Communicate EA Value Delivery

by | November 1, 2010

My rant on “Are we the reason it is so hard to express EA’s value?” last week restarted the ongoing debate about what EA is and should be doing.  Others posted their comments and feedback via Twitter.   The consensus was in line with my thinking that we need to find ways to show clear value and get away from the rhetoric.

Mike Rollings (@mikerollings), Gartner wrote a post “Demonstrating EA and IT Value is not Theoretical” where he categorized the comments into:

  • Value Theory – describes how value should work in an organization and this relies on a rational model where irrational people are taken out of the equation
  • Value Reality – does not sanitize the value discussion by eliminating people from the equation by focusing on value expectations and perceptions

Mike and others (me included) come from the value reality camp.

Getting things done lives and dies by identifying value expectations and understanding value perception. The value reality camp knows this because they have the war wounds from trying to make things happen in an organization.

Mike did a nice job of summarizing some practices for Value Realists:

  • Learn to describe architecture’s business contribution and value without using EA’s secret language.
  • Deliberately avoid a highly theoretical approach to EA in favor of helping produce results.
  • Describe what you can do to help versus describing EA.
  • Help the broader audience of business and technology professionals use the knowledge of dependencies, implications, and constraints to improve their results.

I also got a comment from Doug Newdick (@dougnewdick) that agreed with my post.

You have hit the nail on the head. I have looked from the sidelines on the definition of EA discussions, and occasionally sniped in trying to put a spanner in the works. I think it is particularly naive to believe that there is a single definition of EA. I also agree that there is no one model for how EA delivers value. For me EA is supremely contextual – what EA is and how it adds value will vary wildly between enterprises.

Doug then brought up an excellent point that all of us can help with:

Based on your post, what I would love to see more of are case studies – what has some one done in their particular organisation that has worked – has added value. These seem to me to be essential, and yet sorely lacking.

Can we each look at the work we have done and begin to publish some case studies where EA was able to demonstrate value? Some of the folks at CAEAP are working on some case studies for Applied Enterprise Architecture.  The #EA2010 group is also looking at creating a working document to help Enterprise Architects.

Please consider putting some time into this a publish your “EA Value” stories.  I plan on providing some of our case studies on this blog in the future.  Thanks!

5 thoughts on “Communicate EA Value Delivery

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Communicate EA Value Delivery | Enterprise Architecture in Higher Education -- Topsy.com

  2. Ric Phillips

    Hi Leo,

    great post. And let me say, “I feel your pain”.

    But seriously, clichés can be more than figures of speech, they can be words – like alignment, or they could be hypnotising-the-chickens diagrams and power-point slides, or measurements without reason or purpose.

    I think ‘value’ is in danger of becoming another cliché, but that’s another story.

    I agree wholeheartedly that architecture needs to be able to articulate and demonstrate its purpose far more effectively than it generally does.

    As I am sure you have noticed, I have had a ‘secret language’ bee in my bonnet for a while now. This could be partly due to working in higher education. Love ’em or hate ’em, the one thing I can say about the academics sitting on our management committees is that they tend to have excellent BS detectors when reading the paper people put in front of them.

    EAs should do things that make a difference, and we should be able to demonstrate the difference they make.

    I am wondering these days in which direction lies the actual ‘value-proposition’ of EA: Up – informing senior management decision making and ‘aligning’ ICT with the business? Or down – informing projects and solutions so that our systems provide more coherent functionality and productivity, and we simply end up building better widgets.

    In practice (rather than theory) the former seems to be mired in clichés, jargon and comfort-food reporting for senior management. And worse, founded on some quasi-religious principle called ‘alignment’ that no one can define or measure.

    On the other hand the solution-oriented value seems to be clear. EA can really lessen the number of brilliantly managed projects that produce really bad systems. And in that task there is a much lower obfuscation quotient and clear and unambiguous ways of demonstrating effect. (The only real monster lurking below us is the one swimming around hunting for things to ‘leverage’. It’s a horrible fate, and not one I would wish on the most anti-social sys-admin.)

    Reply
    1. Leo de Sousa Post author

      Ric,
      As always an excellent response that triggers more questions for me. I hear you about the academics and appreciate the BS detection!

      I want to drill into your question about the direction of the value proposition. Your description about the informing up meets with my experience too unless there is something concrete for the senior leaders to review. We implemented an IT Governance approach using a Technology Plan with a 3 year window.

      See http://www.bcit.ca/its/about/news/news01281000000001.shtml

      The use of a plan (especially when the Terms of Reference make the Senior Leadership owners of the plan) focuses the discussions on concrete roadmaps with plannned initiatives. Alignment happens with the approval of the roadmaps which in turn drive our workplans.

      I absolutely agree with you about the value proposition downwards to provide value in the solutioning process of projects. there are clear monetary and process improvement measures that can be directly attributed to the involvement of the enterprise architecture process.

      For me the key concept of your response is that EA sits in the middle and we as practitioners can have good success showing value for this place.

      Thank you for reading my post and taking the time to build on it. Leo

      Reply
  3. Emeric Nectoux

    Hi Leo,

    First of all, I would like to start with a quote from Immanuel Kant that I am really deeply convinced is true:

    “Theory without practice is useless practice without theory is blind.”

    This statement, as all strong opposition is of course a bit exaggerate, but will help me to illustrate my point-of-view.

    As often (to not say always 😉 ), the truth is in the middle. It is always a question of balance. I fully support you when you say that we need, as Enterprise architect to “get things done” as you might know, if you’ve been visiting my blog, I am a huge fan of GTD. Get things concrete, doable and make us understand by “non-architects” peeps… But of course, our task, as architects is also to do the theoretical part as well. Actually, this is the part that we, often, like the most. Our dilemma is that we need to do it, but not talking about, while we would like to, because this is so interesting!!

    Well, as you state in the title: the topic here is to communicate about EA value delivery.
    One thing we should always keep in mind when communicating about enterprise architecture around: Know that people you are talking to are not architects AND they don’t want to be!! It is your task, as EA, to understand what they really want too (can be implicit) and find the way to answer to their questions, not trying to “convert” them to become kind of your disciple or a weird kind of enterprise architect as well (there is enough weird EA already 😀 )

    By the way, I will stop here for tonight… EA value is a huge topic and a comment is far from being enough. I have in my todos list a task saying “write post about EA value…” I should write a book 😕 But let’s start with this post. Your gave me a kick to write it, (at least to open this discussion on my blog as well) I think I will put it out very soon.

    Take care. Always a pleasure to read you.
    E.

    Reply
    1. Leo de Sousa Post author

      Emeric,

      Thank you for the insight. I agree with you and very much like the Kant quote. I look forward to reading your blog post soon.

      All the best, Leo

      Reply

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