Championing the EA cause

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Many enterprise architecture (EA) efforts fail without a commitment and an understanding from senior management, enterprise architects, and other EA participants. One of the keys to succeeding is finding an effective EA champion.

META Trend: By 2007, 50 per cent of Global 2000 enterprises will move beyond a pure technology architecture focus to include enterprise business architecture, enterprise information architecture, and enterprise solution architecture. Architecture teams that fail to move beyond the technical focus will come under increasing pressure to demonstrate business value.

A consistent theme of frustration that we discuss during many of our client interactions is the lack of understanding of and commitment for enterprise architecture within the enterprise. Senior IT and business management are uncertain what enterprise architecture is, and therefore are not sure what their expectations are or worse their expectations are not realistic. Similarly, architects are not always sure which role they should be playing and are trying to balance between the strategic enterprisewide role and the tactical project-centred role. Similarly, those supporting the effort project architects, technology architects, application developers, and other subject-matter experts also are unsure of what they should do to support EA. To overcome this problem, many successful EA organizations have prospered from the efforts of an individual who has taken on the responsibility for championing the EA cause.

Who Should Be the EA Champion? The EA champion should be a senior-level executive, no lower than the direct report of a CxO. Although this will usually be filled by a direct report of the CIO, or the CIO personally, there is precedent for an EA champion being a direct report of a CFO or a COO, with some level of responsibility for the IT function. Although this role can also be filled by the chief architect or some other member of the core EA team, this role is more effective with a resource that is not identified as having “ownership” of the EA team, process, or deliverables. The most important attributes for an EA champion are credibility and respect within the organization.

Role of the EA Champion

The role of the EA champion is to support the enterprise architecture effort by actively promoting EA, soliciting support, and advising the EA group how to increase the understanding and the effectiveness of EA.

Responsibilities of the EA Champion

The responsibilities of the EA champion are dependent on the stage of the EA effort. The most active responsibilities will be in the early stages of building awareness of and soliciting support for EA, and in persuading senior management of the value of participation in the development and governance of EA. Such responsibilities will be most evident during the planning stage of the EA process. The EA champion must be active in the development of the scope, objectives, metrics, program charter, and resource requirements for EA overall as well as the incremental iterations. The EA champion should also be active in soliciting participation from senior IT and business executives in the common requirements vision stage.

Benefits of the EA Champion

The primary benefit of the EA champion is to gather support for the EA effort by actively advocating the EA to people in parts and levels of the organization to which the EA team may not have access or with which it has no credibility. This leads to more access, exposure, and participation from and effectiveness of the EA.

Our research indicates that effective transformation programs such as EA are based on understanding the various states that the enterprise undergoes during the change and on helping to reach the desired status. People undergoing change experience the following states: awareness, confusion, understanding/fear, trust, and adoption. The EA champion plays a critical role in each of these stages:

Awareness: Our research indicates that, in most IT organizations (ITOs), staff members become aware of change programs in a fragmented manner. This results in inconsistent understanding of new messages, causes agitation, and decreases productivity. We believe that ITOs should formally initiate change programs and openly communicate messages, rationale, and the way ahead to employees. To encourage staff involvement and contribution, ITOs should organize focused feedback sessions to enable all staff members to understand the change program’s benefits, participate in implementation planning, and become instrumental in transmitting the new plans to lines of business. This will open two-way communication between IT staff members and managers, leading to successful implementation. The EA champion should participate in such sessions to give them credibility and lead them when the primary audience is upper management.

Confusion: Our research indicates that, once staff members become aware of anticipated changes, they suffer from confusion due to many unanswered questions. We believe the prime cause is related to the widely one-way communication style adopted by many managers. This disallows effective discussions between staff members and managers, leading to increased concerns, amplified doubt, and few answers to critical issues. This delays the emergence of adopters and stops the change progress momentum. To break this deadlock, ITOs should arrange forums facilitated by a third party to discuss challenges, identify risks and more important identify early adopters volunteering to share their perspectives and to explore implementation alternatives with their colleagues. The appearance of this generation of champions will be critical for the transformation strategy to advance. The EA champion should be the communication link between doubters in the senior management ranks and the EA team.

Understanding/fear: After the confusion phase, an understanding/fear state occurs, indicating clarification of most ambiguities. However, a general fear of failure prevails. Our research indicates that individuals are concerned about their inability to proceed to the next stage due to limited skills, uncertainty of management support, and unavailability of tools to fulfill the new roles. This creates substantial resistance to proceed with the transformation strategy and mostly results in valuable workers leaving the organization. To combat this issue, ITOs should undertake skills evaluation gap analysis to assure staff members of the organization’s commitment to invest in training. This will create additional champions and construct a strong trust foundation to press forward. The EA champion needs to understand the skills gap and to work with senior management to ensure that they understand the need for new skills in moving forward with transformation.

Trust: We believe that inviting staff members to participate in detailing transition plans will be an effective catalyst to building trust and increasing the number of champions. Our research reveals that this stage is characterized by a gradual handover of the transformation strategy ownership from managers to staff members. This is demonstrated by increased staff buy-in and constantly growing change momentum. As a result, accomplishing transformation strategy objectives will most likely become inevitable. The EA champion is an important part of gaining trust, because that individual most likely represents senior management’s view of the value of EA at this stage, and staff members are more likely to develop trust when they see this support.

Adoption: High adoption levels are reached after achieving the first milestone of the transition strategy. Therefore, ITOs should ensure that transition plans are completed on time and on budget. Subsequently, they should undertake post-implementation reviews to guarantee that future transformation strategies are implemented quickly and smoothly. The EA champion should participate in and report to senior management on the findings of a post-iteration EA review.

Business Impact: Higher support and understanding of the EA function and its benefits lead to a more adaptive and agile enterprise.

Bottom Line: EA efforts can and should benefit from the role of an EA champion being filled by a highly respected and credible senior manager outside the inner circle of an EA team.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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