December 8, 2007

Relationships and Enterprise Architecture

User-centric enterprise architecture captures, analyzes, categorizes, and serves up information to enhance decision-making capability in the organization. However, it is not only information alone that helps us make better decisions, but also developing and nurturing important personal relationships.

In the book, It’s Not Business, It’s personal by Ronna Lichtenberg, the author reminds us that relationships are key to personal and professional success and deeply affect our decision-making ability.

  • Lichtenberg asks, “is there room in our new millennium, ‘’ world for relationships? Some folks would tell you there isn’t, that all that matters is performance and speed…the only problem is that all this speed has made us, to use a high-tech word, kludgy…as we whiz by one another, we don’t really connect. Which means that every decision is more complicated, takes longer, and is less intelligent because you can’t get real information about business problems from people you don’t trust.

So in this fast-paced, high-tech world, we overlook others, but can’t we still get good information from disciplines like EA? While EA is a valuable information resource, EA information products or a repository is not a substitute for relationships, nor can you develop and maintain the EA without solid relationships.

  • “We can be deceived into believing that our world is now too efficient [like through the development and use of EA information and other business intelligence methods and tools ] for relationships, that when every bit of information, and virtually any product or service, can be bought with a click of a mouse, the need for relationships has disappeared. But in fact, it has become even more important.”

How many relationships do we need? While quantity of relationships can be important, it is the quality of those relationships that is even more important. It is the “real relationships” in our lives or those of substance that provide the most satisfaction, value, and meaning to us over the long term. These relationships extend first and foremost to family and friends, but also to professional relationships between talented, dynamic people who can work together to build successful programs, products, and services for organizations and society (and this includes strategic programs like EA).

  • “When working with people and investing in relationships, the value comes not in quantity, but in quality. It doesn’t matter how many people you’ve met in your career or how many Rolodex cards you’ve acquired…what matters is who will be there for you when you really need it…‘networking’ is superficial. ‘Relationships’ are deep.
  • “The trick is to make it personal, to bring your heart into it, while respecting the roles and the rules of business. The goal is not to do business with your friends and it’s not to make friends out of your closest business relationships (though that sometimes happens). It’s to be present, and to bring all the nuance and intensity and affection and power of your personality into your close business relationships.”

Some obvious areas where relationships are critical in building an EA program are as follows:

  • Executive commitment—an EA program needs to have commitment from the highest levels to be successful. That means not only your boss, but also the senior executive team that runs the organization. Developing relationships with senior management that helps to explain the program and gain their commitment is fundamental.
  • The EA team—a good chief enterprise architect carefully chooses his or her EA team. Having experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, talented and enthusiastic people can make all the difference between a vibrant EA program and one that falls flat or fizzles out. Additionally, good synergy between team members helps to build a strong, cohesive program.
  • Subject matter experts—the information in the enterprise architecture cannot be gleaned only from documents and databases. EA is built through the interaction of business and technical subject matter experts throughout the organization, as well as from those outside the organization who can provide best practices. Of course, everyone is busy, but it is through building relationships with others that one can more fully engage them with the EA program.
  • Users—the dot-com adage of “build it and they will come” is way too simplistic for leveraging EA use for a wide variety of users in the organization. The chief architect needs to engage with the end users to, first of all, understand their requirements, but also to develop EA information products and governance services that are truly useful and usable to the end user.

Meaningful relationships, passion for what you do, and the commitment to give it your best, those are the elements of a solid EA program.


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