Thursday, October 28, 2010

Selling Business Architecture

#entarch @alexcullen asks "How Would You Sell Business Architecture To Your CEO?" Alex's own answer to this question is in the form of a 15-minute pitch, based on the following three points.
  1. Your business is complex, and consistency is a challenge.
  2. IT is an enabler of business strategy. The effects of inconsistent strategies and priorities are more visible in IT than anywhere else in the business.
  3. A business capability map enables you to have strategic discussion on business priorities, and to coordinate business planning and execution.
I'm sorry, but that just sounds like IT making the usual excuses for poor delivery. It's not our fault that IT is a mess, it's because the business can't get its act together. And we think we can do a better job if we have a different set of models.

Frankly, if I had to sell business architecture to the CEO, I wouldn't want to do it from an IT perspective at all. My pitch would be based on the following three points.
  1. Let me show you how the structural complexities in your business may critically affect business performance. (Of course, the details of this argument will look different for different businesses. See my post on Enterprise Structure.)
  2. Let me show you how you can manage these structural complexities more effectively by thinking  architecturally about your business.
  3. An explicit business architecture will help you coordinate XXX (specific forms of congruence and requisite variety) across all your human activity systems, including management information systems (IT) and management reward systems (HR), and thus overcome YYYY (the structural inhibitors to business performance).
I should stress that the abstract jargon in this argument serve as placeholders. In putting a customized version of this argument to a real CEO, I'd want to be in a position to talk about the concrete structural problems facing his/her organization, rather than appealing to some general theory of structure. And if I didn't have much idea what these concrete structural problems might be, I probably wouldn't have much luck persuading a hard-nosed CEO that I would be much use solving them.

After all, practical business arguments are rarely based on simplistic deduction ("All businesses need X, therefore your business needs X"), so it's not a good idea for enterprise architects to rely on it either. See my post on Architecture and Logic.

1 comment:

Carl said...

Nicely stated. I realised when reading this blog that I don't sell EA or BizArch - I sell benefits and opportunities for change for the organisation.

While IT does come up during the conversation it is most certainly not the core element of the proposition. In fact, most times it pays to sideline IT as it evokes many emotional outbursts. I don't downplay IT but I sure as hell don't sell it is the panacea.

Actually, taking this realisation to a natural conclusion, I tend not to mention Enterprise Architecture at all when I don't have or need to. This tends to confuse folk and even when they want to see how EA fits into the solution space I try to minimise its import. Life is too short to try and explain what EA is all about to folk who don't really care.