It is a well-known fact that technology is an indispensable and integral part of today’s business. As enterprise architects, we know that an efficient, high-performing, and adaptable information technology (IT) ecosystem is a real business asset. Enterprise architecture (EA) is the most effective discipline for ensuring long-term value of IT ecosystems. However, sometimes, if not often, EA practices have to overcome several challenges to position EA as a corporate priority. Communicating the value of EA to business stakeholders can be a significant challenge by traditionally focused EA practice. In this article, we outline a value-marketing framework designed to capture and communicate the core values of a successful EA practice to key business and IT stakeholders.
Value-marketing framework is a communication mechanism that captures measurable value generated by EA practices. The concept “one size fits all” is ineffective in capturing and communicating the different values of EA. Developing a stakeholder-oriented value perspective is the foundation of an effective value-marketing framework. Stakeholders’ prior experiences in engaging and utilizing EA services have a major influence on their view of real and perceived values of EA. Value-marketing framework enables EA practices to detect and close perceived or real value gaps.
Developing an EA value perspective for business
Much of business happens in the context of real-world dynamics, and business stakeholders appreciate a realistic view of EA where financial and economic concerns have a higher priority. Our value-marketing framework has four stakeholder-oriented value perspective quadrants: fundamentals, creativity, feasibility, and implementation. (See figure 1.) Each quadrant facilitates the creation of a unique perspective on the values created by EA practice.
Value markers are the basic building blocks of a value perspective. A value marker captures three important elements of capturing and communicating values: value target (defined by business based on strategic goals and objectives), value potential (based on upside of using technological solutions), and value experience (actual value realized by business). (See figure 2.)
Business stakeholders are more likely to trust an EA value perspective driven by value markers based on business goals. EA practices that develop mature value perspectives and prevent real or perceived value gaps from emerging are more successful in the long term.
Impact of value marketers—stakeholder engagement in EA
Selecting appropriate value makers has a positive impact on stakeholder engagement. Every business expects and wants its IT ecosystem to be a long-term asset. However, real-world demands and constraints of time and money have a strong influence on everyday decisions. Over time, an IT ecosystem could become a liability if business stakeholders are not aware of the real impacts of tactical decisions made at the business system levels.
Depending on the size and complexity, the cost of eliminating liabilities and transforming the IT ecosystem into a long-term asset could become unrealistic. The financial and economic health of a corporate IT ecosystem is good ground for defining value markers and creating an appropriate EA value perspective for any business.
When marketing to business, EA practices should identify value markers at two levels: IT ecosystem (macro) level and specific business system (micro) levels. Capturing strategic and tactical value at both macro and micro levels helps in the detection of potential long-term IT ecosystem value gaps.
EA practices can make a strong and persuasive case for positioning EA as a corporate and business priority by creating realistic value perspectives. Business stakeholders will be more inclined to share their strategic and mission-critical value drivers when they see a direct link between their drivers and the long-term value of the IT ecosystem.
Keeping it real: metric-measures-instrumentation
The key to communicating value of EA is by offering a meaningful value-marketing dashboard that uses business performance metrics as the foundation for identifying strategic and mission-critical value markers. This direct link between business performance metrics and value markers for an EA practice helps build trust with business stakeholders and establish strong partnerships.
Instrumentation of value markers with measurable metrics and a set of analytical measurements create a factual basis for communicating value. Technological solution recommendations from EA practices have a higher probability of being adopted by business when they are supported by a meaningful value-marketing dashboard.
A value-marketing dashboard also helps communicate the importance of enterprise architecture in strategic decisions. It is the first and most critical step in positioning EA as an effective IT ecosystem governance tool for business. The dashboard facilitates informed decisions that are necessary for preventing or eliminating liabilities in business systems that affect the overall IT ecosystem. Business and IT stakeholders are better equipped for day-to-day technology decisions with a meaningful value-marketing dashboard.
EA practices are in a unique position to develop and maintain the value-marketing dashboard and, in the process, prevent any perceived value gaps from becoming real stakeholder value gaps.
NEXT-STEP: CAPTURING AND COMMUNICATING THE VALUES OF EA
Most emerging and mature EA practices can improve business/IT alignment by adopting a value-marketing framework for capturing and communicating the value of EA. Upfront discussions between EA practice and business stakeholders are essential to identify and define appropriate value markers. These value markers become the indices for demonstrating the general health (asset or liability) of the overall IT ecosystem.
The importance of defining appropriate value markers increases as contemporary IT ecosystems become more complex. Cloud computing and mobile devices are reshaping the definition of IT ecosystems where smartphones and tables are becoming micro ecosystems in their own right.
More than ever before, business and IT groups need to make sound decisions about changes, upgrades, and redesign of IT ecosystems. Decisions made today will move the IT ecosystems nearer or further from being a true business asset. EA plays an important role in ensuring the long-term value of IT ecosystems, and a value-marketing framework approach will help EA practices capture and communicate those values to business.
The framework outlined in this article is applicable to all internal and external stakeholders of an EA practice. We believe that many EA practices will benefit by adopting this value-marketing framework and building stronger long-term partnership with their respective businesses.