Welcome to the interactive blog for the EA Practice Advisor. This EA Practice Advisor was established as part of the EAPJ, and in the tradition of advice columns from the past, will allow readers to submit questions and receive advice from the team. We’ve got some great people here at the Journal, and we’re looking forward to offering some helping words.
More than just one-way advice from us at the EAPJ though, we want this to be an interactive column. We would love to hear from you about current challenges you are facing, but just as importantly, tell us about the things that you have found that have worked well for you in the past, and that you feel others could benefit from. If you would like to ask a question, or tell us about your experiences, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help.
Why an Advice Column?
The EA discipline is challenging, and relatively new in the broader scheme of business disciplines that we recognise today. If we are to continue to grow as a profession, and realise the potential that Enterprise Architecture promises, it is essential that we grow together. In particular, establishing and maturing an EA Capability within an organisation can be difficult. With that in mind, we at the EAPJ felt that an advice column would allow practitioners, or aspiring practitioners, to be able to discuss the challenges they face.
A question for you to begin our journey together. Do any of these scenarios sound like the professional world you live in?
- Your company has decided they “need Enterprise Architecture” and they’re looking to you to help.
- You’ve just been employed as an Enterprise Architect and you’re looking around and thinking “Where do I start?”.
- You’ve been working away trying to establish Enterprise Architecture at your organisation for a while now, but you just aren’t getting the traction you need to make a difference.
- You’re thinking to yourself “I’ve been a Solution Architect for a few years now. Where to from here?”.
If any of these sound familiar to you, and you would like to know more about what has worked well for people who have been through the same challenges, then this is the place to come for help. What’s in it for you? Free, unbiased advice from those that have been fortunate enough to work in the field, and have survived many of the pitfalls that await you.
Okay, let’s get started. Below is our first question for the EA Practice Advisory Team, which centres around The Elevator Pitch.
Post #1 – “What makes a good Elevator Pitch?”
We all know the scenario. You’re responsible for the Enterprise Architecture effort in your organisation, and you’re reporting into the CIO. You’ve come in early to get a head start on things, and the CEO steps into the elevator. He or she turns to you and asks what you do. You say “I’m the Enterprise Architect!” and they respond with “Oh yes, I’m told we need one of them, but I have no idea why. So what does an Enterprise Architect do exactly?”. You’ve got ten, maybe fifteen seconds to let them know why EA is necessary for the organisation, and why they should support it. What do you say?
Now I’ve heard a few answers that relate to this scenario, and I’ve used a few myself. Here’s a couple that I’m sure you’ve heard before:
- “We help you to realise your business strategy by understanding where your IT investment should be directed.”
- “We describe the future state of your business needed to support your business strategy, and then provide a roadmap that allows the organisation to transition from where it is now, to where it needs to be.”
What are your thoughts? Have your used or heard these before, and what have you found that has worked in the past? Regardless of the actual words you use, the intent is to ensure that you get a message across that shows you understand his or her drivers. Do you really understand what the CEO is trying to do with the organisation? What sort of company they are trying to build, and why? Theoretical or text-book definitions of Enterprise Architecture are not the answer. Words that resonate the vision that the CEO has articulated in the corporate vision and objectives may be your guide. Do you know what they are, and have you tried to relate your efforts to them?
Perhaps tools like the Business Motivation ModelTM from OMG or the Stakeholder Map Matrix from TOGAFTM might help you to better understand what drives your key stakeholders. Then you can answer in words the CEO can recognise, because the words came from them in the first place.
Here are a couple of examples:
Your company has just appointed a new CEO, and their first decision was to address cultural issues within the organisation. To do that, they’ve enlisted the help of an external party to develop a new Vision for the company, accompanied by a Mission Statement and a set of Core Values. With much fanfare, these new statements of corporate culture have been made ubiquitous. Every spare piece of wall-space in the company’s head office now has a reminder to the types of behaviours expected from staff, and what the company stands for. In this case, the Vision Statement released by the CEO reads:
“We aim to be the region’s most trusted Financial Services provider by 2017.”
To support that vision, the Mission Statement reads:
“We must develop world-class products that help our customers take control of their financial future. To do this, we must have a deep understanding of their needs and circumstances, and develop our relationship with them to become their trusted financial advisor.”
The underpinning Core Values include, amongst others:
- “Our customers are our most important asset”
- “Trust and Integrity are key to our success”
- “Our people and our products are world-class”
Taking into account what you’ve learned from these statements, perhaps a better elevator pitch might be:
“As your EA, I’m planning the best way to provide our staff with the tools they need to better understand the customer, and drive more meaningful and trustworthy relationships. That way, we can achieve our goal to become the company that people trust with their financial future.”
Or perhaps something a little more straightforward:
“I know we want to be the region’s most trusted Financial Services provider by 2017. My job is to understand what product, process and technology changes are required to enable us to achieve that goal.”
The company you work for is a not-for-profit organisation that is trying to help address the day to day concerns of the growing population of homeless people across the country. It has a long-stated Vision Statement of:
“We want to reduce the number of people living on the streets by 80% by the year 2020.”
To support that ideal, the Mission Statement reads:
“We must work with authorities and law-makers to improve the situations that lead to chronic homelessness. We must identify those in most need, and help them to find a way back into society so they can be afforded the same rights and opportunities as anyone else. We must do this with respect, and recognise the individual’s need for dignity.”
The Core Values of this organisation might be:
In these circumstances, being able to provide the greatest possible reach with what is likely to be limited funding is key. As a result, the elevator pitch may be along the lines of:
“I’m here to identify opportunities that help the company reach more people, and provide better outcomes for those in need. I do that by understanding what we do, ensure that we do it as efficiently as possible, and that we have the right people, processes and tools we need to do the job well.”
Of course, there are many other scenarios, and many of them relate to generating Shareholder Value, driving efficiencies within the organisation, or generating competitive advantage, but these two scenarios highlight that not every company is driven by the same interests. It is the specific drivers of your organisation that you need to understand and align to. Having said that, I’m not talking about simply paraphrasing what can sometimes be considered meaningless words generated by management consulting firms. The role of the Enterprise Architect offers considerable value to the organisation, and that must be reflected in a desire to realise the company’s goals. If you find yourself wondering if you can believe in what you are saying, have you thought about whether you are working for the right company? Perhaps we’ll leave that for a future issue of the Journal…
What do you think would work in these circumstances? Do you think they sound better than the examples we gave earlier? Do you have an example you would like to share? Please join in the conversation by responding below, or by emailing us at email@example.com. Not only will readers of this forum be able to learn from your experience, but we’ll publish a selection of responses in the next issue of the Enterprise Architecture Professional Journal!
We also want to know the subjects that are causing you professional pain. Please email your questions, and we’ll select one for our next advice column. The EA Practice Advisory Team is here to help.
The EA Practice Advisor
Darryl is a 25 year IT veteran, having provided Solution Architecture and Enterprise Architecture services to companies across numerous industries on both the east and west coast of Australia, including the establishment of EA capabilities. He is a member of an industry advisory group that was formed to advise the Australian Computer Society (ACS) on the scope, skills and body of knowledge of an Enterprise Architect to support a specialist certification in EA.
Darryl presented at last year’s Open Group Conference in Sydney on the definition of EA Skills using the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). SFIA provides a standard reference model for IT skills and is rapidly becoming the adopted standard internationally for IT skill definition, including as a tool to align the design of university curriculum with the expectations of the IT industry. Darryl is also a member of a number of Special Interest Groups, and is on the program committee of several conferences, including the Australian Enterprise Architecture Conference. He is certified in Enterprise Architecture (TOGAF) and Project Management (PRINCE2), is a Senior Member of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and an ACS Certified Professional.