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Business-Driven Architect

Brenda Michelson

How do You "Talk to Everyone"?

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This week, I've been working on a whitepaper write-up of the Insights from the SOA Consortium's Executive Summits. This paper goes deeper than the Top 5 Insights we shared in the webinar.

Last night, I wrote this:

"To collaborate effectively, business and IT professionals must speak a common language. Historically, business professionals have been encouraged to increase their IT literacy. This has proven successful at the project execution level. However, collaboration on strategy and architecture is a business conversation first.

"Our entry is always the process and that's what we actually talk about - how to optimize the process, how to drive the process...When I hear business people talk about systems and they mention System A, System B, System C, I know we're in trouble. Because basically that means to me is that we are locked into the constraints of the environment." - CTO during SOA Executive Summit

The CIO and CTO participants encourage business-smarts in their IT organizations. IT professionals, particularly senior leaders and enterprise architects, must understand the business, and be able to relate IT capability to business value generation."

This morning, I saw Jon Udell's post on "Talking to Everyone", in it he asks:

How do you talk to everyone about the transformative benefits of the technologies we're so excited about, in ways that don't make people flip the bozo switch and tune you out? How do you tell stories that make the benefits of the technology come alive for people, in ways they can understand, without overwhelming them with technical detail, but at the same time without dumbing down your explanation of the technology?

So, I'm curious. What techniques, metaphors, or stories do you use to "talk to everyone" about SOA? Enterprise Architecture?

[Disclosure: The SOA Consortium is a client of Elemental Links]


Great post Brenda. My comment started getting long, so I cut and paste it into a blog entry.


My answer is the same as Todd's: "I don't talk about SOA [or BPM or BAM or EDA or SCA or Web 2.0, et al], I talk about the business."

I try to avoid talking about the technology, or systems A, B, and C, and especially avoid the buzzwords du jour like "SOA." Instead of trying to "tell stories that make the benefits of the technology come alive", I strive to tell stories of improved and more flexible business processes.

Understanding the enabling technology is a must for us IT'ers, but getting the business interested in it, let alone excited about it, is of questionable value. IT needs to understand the business. Business users shouldn't need to understand much about the technology.


While I agree with Todd's statements, at some point I find that I need to explain what capabilities are available within the constraints of the client's particular environment (risk aversion, willingness to change, IT Stds, etc.).

I sometimes find it interesting in business meetings that I am the one talking business concepts and the customers are talking applications and systems.

Brenda Michelson, Principal of Elemental Links, shares her view on architectural strategies, technology trends, business, and relevance.

Brenda Michelson

Brenda Michelson is the principal of Elemental Links an advisory & consulting practice focused on business-technology capabilities that increase business visibility and responsiveness. Follow Brenda on Twitter.


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