For decades, CIOs have been fighting for a seat at the executive table: fighting to be heard, fighting to be a trusted advisor to the CEO, fighting to be regarded as a true C-level participant. It hasn’t been until the last few years that cybersecurity breaches, the sprint toward business digitization, the emphasis on the customer experience and a service-driven economy have thrust the CIO into the spotlight.
In many of these cases, CIOs are lucky to have really smart people backing them up along the way. Enterprise architects (EAs) have typically been the CIO’s right-hand men (or women), fighting alongside their boss to have their strategic insights heard and their version of innovation understood. Now that digitization is widely recognized as being essential to innovation, growth and the capacity to readily compete, CIOs are becoming firmly embedded in charting the direction of the business. This should serve as a clarion call to all EAs. It’s your time – CIOs and other leaders are looking to you.
In a recent Wired article, Jason Bloomberg encouraged Chief Digital Officers to “invite enterprise architects to the digital party.” While we’d certainly agree that enterprise architects need to be connected to every branch and stakeholder in the organization – the CEO, CFO, CIO (of course), CDO, etc. – and provide a unique value to each, we’re not convinced they need to wait for their formal invitation to arrive. A few words of advice to architects that will ensure their visibility, effectiveness, and ability to carpe diem:
Know your allies and stand on their shoulders. Although much is being made about the digital transformation of the business, let’s be honest – this is the net evolution of something that has been happening for quite some time. A new-fangled Chief Digital Officer can certainly be a valuable relationship to nurture, but remember to dance with the one that brought you. In many companies, it’s the CIO that is your most longstanding ally. They can ingratiate you with the CDO and lend proven, reliable advocacy to your work. We’re not saying it’s a territory war, but it’s important to be aware of where your strongest connections exist.
Be confident in your expertise. Not everyone will understand what you do. Some people might see you as a geek, like the picture that Bloomberg paints in his piece. But none of that matters, because you’re delivering intelligence that counts and offering a path to real business results. It may take some explaining, but we’ve never seen a case where the light bulb didn’t eventually go off for executives looking to understand the purpose and impact of EA. Go about solving problems, not worrying about evangelizing the tools of your trade under the pretense that people need to understand them in order to trust your contributions.
We like the way that Joe McKendrick describes your role in a recent ZDNet post, with a tip of the hat to John Zachman. Zachman postulates that enterprise architects should be like doctors diagnosing ailments: “The fundamental problem in the enterprise community is nobody is doing the diagnosis, they’re just taking x-rays. If people think that enterprise architecture is a practice of building models, that’s like taking x-rays. What the enterprise architect ought to be doing is reading the models, figuring out what the problem is, then prescribing three, or five, or 20 possible solutions.” Seize the moment to be a figurative doctor.
Evolve the EA terminology. It’s time to turn the page and start talking about what EAs provide in a way that everyone understands. At Planview, we’ve taken to calling it enterprise intelligence because we think it more accurately represents the results that come out of our solutions. Bloomberg calls the EA team the Center of Digital Excellence (CODE); that’s pretty catchy too. Whatever it takes to help business leaders understand that you’re up to speed with the business and in lockstep with business objectives. Don’t let nomenclature drag you down.
At a baseline, don’t sit back and wait for an invitation. Take action, step up to the table and prove that you can help steer the business in a positive, profitable direction. It’s the era of the connected enterprise. Decisions you inform and help make for one part of the business ripple throughout the entire organization, with their impacts felt far and wide. It’s time for EAs to seize the moment and show how they can help diagnose and solve the next wave of digital business challenges. It’s your time.
Check out this short video and download our whitepaper, The Power of Enterprise Intelligence, to learn more about how our solutions help decision-makers take a step back to see the big picture to understand exactly where they should be investing in their business.