point A.  In its future form, the business needs it to operate at point B.  The business architecture should describe the business capability in the new, improved form it is to operate at point B.

How will you get the company from point A to point B?  For that you need a project.  This project, however, is about managing transformation, not architecture per se.  Project definition and business architecture can and should be cleanly separated.

Architectural Scope

Following John Zachman, a ballpark view of architectural scope can be achieved by creating lists of business items.  There should be six scope lists based on the fundamental questions:  what, how, where, who, when, and why.  For each question, a particular kind of scope item is listed.

Each scope list should generally include from three to twelve scope items.  (7 +/- 2 is generally recommended.)  Let's say the average for each scope list is just over eight items.  Your ballpark architectural scope will consist of approximately 50 scope items (6 x 8, rounded up).

The actual number of scope items in each scope list is less important, however, than that the scope lists outline architectural scope as clearly and as completely as possible.  The scope lists should omit nothing needed for a business solution.

As illustrated by Figure 1, the six scope lists allow you to 'box' the business solution space and to roughly determine its size.  Job One is not to leave any of the six sides of the box open; otherwise the contents can and will spill out (read 'scope creep').

Figure 1.  Boxing the Business Solution Space

Initial scope lists can be extracted by business analysts from many sources:  business-case documentation, feasibility studies, problem statement, project description, sponsor(s), etc.  These initial scope lists should then be reviewed and approved by the business leads.


The first step in creating a business architecture is to take a quick survey of the target business capability.  Putting some stakes in the ground produces a first-cut or ballpark view of architectural scope.  This ballpark view provides a collective sense of which business items are in scope and which ones aren't. 

Establishing a well-grounded architectural scope early, purely in business terms and with participation of business leads, is essential in avoiding subsequent 'scope creep' during design and development of systems.  Is it really possible?  Yes, it's a proven fact.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross and Gladys S.W. Lam, "Architectural Scope vs. Project Definition" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 17, No. 9, (Sep. 2016)

About our Contributor(s):

Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the BRS Methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:

Ron serves as Executive Editor of and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on For more information about Ron visit Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross
Gladys  S.W. Lam
Gladys S.W. Lam Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Publisher, Business Rules Journal and Executive Director, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Gladys S.W. Lam is a world-renowned authority on applied business rule techniques. She is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC (, the most recognized company world-wide for business rules and decision analysis. BRS provides methodology, publications, consulting services, and training. Ms. Lam is Co-Creator of IPSpeak, the BRS methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak. She is Co-Founder of, a vertical community for professionals and home of Business Rules Journal. She co-authored Building Business Solutions, an IIBA® sponsored handbook on business analysis with business rules.

Ms. Lam is widely known for her lively, pragmatic style. She speaks internationally at conferences, public seminars and other professional events. She is also Executive Director of Building Business Capability (BBC) Conference, which includes the Business Rules & Decisions Forum and the Business Analysis Forum.

Ms. Lam is a world-renowned expert on business project management, having managed numerous projects that focus on the large-scale capture, analysis and management of business rules. She advises senior management of large companies on organizational issues and on business solutions to business problems. She has extensive experience in related areas, including BPM, structured business strategy, and managing and implementing information systems.

Ms. Lam is most recognized for her ability to identify the source of business issues, and for her effectiveness in developing pragmatic approaches to resolve them. She has gained a world-class reputation for fostering positive professional relationships with principals and support staff in projects. Ms. Lam graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Computer Science.

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