Enterprise Architecture Training Justification

Quoting a long-time executive; We need to “Simplify, Amplify and Re-invent” organizations

I agree. Like many today, I listened with intrigue to the words and the explanations in the presentation. Given my recent training request for additional EA training and still waiting for a response status, I found it almost ironic when his very first words were those that are foundational to the subject matter of my training request – “reference architectures”, “repeatable services creating repeatable success” and “standardization in their [design] methodology”. He is referring to what EA brings to businesses via consultants like myself. So, why can’t I get my training approved? This stuff works, just look at it!

In watching IT teams talk to business partners I’m reminded of a line from Cool Hand Luke in which the Captain says to Luke “What we’ve got here — is a failure to communicate.”  There is in a sense, a failure and if the two can’t overcome it, then many IT efforts are going to be for naught. In many cases client IT teams are surrogate sales people [selling consultant delivered solutions] talking to the corporate decision makers on our behalf as consultants. You can only hope you trained your sales person well.

Why do we have this situation? Most times, those of us in IT exhibit too much “inside-out-thinking”. We talk of “services” we deliver to the business – we talk about applications, technologies and architectural domains. This terminology or lexicon is ours and it is effective when we speak between ourselves, but it is ineffective when we need to communicate to business leaders, our clients. Clients are not going to change, so in this case we are going to have to “go-to-the-mountain” because the mountain is not going to come to us.

So what language do corporate leaders understand?

Don’t completely forget the hard-dollar ROI calculations of the past, executives today are savvy and are accustomed to discussing and focusing on game-changing questions to prove business investment value. From my experience, the best way to “value-justify” projects is for EA’s to help drive answers to critical business questions that can help CIOs do a fundamentally better job.

Three hot-button questions I like to help answer are:

1. How can we free up a certain amount of the 80% of spending that is imprisoned in maintaining the existing environment and use it for more strategic initiatives?

2. How can we safeguard that IT is doing the right projects, and doing them right (e.g. quickly and effectively), and,

3. How can we decrease risk by ensuring that applications are leveraging supported, safe technologies and are installed on solid infrastructure platforms?

Driving a shift of funds from maintenance, support, and break/fix — “institutional spend” — to discretionary spend is critical because CIO’s are trying to meet increasing user needs with dwindling budgets. Yet, costs for fixed expenses such as salaries, software licenses, and data center operations isn’t falling, or decreasing quickly enough to make up for new, abridged budgets. That means there are fewer and fewer “discretionary dollars” every year. And as we know, our consulting delivery goals get bigger and bigger every year. Large enterprise executives understand this change in messaging, but people in our commercial space are probably running into CIO and CEO’s who are not there yet with this new messaging. This is what an expert EA working inside delivery could do, help drive the new valu-propositions required in this ever, self-educating economy.

When the corporate executive comes to the table with hundreds of demands and the 20% of the budget that’s discretionary, their budget will satisfy only a tenth of these demands – it’s not going to be a very positive chat is it?

The imbalance creates “selection’ism” and someone invariably gets kicked to the curb. If short EA engagements or assessments can uncover savings by eliminating duplicate or underutilized platforms and use these savings for discretionary projects; this will help the CIO “be a hero to the business” and help us [consultants] uncover current and future opportunities for our consulting companies.

Moreover, by establishing the link between elements of the IT infrastructure and critical business processes, functions, and priorities; EA pre-consolidation/migration/go-to-the-cloud engagements or assessments can help the IT organization focus only on projects that deliver the greatest business benefit and are based on the proper, agreed upon strategy.

Going back to the original presentation one last time; he said the focus is on Cloud, Security and Data – this is clearly stated, and is a very focused strategy for such a large company. This focus is likely the result of a series of sessions outlining the corporations ‘Operating Model*.  The Operating Model, an EA tool, informs the executive team of the appropriate level of business process integration and standardization in order to deliver the organizations promises to stakeholders. The Operating Model also informs leaders about how various technical and business components and competencies should be designed and implemented to enable the chosen or new Operating Model. I suspect that of the four Operating Models; Coordination, Unification, Diversification and Replication, the speaker understood his business was in one model, but needed to grow into another.

The EA message isn’t that cost-savings aren’t important — they are — but we need to communicate them in new terms that will resonate with IT and business leadership, whose executive support we will need to fund and properly execute our next initiative. EA helps IT do all this; “Simply the message, while Amplifying the process as we Re-invent IT services”. It’s the triple-play; IT wins, the business wins and consulting wins.

Once we have identified these key business drivers using EA methodologies within the client’s organization, how do we communicate with them? By showing how EA centered delivery methodologies can produce the results that stakeholders need to do a markedly better job in 2013.

Last, how do we do this, simple – APPROVE my training!!!


* EA’s “Operating Model” explained:

  • Coordination – low process standardization but high process integration (Compare with allied strategy – where subsidiaries provide varied products to the same customers)
  • Unification – both high standardization and integration (compare with integrated strategy)
  • Diversification – businesses requiring low standardization and low integration (compare with holding company strategy)
  • Replication – high standardization but low integration (Compare with Franchisees or Replicated Facilities of an Integrated Strategy)