A recent thread written by one of the IASA chapter members in our area made an interesting statement.  Organizations like the IASA are here to “create a market for architecture.”  Kill me now.

Inside my own organization, I’m helping create a market for architecture, and no external group or professional organization is going to make a lot of difference in that.  How is our team creating that market?

At the executive level, communications is always an interesting thing, but it is not, contrary to popular belief, a black art.  Executives share their ideas and goals with one another because they need to see if everyone is marching to the same drum.  Even if you don’t see it, even if it isn’t public or even internally released, it is happening.

In Microsoft, we are a pretty transparent organization.  We have a long-established process by which the sales managers create an annual ‘memo’ that describes their vision for where their efforts will go in the coming year.  What changes will occur in sales.   It’s fairly public.  Of course, in product development, the real planning is five years out.  It is not so public to keep it from being leaked, but the communication is happening there as well.  So how does IT communicate?

Our new CIO (fairly new) has found a way to get his strategies and plans announced just as publicly as the sales managers and operational managers strategies are.  He observed the communication that was going on and joined in, taking on the ‘challenge’ of creating this public vision.  (very smart)

So how does he use EA?  He asks EA to write it!  It is our job to create a set of documents, each stand alone, each about three to four pages long, dealing with key areas in the company infrastructure.  This becomes our ‘visible’ strategy statement.  How visible?  He will ask the top 200 leaders within Microsoft to read it and provide feedback.  (If you think 200 is a big number, consider this: Microsoft has something like 50,000 employees).

These same leaders are being asked to review many documents, not just from IT.  It is part of executive-level communication.  So they will be prepared.  No IT-only efforts here. And that’s part of the key to success.  Each executive has produced their own set of memos.  They each need feedback, so they have to show committment to the memos of others to get their own read, reviewed, and signed off.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.  For once, the IT work will actually be read.

The document has to be short, clear, and a bit controversial.  The details that are going to hurt need to be alluded to, so that executive buy-in from the leader of a region or product can be translated by their underlings into “don’t fight back.”  If EA wants to change the way IT works, now is our chance.

This ship may not come this way again.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

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