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How do you convince a CEO they need enterprise architecture?

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From this interesting discussion on LinkedIn, How do you convince a CEO they need EA?

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  • Since I am not a member of this particular LinkedIn group I cannot see the course this discussion took on that forum. However, I would respond by saying I would not try to convince anyone that they need Enterprise Architecture. My personal experiences have led me to believe that there are generally two classes of individuals; those that understand and value intangible benefits and those that don't. If you CEO is of the mindset to appreciate and value intangible benefits, then the recommendation for EA will be positively received.

    Trying to convince someone EA is important is like trying to convince a disorganized person the value of a filing system, "gee, that sounds great, but ..."

  • Short answer is "You don't!!!"

    If you are talking about the importance of enterprise architecture with the CEO, you are wasting his time and should not be granted any more time on his calendar. Any discussion with the CEO should be solely focused on achieving strategic objectives and corporate goals, which include growth and revenue. As much, we technophilles would want to believe othereise, the CEO could care less about EA!

    • I disagree. Let me use the old analogy of building architecture: "I don't care" is not the attitude of investors.

      An investor cares whether or not an architect is used to build his investment complex. If the investor cares about the outcome, he/she also cares about the optimum path to reach it. Not any path to somewhere close, great risk of major rework, and consuming much time and effort. Because the competition may care, be there faster, and the investor's customers move into the competition's investment complex instead.

      Of course not everyone appreciates the beauty of architectural descriptions and its detail. But that's part of what gets you there fast. The CEO does need to care, and needs to insist that architecture is done for those who are involved in building according to it.


  • The CEO couldn't care less about EA - and rightly so. However, the CEO will most probably care a lot about the effects of EA. If you want to sell EA to a CEO you should use the effects, not the detailed approaches, to pursuade her / him. That sits well with the point that Jignesh made above. The CEO should want EA to care about the complexities. What the CEO wants is valuable advice for Business Development and IT Development. If the CEO doesn't want to be bothered with the details of EA a great value proposition is to provide concise information and implementation strategies based on the business strategies of the CEO and the IT shop that the company has, without unnecessary details. If the CEO wants to know more, say a little more. But always remember there is a reason that the CEO's didn't become EA's instead: They don't want to bother themselves with all that detail. And the want better pay :)

  • It seems this challenge is at least partly due to how the EA discipline has defined and marketed itself. Particularly, the scope implied by EA is nebulous, misguided or plain inflated. In recent times EA proponents and analysts have staked the claim that EA should not be limited to IT but should be architecting the entire business! Such claims are bound to be met with confusion or skepticism.

    Second, EAs undermine themselves when they state their mission is only to achieve corporate objectives. That’s well and good. But EAs are in a fantastic position to identify new ways of using IT for strategic advantage. Part of their role should be to identify such advantages and turn them into corporate objectives.

    EA would benefit by narrowing its focus to ‘Strategic IT planning’, nothing more, nothing less. IT is a key resource for most companies. The concept and practice of strategic planning to maximize advantage from key resources has been around for decades. CEOs and COOs understand it. In fact, if EAs position themselves as strategic IT planners, they will find themselves more relevant to corporate planning functions and one day may end up reporting to CEOs and COOs!

    • Jignesh, I completely agree with the idea that EA has a marketing problem and it starts with the term 'architect' in the title. Like it or not, this is technical jargon that really doesn't mean anything outside of IT circles.

      When was the last time, you ventured into the marketing department of your business to meet the Brand Architect or the Media-Buying Architect?

      However important the job might be to the strategic future of the business, the person holding it isn't creating a blueprint for the enterprise. Pretty sure, the CEO has that job . . .

      It's unfortunate that the words are confusing since making the right technology decisions and setting the right technology strategy can be so important to a business and can play such a large role is driving overall business performance.

      I should, also, note that almost every EA I have ever met was a great asset to their business and served an important role. I just wish they had a title that clearly communicated their value.

      Perhaps, we need to apply the KISS principle to job titles?

  • I think it's very relevant to a CEO as EA can relate direcly to their bottom line. Pitches like:

    - Sweat existing assets instead of continually buying more (technically, reuse existing technology instead of constantly trying to buy/build a better IT system)

    - Ability to repond to changing market conditions (technically, deliver changes to old systems or new systems more quickly to react to what is needed by the business)

    - Know thy customer (technically, ensuring that customer data is up to date which can be done with single view built on data servces).


  • Most CEOs today belong to a generation that worked with minimal technology and as they progressed up the ladder, technology too made great strides. However, what never did really take place was apart from e-mails and blackberrys, much of these technologies didnt really touch these executives in their day-to-day jobs filled with meetings and managed by their secretaries.

    Under such a circumstance, EA, which was born from IT and now fighting to leverage itself as a business oriented finds itself in a difficult situation. An organization is much more than IT and unless EA mutates into a non-IT architecture also, it would be difficult to convince CEOs.

    Its the same challenge that BPM faces today, EA must be seen as discipline beyond technology.

    My recommended approach would be to showcase Business Architecture to the CEO with IT architecture hidden underneath as a value add. That way you showcase the benefits that a business leader understands while implementing even IT architecture underneath.

  • Few CEOs have to be convinced of the good an Enterprise Architecture can return. Te concept speaks for itself. However, the CEO has to understand that what you are going to deliver for an EA realizes the touted benefits.

  • I quote our colleague Brenda Michelson, who boiled EA down to one tweet:

    “The ultimate outcome of Enterprise Architecture is change-friendly capability delivery.?

    That's all the CEO needs to know. The rest is up to the IT/EA folks to make that delivery.

  • user-pic

    The easiest way to convince a CEO of the value of EA is to suggest a change that modifies the net income amount. The change can be either a cost savings or a new source of revenue. You mention the possibility of saving $200M per year, you will get their attention. Once you have their attention, the rest is up to you.

    It is true that business architecture is the responsibility of senior management, yet most senior managers, including those with MBAs never learned the technical skills necessary to do it. Business architecture is a technical discipline and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can end these debates and get down to business.

    EA goes beyond business architecture, however. I like IASA's definition of an architect as "the technology strategist for the business." Most architecture specialists fall fully within the domain of IT. An EA, however, moves beyond IT and works with any technology that may impact the business.

    For example, I work for a mobile wireless provider. Most of our technology decisions center around what we want to use on our network, and what kinds of services can we deliver to our customers. For the most part, these are not IT decisions. An EA in a manufacturing company might develop some expertise in the technology used to manufacture the company's products, or technology that *might* be used.

    We EAs have two aspects to our jobs:

    1. Given the business's current strategies and directions, which available or upcoming technologies, IT or otherwise, might be used to enhance our abilities? These might include cost savings, improved quality, or whatever.

    2. Given what we know about current and upcoming technologies, again, IT or otherwise, what new products or services could the business offer that are possible only because of the technology?

    We are continually looking for new answers to both questions. The value to the business is the degree to which we can deliver on the potential. We never implement anything, but unless we keep an eye out and suggest new approaches, they will often be missed.

  • The real issue is convincing someone, not neccesserily the CEO, to build an Architecture Team and pay for it. If the Architecture build by the Architecture team will generate Business Value you convinced him without trying to convince him. Possible Value Propositions could be the ability to observe a full pucture and how elements are related to each other. The results of seening the whole picture could be ability to focus on high level business goals related projects and abandon those projects, which has no affinity with Business Strategy and Business Goals.

    Some CEOs could understand the value of Responsibilities Seperation: Operational and more Strategic Architectural resposibilities. Seperation of this kind is an Auditing mechanism.

  • Great comments from everyone! Hope I am not to late.

    I guess if I had a CEO, in today’s world, that did not understand this already, I would do the following.

    1. Sit him down and lay out the blueprints for a rather large building structure. These are usually as large as a full desk top. (Would be nice if they were his house plans or office plans)

    2. Have him flip through the various pages. (Make sure he actually looks at some of the detail)

    3. Ask him how important he thought those blueprints would be to those responsible for actually building and maintaining the structure.

    4. Ask him how important he believes his automated infrastructure is to him. (You might need to explain to him some small portion of it that corresponds to his particular business – say, for example “How do you think all that information in your weekly report gets put together?, or “Where you do think all those income receipts get calculated and disseminated?, or maybe, “Do you know what a computer systems is??)

    5. Ask him who he thinks puts together the “blueprints? for his automated infrastructure.

    6. Ask him who he thinks takes care of the finished product and enhances it to meet the needs of his business.

    7. Ask him to replace the term “blueprint? with “Enterprise Architecture?.

    8. Ask him what he thinks it might be like to go back to typewriters?

    9. See if you can take him to lunch, he may need a refreshing beverage.

  • I take public transit to work. On the subway are posters recruiting for ITA Software. Their advertising practice has been to pose a puzzle, with the tag line “Solve this, work here?. Recently I saw a new poster, with the line “Solve this/Explain it to your mother? – which points to the fact that it’s not enough to solve puzzles – you also must be able to communicate your reasoning. What does this have to do with convincing the CEO that they need enterprise architecture? Everything. It’s not enough to be able to ‘solve’ EA – you have to be able to explain why your solution is valuable to your business. The key is to explain it in terms that are relevant to your audience – not as an abstract concept or the equivalent to spinach, but as something that addresses their concerns.

    What CEOs care about most simply is Opportunities, Strategies and Execution. They want to find all the opportunities, devise the best strategies, and then have those strategies executed. Every typically paranoid CEO is concerned their organization isn’t seeing the opportunities, or devising strategies for them, or following thru on these strategies. So the best sales tactic to sell EA is to sell the connection between these CEO concerns and how EA helps the organization achieve them. The generic elevator answer is:

    “We help the organization identify opportunities, develop strategies, and then make sure that their decisions are aligned with these strategies. We do this by providing information and insight so that they can make better decisions.?

    This generic answer must be tailored to the specific organization dynamics. What are the most important drivers for your organization? Does your CEO have a single clear strategy? Are your business areas looking for innovation? Is cost the most important driver (which it almost never is)? Is your business organization centralized, or very line-of-business oriented? Is IT integrated with the business or a separate and insular function? And of course it must be followed by a description of how you do this: what information you provide, how you work with decision-makers.

    Of course, all this presumes a very strategically oriented EA which itself is integrated into the business – and willing to negotiate compromises. If your vision of EA is something that creates models or defines ‘the one right future’, then pragmatic people won’t be interested. If your EA practice is or will be focused on technology standards and project design review, the best you can offer your CEO is that you help IT cost less (standardization and consolidation) and deliver better (proven designs, common platforms). In that case, it might be better not to try to sell enterprise architecture to your CEO – just make sure the CIO underestands.

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