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How to Simplify Enterprise Architecture Messaging for Stakeholders

by Bunny Tharpe       • May 12, 2016

Enterprise Architecture’s (EA) reputation as an ivory tower domain, has long been a thorn in its side. Winning over stakeholders, business leaders and decision makers when the outcomes of a project aren’t easily conveyed is a tough ask.

A difficulty in articulating the benefits of something doesn’t necessarily indicate that something isn’t beneficial, though. In fact it’s becoming more and more apparent, that the increasing focus on digital business is elevating the role and influence of EA.

Architects who have had calls for deeper investment into their domain rebutted, often assume it is solely – or at least largely – an issue in their messaging. Although there is truth in this, there is also a an issue in their tool’s messaging. This is the presentation, ease of sharing data, and the ‘language’ of the tool itself, not the architect’s pitch.

Although the amount of time EA has struggled with the issues implies otherwise, avoiding such trouble isn’t the monumental task many assume. Two relatively small, but significant steps will help kill Enterprise Architecture complexity, whilst helping the Enterprise Architecture reach peak maturity.

Simplifying EA by introducing an Enterprise Architecture Tool

One practice to help kill EA complexity is to streamline the way Enterprise Architecture is handled. Organizations cannot expect simple, comprehensible data outputs and business outcomes if the data going in is fractured between several different tools.

Many Enterprise Architects are familiar with the Visio, Powerpoint and Excel method of EA management, and the headaches it can cause. However, industry horror stories can often paint an even grimmer picture. One of Enterprise Architecture literally outgrowing Office tool’s capabilities, extending itself on to office walls in a collage of messy post-it notes and sketches.

Additionally, these tools require both users, and the relevant interested parties, to navigate multiple different tools. Putting aside the obvious taxing nature of needless and additional processes, the disconnect between tools and platforms make it much harder to demonstrate relationships between data – a core component of Enterprise Architecture.

But the extra processes aren’t just cumbersome to juggle. They also have to be managed in isolation. Consider the common situation where the organization relies on a blending of Powerpoint, Excel and Visio tools, where these three all deal in separate file types and methods of input. This essentially triples the amount of data that needs to be managed, greatly increasing the risk of Enterprise crippling errors.

Having one tool that can manage all Enterprise Architecture needs negates these issues. Changes to data, relationships and repositories are updated in real time via representational consistency, eliminating duplications.

An EA tool that effectively encourages collaboration takes these benefits even further. There’s no reason why any Enterprise Architecture initiative should struggle when it comes to encouraging engagement with stakeholders. There are tools available that have learned from and implemented widely adopted ‘social media norms’ such as tagging (with ‘@’) to share work with a particular colleague, and comment systems to encourage discussion.

With SaaS based tools, it’s possible to share assets direct from within the tool, further smoothing the collaboration process. Architects can directly share the diagram, roadmap or analysis in question with their stakeholders.

Simplifying EA by introducting ‘Just Enough’ Enterise Architecture

A second practice to kill EA complexity is to take a more selective approach to recording and managing data. This approach is often referred to as, ‘Just Enough’ Enterprise Architecture.

It seems obvious when working with tangible ‘things’ – the more things you own, the more difficult it is to control and maintain the ones you want. Yet with data, this logic and reasoning is often lost. To kill EA complexity, Enterprise Architects should adopt a more vigilant approach in managing their data.

Additionally, what EA’s choose to record should be more deeply considered. A ‘Just Enough’ approach to Enterprise Architecture has been championed by leading analysts – including Gartner – for some time, and for this exact reason. Maintaining data that provide value to your initiative is in essence, choosing to increase your own workload, and decreasing your productivity.

Again, these are just suggestions to help improve. They don’t require a complete overhaul of your Enterprise Architecture practice. But introducing these practices is one of the best ways to shake EA’s ‘Ivory Tower’ perception.

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