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How enterprise architects can raise their profile within the business – and earn a seat at the table

(Image credit: Image Credit: Uber Images / Shutterstock)

IT teams have long fought for a seat at the executive table. They have longed to be heard, and be regarded as trusted advisors to the CEO. Now that digitisation is widely recognised as being essential to innovation, growth and the capacity to readily compete, IT is well on its way to becoming firmly embedded in charting the direction of the business, as are the enterprise architects (EAs) that work alongside them.   

A recent IDG survey (opens in new tab) shows that EA’s that have honed their business acumen are better at framing technology discussions in a business context — earning more frequent invitations to consult in strategy discussions. Respected for their technical savvy, and for bringing key technology information into strategic planning, capacity planning and project execution, EAs have typically been key players in the IT team, fighting alongside CIOs to have their strategic insights heard and their version of innovation understood.   

In order to earn a seat at the business strategy table, and further show how they are driving business transformation, EAs must increase their visibility within the business. Here are a few suggestions on how they can prove their effectiveness. 

1. Keep your friends close – and stand on their shoulders:  In order to raise your profile and that of your team, it’s important to be aware of where your strongest connections exist.      

In many companies, it’s the CIO that is your most longstanding ally and is the best connection that an EA can leverage to get noticed by the business. They can ingratiate you with the CDO and lend proven, reliable advocacy to your work, enabling you to move upward, closer to the business, not sideways or downward.   

Do you have regular meetings with your CIO, to make sure he knows what you are doing? Do you use the CIO as a sounding board? These are just two of the ways you can ensure he or she has visibility into your work.   

2. Prove your expertise: John Zachman (opens in new tab) once said: “The fundamental problem in the enterprise community is nobody is doing the diagnosis, they’re just taking x-rays. If people think that enterprise architecture is a practice of building models, that’s like taking x-rays. What the enterprise architect ought to be doing is reading the models, figuring out what the problem is, then prescribing three, or five, or 20 possible solutions.” In other words, IT, and enterprise architects in particular, should be like doctors diagnosing ailments.  

Not everyone understands the key role IT plays in accelerating digital transformation by empowering project management office (PMO) leaders to create cohesive strategic, operational and technology plans. However it is only a matter of time before your organisation realises you are delivering intelligence that counts and offering a path to real business results. It may take some explaining, but eventually the light bulb will go off for executives looking to understand the purpose and impact of IT. Go about solving problems, not worrying about evangelising the tools of your trade under the pretence that people need to understand them in order to trust your contributions. 

3. Speak the language of business: 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, according to IDG (opens in new tab), a majority of sales and marketing professionals don’t know what EA teams actually do. Although 56% of CIOs and heads of IT view the EA team as critical to strategy development, 58% of sales managers and 61% of marketing managers are unaware of the role of EA. It’s time to turn the page and start talking about what EAs provide in a way that everyone understands.  

You and your team must demonstrate how you can help the business make smarter decisions about technology investments, without talking about technology. The key is to explain how IT initiatives tie into business outcomes, proving their value as a key contributor in developing and executing business strategy. This 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 order to earn a seat at the management table, EAs should not sit back and wait for an invitation. Instead, they need to take action and prove that they can help steer the business in a positive, profitable direction. Decisions they inform and help make for one part of the business ripple throughout the entire organisation, with their impacts felt far and wide.    

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. Those that can prove their business savvy can significantly change internal perceptions about their value to the business.  It’s time for EAs to seize the moment and show how they can help diagnose and solve the next wave of digital business challenges.   

Jeff Ellerbee, Solutions Marketing Manager for Troux at Planview 

Image Credit: Uber Images / Shutterstock

Jeff Ellerbee handles product marketing for Planview’s Troux product line. Jeff has helped customers be successful with Troux in the US and UK for 14 years.