December 18, 2007

Do Me a Favor and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architects need to collaborate with lots of people inside and outside the organization. Collaboration is a must-have for developing and maintaining relevant content in the enterprise architecture, so that it is current, accurate, and complete representation of the business and technology and in order that the targets and transition plan be validated, accepted, and followed. Collaboration is also vital for effective IT governance through the EA Board, in which subject matter experts come together to review proposed new IT products, products, and standards and provide findings and recommendations on these for the apportionment of IT funding by the Investment Review Board.

The question is do people willingly and openingly collaborate for the good of the organization or is it a “no tickee, no shirtee” world (i.e. one in which people collaborate when there is clearly something it in it for them, even if it’s only the ability to call in a future favor)?

The Wall Street Journal, 18 December 2007, states: “people can’t resist doing a big favor—or asking for any office’s underground economy, favors are the currency by which productivity is purchased and goodwill is gained.”

“Some favors are done with the expectation of nothing returned. Others are performed in the spirit of getting.” One college administrator tells how she “has run into colleagues whose job includes easy access to information. But it doesn’t seem easy when she asks for it. ‘they act like it’s moving a mountain…people think they’re doing this enormous favor.’” Similarly, asking one’s busy colleagues for information for building or maintaining the EA, can be often met with anything from genuine enthusiasm to mild resistance to outright hostility.

Interestingly enough, studies show that if you preface a request (such as for collaboration or information for the EA) with the phrase “can you do me a favor”, compliance goes up significantly. In a study by Stanford’s graduate school of business, the participation in a questionnaire actually went up from 57% to 84%!

Whether as enterprise architects, you preface requests for collaboration to build the EA by asking for a favor or not is a matter of personal preference. However, I believe that the quality of your relationship at work and the maturity of the processes of your EA program will certainly play a factor in people’s cooperation. Strong relationships and mature processes for simplifying the collection of information or validating information helps to ensure ongoing program support. Maybe even more important is strong marketing and communication for the EA program, so that people understand the mandates for the EA, the benefits, the processes, the roles, and the overall vision, targets, and transition plan. In terms of benefits, clearly showing people the “what’s in it for me” is critical and explaining why it’s good for the enterprise as a whole is a not so distant second, but both help people to understand their need to participate, favor or not.


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