Communication is the lifeblood of an organization. Creating an organizational culture of collaboration is best achieved by breaking down walls, eliminating silos, and working together for the good of the organization. Communication is an antecedent to successful enterprise architecture (EA) deployment. A dilemma has surfaced. How can management use EA to improve communication while EA deployment necessitates sound communication before deployment concurrently? Unfortunately, EA practitioners face obstacles during EA development. Lack of communication and collaboration is the core obstacle that affects many other obstacles and causes undesired effects to the organization, including but not limited to the inability to set common goals, inability in achieving a shared understanding, employee distrust, EA governance, and issues (Banaelanjahromi & Smolander, 2019). The principles described in PMBOK 7, (2021) perhaps provide insight into the EA communication dilemma.
EA elegantly integrates an organization’s resources, capabilities, processes, and IT. EA is considered the bridge which joins strategy with implementation (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019). However, lack of communication and collaboration causes undesired effects on organizations such as being unable to set common goals and achieve a shared understanding and creating personnel distrust, endangered EA governance, lack of innovation capability, loss of a competitive edge, and ineffective EA outputs. EA success hinges on a complex interlinking of holistically conceptualized activities (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019; Niemi & Pekkola, 2019). A successful EA deployment details the current IT enterprise structure, the desired future, and a path to reaching the desired state (Kotusev, 2018). EA facilitates and standardizes communication (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019). Management deploys an enterprise architecture solution to bridge the communication gap (Kotusev, 2018; Niemi & Pekkola, 2019). By establishing communication as a critical element within the technology portfolio, management, employees, and the EAs can take charge of all communication within the project. Although business stakeholders are challenged to understand technical aspects of vocabulary and style, EAs tend to dwell on the technical issues. Instead, both business stakeholders and EAs should consider the relationship between the technical and business details.
Communication, internal politics, and people issues are sources of EA failure (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019; Niemi & Pekkola, 2019). Communication and collaboration were also harmed by other perceived EA developmental obstacles, including lack of knowledge and support within the organization. These are a few examples, including but not limited to influences that hinder communication; issues imposed by external parties, setting too ambitious goals, lack of clarity in the EA development process. A Core value that Enterprise Architecture or EA offers organizations and teams is collaboration (Kurnia et al., 2021).
The lack of collaboration and management support are chief reasons organizations decide to implement enterprise architecture. It is generally agreed that EA improves communication with key organizational stakeholders (Niemi & Pekkola, 2019). Collaboration incorporates multiple viewpoints on the objective of the project. Learning about the various views and seeing things from various perspectives is an effective way to establish trust and participation among team members. Kotusev (2020) noted that effective communication boosts information sharing, allowing for optimal planning and decision-making on up-to-date information.o Collaborative insights provide both knowledge and power inherent to individuals (Kotusev, 2020). Effective collaboration and continuous improvement without adding wasteful steps or overriding processes that produce value enable the EAs to develop a team that can work individually or collaboratively. Collaboration resistance must be addressed before EA deployment. The enterprise architecture deployment will not solve collaboration and communication problems since research shows that a culture that encourages partnership and knowledge must precede EA deployment (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019, p. 893).
Organizational culture in EA is one of the essential things for evaluating EA implementation. Industry cultures and backgrounds differ within organizations. Experience in collaborating with different team members and stakeholders can deliver value while establishing culture alignment with cultural diversity. EAs are influenced by the culture of the organizations, the nature of the project, and the environment in which they operate. Industry cultures and backgrounds differ within organizations. Experience in collaborating with different team members and stakeholders can deliver value while establishing culture alignment with cultural diversity.
Besides attending to the technical and organizational specifications outlined in the enterprise architecture deployment, which remain highly relevant, consideration to strengthening the communication and culture of the organization will improve the likelihood of realizing successful deployment of the enterprise architecture.
EAs understand business, information technology and have the drive to transform conversation among various communities and stakeholders. According to Solace (2020), an Enterprise Architect (EA) should possess six soft critical skills to work with and satisfy diverse stakeholders successfully. For example, building consensus requires solid verbal and written communication skills to resolve conflicts and secure stakeholder buy-in. Spacey (2013) asserts that the EA must adapt their vocabulary and style for each situation. Congruent with Spacey’s (2013) assertion, it is critical that the EA use the stakeholders’ language to convey viewpoints and perspectives easily. Collaborating with stakeholders, EAs develop their talents and the talent of their associates and understanding the value of investing in the project. Essentially, EA implementation is a process that provides information from stakeholders about all issues related to the project (Kurnia et al., 2021). The primary goal is building a collaborative environment, and effective engagement with stakeholders is among the elicited principles. Being a prolific communicator is critical for success and can best be achieved through regular check-ins with stakeholders. Subsequently, Kurnea et al. (2021) considered communication and organization culture the top two critical success factors that influence the implementation of Enterprise Architecture.
The recently published seventh edition of PMBOK (Project Management Institute, 2021) promulgates twelve distinct project management principles. Building a collaborative environment and effective engagement with stakeholders are among the elicited principles. In addition, the Project Management Institute (2021) (PMI) offers guidance relevant to the management involved in the complex EA environment. Contextual awareness influences the likelihood of realizing benefits through EA deployment. Niemi and Pekkola (2019) offered that successful EA deployment requires identifying relationships internal to the organization. Similarly, there are many instances in PMBOK 7 in which the PMI stresses assessing the situation and identifying strengths and weaknesses in the current environment that predict the likelihood of establishing a collaborative culture.
Next Steps to Consider
Though EA deployment improves inter-organizational communication, successful implementation also requires effective communication that is encouraged in a culture of openness and knowledge sharing. EA certainly improves communication. However, EA requires the foundation of communication. Total dependence on EA to build and strengthen communication leads to EA deployment failure (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019). By fostering a collaborative culture, knowledge and expertise are shared, which allows for enhanced project results. EAs can also tailor project needs of the culture within the organization and structures that best accomplish the project’s objective. A brief, daily collaboration meeting in which the team reviews progress from the previous day declares intentions for the current day, highlighting any obstacles encountered or expected. A collaborative culture facilitates open discussion on critical evaluations, providing informed acceptance and group commitment to meet challenges when executing a project.
Traditional communication techniques involving team agreements and lateral organizational structures remain relevant (p. 55). However, rather than focusing on organizational structure, emphasis is placed on identifying the levers and triggers resident in the organization, which facilitates the integration of different perspectives and relationships (p. 56).
Effective communication involves developing soft skills, empathy, and humility (Project Management Institute, 2021). The organization’s people, processes, systems, and technology must be integrated into a cohesive environment to realize the benefits of EA (Banaeianjahromi & Smolander, 2019). Management uses enterprise architecture (EA) to solve communication problems.
Dr. Clark, Dr. Dyson, and Dr. Zagerman are faculty in the Project Management graduate program at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in PA.
Banaeianjahromi, N., & Smolander, K. (2019). Lack of communication and collaboration in enterprise architecture development. Information Systems Frontiers, 21, 877-908. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10796-017-9779-6
Kotusev, S. (2018). Enterprise architecture: A reconceptualization is needed. Pacific Asia Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 10(4), 1-36. https://doi.org/10.17705/1pais.10401
Kotusev, S. (2020). Enterprise Architecture: Forget Systems Thinking, Improve Communication. Journal of Enterprise Architecture, 1(12)
Kurnia, S., Kotusev, S., Shanks, G., Dilnutt, R., & Milton, S. (2021). Stakeholder engagement in enterprise architecture practice: What inhibitors are there? Information and Software Technology, 134, 106536.
Niemi, E., & Pekkola, S. (2019). The benefits of enterprise architecture in organizational transformation. Business Information Systems Engineering, 62(6), 585-597. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12599-019-00605-3
Project Management Institute. (2021). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) (7th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Solace (2020, January 21). What are the most valued skills of an enterprise architect? Retrieved from https://solace.com/blog/enterprise-architect-skills/
Spacey, J. (2013, February 14). 11 Soft skills for enterprise architects. Retrieved from https://training.simplicable.com/training/new/11-soft-skills-for-enterprise-architects