What’s in an Operating Model ?

This post is part of the ‘Architecture Models’ series.

This started out as a brief note but I’ve come back to it time and time again because it’s a complicated topic.  Most of the definitions that I saw of an ‘operating model’ were an organogram, an organisation structure showing who works for who.  Many of the people that I interacted with agreed that there didn’t need to be any more content in an operating model and so ‘HR’ should own and create it.  In fact, the IT platform that stores names and managerial relationships could probably display it for me if I wanted to see it.  OK, I exaggerate, but only a little.

It’s a question that is still debated in blogs across the internet.  The WordPress blog at Ashridge On Operating Models suggests that an Operating Model can be described by defining the enterprise’s ‘POLISM’ (processes, organization, location, information, suppliers and management system).

Whilst I agree that those are fundamental parts of an operating model, my view is that there’s more to an Operating Model than just ‘POLISM’.  That seems too constrained and fundamentals of how the business works would need to be documented elsewhere.  If I include those other fundamentals then I think that there are three pillars for an Operating Model:

  • the Financial Model of an organisation
  • the future of the organisation, as defined by its strategies and its saleable products
  • the Operations of the organisation that shows how the enterprise functions

and that these pillars sit on two foundational building blocks:

  • the principles for how the enterprise approaches its vision
  • a glossary


As an aside, Enterprise Architecture would seem to be the next level of detail that shows how each of the pillars interacts; a little like 3D chess but with more dimensions !