“Waiter, Waiter!”

The customer sat in the corner of the busy cafe, with a seaming bowl of soup, frantically waving to the retreating waiter who had just set the bowl down and hurried away.  Frustrated, he turned, but did not advance.

“What is it, sir?”

“Waiter, try this soup,” the customer replied.

Curious, he walked back to the table.  “What is wrong with it.”

“Just try the soup.”

“Sir, is there a problem?” the waiter impatiently insisted, looking over his shoulder at the other tables.

“Just try the soup,” the customer repeated.  A few seconds of silence passed.  The waiter considered his options. 

“OK, sir.  I’ll try it.”  The waiter looked around the table.  “Where’s the spoon?”

“A-haaaaaa” noted the customer. 

I spent about two hours yesterday in a conference call with the Enterprise Architecture team of a large financial institution, one of the many fringe benefits of this job.  I shared some details about our EA practices and they shared theirs.  It was an opportunity for me to speak with peers, share ideas, compare practices, and such.  (Special thanks to their Microsoft Account Manager for setting up the conference call). 

One question that came up, that in fact often comes up, is “how do you convince senior business leaders of the value of Enterprise Architecture?

My answer: I don’t.  Enterprise Architecture, the function, is not valuable by itself. 

Enterprise Architecture is valuable because of the data that EA collects, and the reports that EA makes available to senior leaders. Allow me to repeat, it’s all about the data.

Business leaders don’t need Enterprise Architects to stand around acting smart.  They need data, reports, and analysis.  The Enterprise Architect is essential to interpret that data, and help them to understand the value of the using the information to make decisions. 

So, if I have a business leader who does want data, I start there.  I collect a little data and show it to her, and whet her appetite.  I ask what questions she wants answered (“Which processes drive the most cost to my department?” or “How much of my budget, last year, was actually spent on going after my priority strategies?”).  Then, get the subset of EA data needed to answer that question.  Projects grow from projects, functions from functions.  Data maintenance is expensive, so the reports have to be valuable year after year.

When we see a business leader that doesn’t understand EA, we show the reports we created for other leaders.  It’s all about the data.

To be honest, I don’t want to ever sell the value of EA to a business leader.  I want one business leader to ask another, “where did you get that data,” and have the other reply, “From Enterprise Architecture, of course.”

The system should flow from it’s own success.

If the data is the food, EA is the spoon.