Dominique Wolton, Director of the Communication Sciences Institute at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, warns us that “with the internet and networks, we are in permanent interaction, but if everyone speaks, who is listening?”. Reading Wolton’s most recent book, I became intrigued with his pertinent questions about information availability and information flow. Applicable to mass-media, politics and personal relationships, his theories also pertain to company projects and, specifically, to the enterprise architects I meet in my day-to-day work as a consultant. The vanguard enterprise architect is aware that his ability to communicate in the language of his target stakeholders, and at the right moment, with the right message, becomes more important than other core skills more applicable to the inner-workings of his job, such as modeling.
Communication and change management are major factors for success, may it be providing clarity on the current state and roadmap of the enterprise, or integrating a culture of risk-awareness in the company. However, reaching the public relies on the quality of what is conveyed and not the quantity.
Today, in and out of the workplace, we are saturated with information to such a degree that we tune out most as white noise. New technologies speed up the transmission, as Wolton says, but don’t necessarily increase understanding, nor accuracy. In fact, often the result is accelerating incomprehension. It is vital to assist the reader to “stand back and form a balanced view”. The enterprise architect reader is often a business stakeholder willing to make an optimal decision about an issue, an objective, a scenario, or a transformation that should occur. For example, the enterprise architect may provide and evaluate decision criteria such that business stakeholders may decide whether a given business capability should be outsourced, or a given IT asset put on the cloud.
Here are 5 top best practices for enterprise architects to apply Wolton’s philosophies in order to steer clear of “non-communication”:
- Involve actors in the initiative, creating a conversation of added value to avoid participating in the plethora of one-way broadcast “monologues”: Identify the key players and involve them early on, expanding the scope of contributors and beneficiaries. Recognize and help quantify their objectives to narrow down communication to a measurable business outcome.
- Observe who are my listeners and what do I provide for them? What are they looking for that we aren’t providing? With websites, this can be done with statistical activity monitoring, for example. Ideally, as opposed to a push system producing and diffusing information so unknown readers may or may not use it, adopt a pull system by staying result-oriented and customer-focused, delivering the crucial expected information.
- Orient each message to the audience to get them on-board by answering their questions and speaking in a way they can apprehend. Though enterprise architects use modeling techniques to explore solutions, scenarios and existing situations, they may consider avoiding models to prefer striking charts, breathtaking data visualization to be convincing to the target.
- Invest in the vehicles for transmitting the message, may it be terminology or graphical representation. Communication is limited by how readily a message can be understood. Between the enterprise architect’s tools and technique, and the target audience, it is worth considering reporting tools to hone in on what is essential for the audience via dashboards, charts, based on slicing and dicing techniques.
- Create opportunities for contact, conversation and involvement to reunite people vocally, or, even better, physically. Though technical communication is rapid, it can never replace human exchange, which remains slow. This way, the enterprise architecture team as a whole is more likely to succeed communication and demonstrate the proactivity that is often missing.
Keeping these best practices in mind, MEGA’s tools and expertise empower the enterprise architect to understand and improve the business while fostering a value-creating conversation with stakeholders. Field experience, and customers, have confirmed the importance of comprehension and participation. From a software perspective, beyond adaptable modelling tools and solutions to represent complex organizations more simply, Mega’s EA solutions provide analytic capabilities for Enterprise Architects to answers significant business stakeholders questions and support their decision process in their own language. Embedded, customized, and instant reporting make it easier to permit the data to “talk to” its public such that the focus remains on the business’s need.
Wolton’s principles remind us that efforts in investing in how we welcome and imply actors, how we model and govern, and how we communicate are determinant for achieving our purpose. Let’s raise the bar on nurturing the discussion around architecture in your organization: while cartography is a tool for dialoguing between the business and IT, let enterprise architects not forget to speak the language of the target when it comes to analytics and decision support.