Why EA teams should speak the language of business

Enterprise architecture (EA) teams play a critical role in achieving alignment between IT and the business.

Respected for their technical savvy, they ensure sure IT systems run smoothly so the business can rapidly implement new strategies. However, according to a recent IDG survey, their business acumen is often doubted partly because instead of evaluating emerging trends from a business standpoint, EA teams do so from a technology perspective.

Consequently, EA is viewed as less important in areas that are tied closely to business performance - such as increasing competitive agility, managing risk, and bolstering company growth. As a result, they face an awareness gap that is holding them back from reaching their full potential.

So, how can EA teams prove their business savvy and get a seat at the table? The trick is learning to have business-centric conversations about technology.

The importance of enterprise architecture

According to IDG, four out of five IT decision-makers believe their EA team is highly capable of deliv­ering valuable technical subject matter expertise and strategic thinking. In addition, 37 per cent say EA provides valuable advice and consulting services on an ongoing basis. However, many EA teams lag in competen­cies that are critical for business transformation, such as making business model changes or being able to improve business processes.

While IT decision-makers say EA teams are important to strategy development, line-of-business managers in such areas as sales and marketing are far less likely to hold that opinion. In fact, a majority of sales and marketing profes­sionals don’t know what EA teams actually do. Although 56 per cent of CIOs and heads of IT view the EA team as critical to strategy devel­opment, 58 per cent of sales managers and 61 per cent of marketing managers are unaware of the role of EA.

This is a signifi­cant barrier when considering technology’s increasingly important role in improving the customer experience across both digital and physical channels. It means that often, EA teams have answers to problems which have yet to arise, while business managers may know what they need to do, but not which technology innovations can help them reach their goals. It’s up to EA teams to marry their services and technology to the organisation’s needs.

Speaking the language of business, and more

EA teams must overcome scepticism by demonstrating how they can help the business make smarter decisions about technology investments-- without talking about technology. In order to do that, EA teams have to explain the business value of technology to their business partners. This translates into tying IT initiatives closer to business outcomes to prove their value as a key contributor in developing and executing business strategy. It also entails learning how to communicate and translate IT strategy into business strategy, and being more collaborative in helping the business make smarter decisions about technology.

In this way, organisations can understand how EA impacts the business– from goals and strategy to business capabilities. This means that opportunities and risks can be evaluated in the context of the entire enterprise and decision-makers become equipped with the insights they need to make business investment decisions faster and with greater confidence. As a result, EA teams can become an integral part of the strategic planning process.

Changing perceptions

EA is no longer an IT-centric discipline focused on creating a set of artefacts in the form of complex maps and models only understood by a few with limited ‘actionability’ in terms of driving measurable business outcomes. EA has evolved to serve the evolving needs of decision-makers. In this new era EA teams still have to maintain their knowledge of IT, but they have to move beyond those contributions and activities, introducing themselves as strategic advisors who communicate EA’s value to all parts of the business.

With the rise of digital business and the rapid pace of change in the market, it is more important than ever for decision-makers to not only know exactly where to invest in their business, but to also better understand the impacts of those investment decisions. EA teams that can prove their business savvy can significantly change internal perceptions about their value to the business.

When line-of-business managers have a positive perception of EA’s strategic importance, they assert that EA is highly capable in areas that are important to the business. In other words, EA teams that demonstrate a high level of business acumen and are more collab­orative make a better case for EA as critical to strategy development.

When EA teams can speak the language of the business, they are more likely to earn a seat at the business strategy table that drives business transformation.

Jeff Ellerbee, Solutions Marketing Manager for Troux at Planview

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