Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Key Messages for 'selling' enterprise architecture to the CEO

Alex Cullen from Forrester recently posted a blog post entitled "How Would You Sell Business Architecture To Your CEO?". To summarize as briefly as possible, Alex had no prior warning and used the following messages to 'sell' EA to the CEO.

  • EA supports consistency in the execution of corporate strategy
  • EA supports alignment of IT initiatives to corporate strategy
  • The use of capability maps articulates processes, business goals and associated metrics and these support discussion about business context for decision making and to coordinate planning

I think he did a great job given the circumstances however unlike Alex Cullen, I have had time to reflect and thought I'd post some thoughts on how I might have taken a slightly different approach.
I always frame conversations with CEOs around 4 'pillars' that all CEOs care about. They are:
  • Reduce costs
  • Increase revenue
  • Enter new markets 
  • Increase market share

This is reflective of a general principle of always considering the stakeholder and using terminology they understand. 
I also usually try to know the "burning issues" of each stakeholder, (in this case the CEO). I try to identify the top 4 (ish) things they are currently worried about. Typical examples of "burning issues"
for executives are regulatory compliance, failing projects, silo thinking, etc. Seek first ti understand and then be understood. With executives you'll be far more interesting if you ask questions and listen than if you give expert opinion alone.
I try to tie the value of enterprise architecture directly to the stakeholder's concerns and talk through the EA techniques that I would apply to resolve the issues at hand. 
Alex finishes by saying that the CEO "remains open but is not yet convinced." I doubt if an CEO will ever understand or be convinced about EA in one hearing. For me it is usually 'death by a thousand cuts' with EA. Make incremental gains aligned with the 4 pillars identified above and you won't become "Head of EA" you'll become something even better you'll become the CEO's trusted advisor or at least be referred to as "that guy that always has the information we need to make decisions." 

Competing on Analytics (Ch 6): A Road Map to Enhanced Analytical Capabilities (30-minute read)

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