The profession of Enterprise Architecture struggles, in part, because we have done a poor job of outlining our value proposition to senior leaders of our respective companies. I have posted occasionally about the value proposition of EA. I was a lead author on the FEAPO perspectives paper that discusses the value of EA. However, I want to highlight one value proposition that is often missed: the human side of envisioning.
First off, a controversial statement: Enterprise Architecture is a function that is only sufficiently valuable when an company is changing, and then primarily to provide information needed to make the change as seamless and smooth as possible. If a company is not changing, it’s safe to skip the Enterprise Architecture function. On the other hand, if a company is not changing, it will probably be out of business in a decade, and this advice won’t matter. I won’t fight that battle.
So in a world of change, there are some basic elements of change management that Enterprise Architecture provides. Assuming you understand the concepts of change management, one of the key phases of any change is building a vision. (John Kotter outlined eight stages of change in his various books on change management. Creating the vision is stage three).
Vision is human
EA articles often talk about building a vision, but what does that actually mean? Does it mean that a sheet of paper emerges with words on it? Well, yes, that’s one deliverable but the vision statement is not the most important deliverable.
The most important deliverable in envisioning takes place in the minds of the people in the room. It’s the human consensus itself: getting leaders together to face one another, hear one another, and compromise with one another. This is a key value proposition for Enterprise Architecture — the ability to build consensus towards a single vision of the future. It is compromise, negotiation, and empathy.
That consensus is wildly valuable for achieving change. It is the basis for your vision and the vision statement. Leaders must be reminded, at each step of the way, of this consensus to make sure that change actually occurs. Change can hurt. Good ideas often require a sacrifice and people can end up taking the fall. They could end up doing more work than they want, or being uncomfortable with changes in their responsibilities. Leaders must remember the consensus and their emotional commitment to achieving the result. If they do, then they can handle the push-back that comes when their team has to cope with those sacrifices.
The Test of Consensus
The test of leadership comes in quiet moments. A team leader walks into your office and complains that his team is not trained or ready for a new responsibility. A customer or partner complains that they don’t want to do more work. The conversations that follow are key. You have to help a stakeholder see the value in making a change. How well that see that value is the absolute difference between success and failure. It is difficult to argue for a change if you don’t believe in it. Without the starting consensus, that emotional commitment to change, your vision will fail.
A Vanguard Enterprise Architect knows technology, but he or she knows just as much about collaboration, consensus, and change. Becoming a good EA is difficult because it requires both hard technology skills but also softer skills around building the momentum towards successful change.