Business Architecture Essentials: ‘Business Architecture and my Unplanned Marathon’


This may be a strange story to tell in a Business Architecture column but bear with me. There are a lot of unaligned and poor capabilities to be discussed here.

The Race


In 2018 I ran my home city marathon in Vancouver and qualified for Boston in 2019. This would be my second time in Boston after running in 2014, a year after the bombings. Boston is a sought-after race that all runners aim to experience at least once in their career. It is the only one that is primarily based on running a qualifying time on a certified course sometime in the year before. Along with thousands of others representing more than 100 countries, I was thrilled at the opportunity to run it again but knew there was some tough training ahead since Boston is regarded as one of the most challenging courses to take on, with serious downhills and uphills to navigate at particularly poorly timed spots in the race for participants.


That day in April started in a torrential downpour bringing on a mud bowl at the preparation area and race start. Soon afterwards the sun came out and the heat arrived along with stifling humidity, making a good pace a challenge (that’s my excuse). Then as we got to the three-quarter mark when there is little left in the tank, the skies opened up again and the temperature also dropped considerably. But for the racers you take what’s given, suck it up, and move on. Rounding into Boylston Street for the last half mile with tens of thousands of supporters cheering you on, you are spent but emotion takes over and you find another gear to charge through the finish line and pick up your well-deserved medal and needed food.


Waves of chills take over as you huddle under your metal foil blanket to avoid hypothermia while consuming as much in calories as you can. It’s over! You did it! You attained your goal! You celebrate with your family and friends! Beer is in order since you have not had any for a little while. Despite all the challenges to qualify, get race fit, and weather the conditions and the course, nothing would stop you from getting to this finish line moment. It is something to savor and celebrate. That means marathon swag is a must which brings me to my unplanned marathon scenario.

One of the is the most popular mementos of this race is the iconic jacket. There are lots of superstitions and opinions on where and when to wear it, but most agree that you have to have one even if its only brought out years later to show your grandkids that you used be somewhat athletic. I certainly wanted one to wear when I went to other races. It’s a badge of honor and a great conversation starter in the running community.

The Unplanned Marathon

My quest to get mine started once I got to Boston just before the event, and so I ventured off to the race expo to pick up my chip timing bib and search for the jacket. As a business architect my analysis of the process of attaining this goal started right away. It is an occupational hazard after all. Everything must be analyzed and criticized. Now the journey began in a long series of steps I did not anticipate.


Step 1: I went to the Adidas (official clothing supplier of the race) section of the expo and headed right for the jackets area where lots of jackets were visible since it was only mid day. I went right to the men’s small jackets and there were none on the racks. I asked for a check of inventory in back, I was told that the men’s small sizes were all out. I though that it was strange since non-runners rarely buy a runner’s jacket and long before the registration date, the organizers would have had a very good idea of the size distribution. Calling around to partner sports stores, I also found that they were also sold out. I was concerned that there would be no more since they would not make anymore at this point. A quick check online showed inventory, however. I decided to wait till I got home since there was a race to run the next morning.

Step 2: I ran the race and survived.

Step 3: The next morning I drove to Toronto and then flew home to Vancouver.

Step 4: I went online and was given the choice of the Canadian Site and US site. I selected the Canadian site, where I looked for the Boston Marathon branded products but could not find them. I called the Canadian call centre and they said that those products could only be bought from the US site so go there which I did.


Step 5: Go online to the US site which said they ship to Canada. I looked for Boston Marathon products and yay, I found them and put the right sized jacket in the cart. However, not so fast, since limitations were now going to change the story. When entering the shipping address got the message that the US site would not accept a delivery to Canada despite what the site said earlier.

Step 6: I called the US call center and said that the website asked where to deliver and I chose Canada, but the cart would not allow it. They said that’s the rule and did not seem to be concerned that the site said I should be able to do it. Offered no extra help.

Step 7: Received a customer service e-mail about the service I received from the call center. I responded and had a good laugh with myself about inappropriate measurements which I warn companies about regularly.

Step 8: I decided I would try to ship to our mail box in the US just across the border, to avoid the border delivery constraint but wait. It turns out you cannot finish the order on the US site using a Canadian credit card.

Step 9: I dug out my US credit card that has the same address as the shipping address in the US. No worries you would think but hang on apparently you cannot order or ship within the US even your US card is being used outside the US. I tried using a VPN but they were on to that too.

Step 10: Anticipating that the web site was not up to date, I called the US call center again and yes that is the rule since they know where you are when you try to order. Escalations also were fruitless. I now see why one of my associates refers to the call center as the order prevention department.

Step 11: Not to be deterred, I finally called a friend in Boston who placed the order on his own card and shipped the jacket to the US mail box across the continent.

Step 12: I transferred the funds back to my friend and promised a beer for his consideration.

Step 13: I then drive across the border to the US mail boxes and pick up the jacket and jumped up and down at the reward for my determination. Step 14: I then vowed to never to buy from that vendor again and to tell as many people about it as possible.

How does this relate to Business Architecture and Processes?

So, what went wrong? Let’s look at the possibilities using the Burlton Hexagon that we use to define what must be done to execute and provide resources for Business capabilities. Can you spot the things they did not get right? There are many right answers to this question. Let’s look at some possibilities.


Clearly there was little customer centric design of relationships, processes, information management. They also spent time and effort on wasted (for them) work. They did not anticipate what should have been clear, that thousands of foreign runners from over a 100 countries were there with a high propensity to buy. Their poor customer service strategy would have been hidden if their up front process and data analytics of forecasting demand and planning supply were done properly by simply looking at the data they should have had access to from the beginning. As in most business design and process, root cause analysis work at the front of a value stream, designed poorly, will show up downstream when it’s hard to fix.

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Roger Burlton

Roger Burlton

Roger Burlton is Chairman of the BPTrends Board of Advisors and a Founder and Chief Consultant of BPTrends Associates. He is considered a global innovator in methods for Business Process and is recognized internationally for his thought leadership in Business Process Management. Roger has developed and chaired several high profile conferences on Advanced Business and Information Management and Business Process Management, globally.  He currently chairs the annual BPM Forum at the Building Business Capability Conference in the US and the IRM UK BPM Conference in Europe and his pragmatic BPM global seminar series, started in 1991, is the longest continuous running BPM seminar in the world. Rogers is the author of the best selling book, Business Process Management: Profiting from Process and the Business Process Manifesto. He is widely recognized for his thought leadership in business process strategy, business architecture, process analysis and design and process management, measurement and governance.  Roger graduated with a B.A.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto and is a certified Professional Engineer in the Province of Ontario.

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