Enterprise technology provides the foundation for business operations, so why shouldn’t enterprise architects play a crucial role in corporate decision-making? Unfortunately, many business leaders don’t appreciate the role of the enterprise architect. You can explain to executives the strategic business functions enterprise architects provide, such as managing physical and organizational structures, data stores, workflows, applications, platforms, hardware, and communications. Still, you must demonstrate strategic value before being invited to support business-critical decisions.
You don’t have to impress executives with a list of three-letter acronyms related to enterprise design and management. You can distill the role of the enterprise architect into relatable terms, such as:
‘The enterprise architecture affects the entirety of any business. It’s not just about IT but derived from the business vision. Enterprise architecture is the development of business and technology strategies that align IT activities with business goals. Enterprise architects convert the business strategy into an actionable plan, translating that plan for execution by the technologists and ensuring that everything aligns with the business goals and delivers the projected outcomes.’
For enterprise architects to have an impact on business success, they must demonstrate business value and show how the enterprise plays a strategic role. Architects also must speak the same language as the rest of the executive team.
Claiming a Role at the Boardroom Table
To claim a place in boardroom discussions, the enterprise architect needs to demonstrate value using clear and easily understood terms. They should be passionate but also careful in how they evangelize the role of IT. Gaining a seat at the table will require laying some groundwork and patience, but there will be significant benefits for all concerned.
Here are four strategies to ensure the enterprise architect claims a more strategic business role:
1) Speak in relatable terms. Part of the architect’s job is to demystify enterprise systems. Technology can be difficult to understand for those who don’t live and breathe IT, so avoid techspeak and simplify your terminology. A fruitful dialogue can only take place when participants use a common language. You also will need to adapt your message since different stakeholders are looking for different messages. For example, to get the marketing department’s attention, you want to speak about benefits such as faster time-to-market. The head of IT will respond to discussions relating to product updates and managing the lifecycle of IT components. Executive management wants to hear about lowering costs, reducing risk, and increasing business agility. Build strategic relationships by joining managers and executives in department meetings and informal settings. Your mission is to spread the word about the value of enterprise architecture throughout the organization.
2) Serve as a collaborator and consultant: Develop an understanding of the organization’s landscape, processes, and vision so you can serve as an enterprise consultant. Collaborate with stakeholders and look for ways to integrate systems. Help departments, teams, and individuals solve real problems. Assist the CIO with advice about applications and licenses in the enterprise portfolio. Work with security teams, providing updated applications overviews, and showing them how to handle critical customer and employee data. You will gain allies by providing the necessary data and insights for different departments and functions, making it easier to get buy-in for new enterprise initiatives.
3) Supply data for critical decision-making. Data is enterprise currency and should be shared as part of executive management discussions to aid data-driven decisions. A knowledgeable enterprise architect can show board members how to translate the data for business requirements into technical specifications. They can also use data to illustrate solutions to real issues, demonstrating options that deliver concrete results. The architect also can provide reports on IT inventory and the state of the current application landscape to inform board member evaluations and decision-making, including reports to tie the enterprise architecture into business processes.
4) Gain executive sponsors. If you want to be credible in the boardroom, it helps to know the right people. The enterprise architect needs to understand who the business players are, including who has clout, who is open to new ideas, and who makes up different factions. You need sponsorship from executive influencers who can support enterprise architecture initiatives. Executive sponsors can influence factors that directly impact enterprise strategies, such as budgets, vendor selections, and technology acquisitions. It pays to be prepared to engage key executives in meaningful conversations and build rapport so they will remember you as an ally and knowledgeable consultant.
The Enterprise Architect’s Expanding Role
With increased emphasis on digitization and digital transformation, the role of the enterprise architect has become even more essential to business success. The enterprise architect is responsible for emerging artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, data, and analytics that impact every aspect of operations. The enterprise should be viewed as a holistic framework that touches every department, policy, and process. To oversee the enterprise, the architect must provide technical expertise and consultative capabilities tempered by market sector knowledge.
The enterprise architect is also responsible for moving the organization away from operational silos and assessing the impact of end-to-end processes and horizontal integration. The enterprise architect provides insight and data to determine what applications need to be retired, migrated, or changed based on business objectives, providing leadership with insight about initiatives being on track.
Many organizations still don’t invite enterprise architects to participate in board meetings, largely because they don’t speak the same language, share the same knowledge base, or understand the value of the data and collaborative relationship. With the right preparation and networking with key stakeholders, an enterprise architect can make a strong case for a permanent seat at the boardroom table. They must demonstrate how they contribute to productivity, revenue growth, cost reduction, and agility to make the organization more competitive and profitable.