Guess Who’s Engaged? EA and the Enterprise!

Those on the outside looking in often see enterprise architecture as an ivory tower function. For that reason, and a few others, it is important to define and implement an EA engagement model.

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There are a variety of aspects of EA that demand that it not operate like an ivory tower. Beyond the obvious implication that EA architects are seen as idealists with no grounding in reality, there is the practical observation that EA, in even the most limited applications, has a scope so broad with deep, deep implications that one group couldn’t possibly have the reach, knowledge, or even capacity to handle it all in a systemic and sustainable manner. Additionally, there is the very real need for support and sponsorship from others. And finally, in order for EA to be its most effective and impactful, it must guide and influence the work of others in project, decision-making, strategic, and operational areas.

GETTING STARTED WITH AN ENGAGEMENT MODEL

Defining engagement models is an interesting way to help others understand the scope and objectives of EA. Many times an EA program will start off by defining a charter that includes mission, goals, objectives, scope, deliverables, and even roles and responsibilities of the EA team and some of the extended EA charter groups. That is followed by developing a communication plan to solicit support and funding for the EA program, based on the ideas in the charter. However, we have found that including a start-up set of engagement models actually helps some understand EA at a more base level by seeing how and why the EA team works with other groups throughout the enterprise.ea architectsEngagement models have a variety of components to identify and clarify. Each model contains the following:

  • An engagement purpose that defines the reason for which the EA team is interacting with another person or group.
  • The participants, which include the EA team and the people and/or groups with which the EA team will be interacting to achieve the identified purpose.
  • The artifacts that are used, created, or modified by this engagement type.
  • The communication modes that enable this engagement type to be most effective.
  • The timing of an engagement indicates the frequency and/or time-dependency of the work being done, which is heavily related to the engagement purpose.

Engagement purposes tend to be grouped into four common categories.

  1. Engagements focused on developing support and sponsorship for EA and related disciplines, such as strategic planning, portfolio management, and governance.
  2. Engagements focused on identifying, collecting, and developing the artifacts that define the enterprise architecture current, intermediate and future states.
  3. Engagements focused on influencing current work and decisions with the enterprise architecture intermediate and future states.
  4. Engagements focused on influencing future work and decisions with the enterprise architecture intermediate and future states.

Engagement roles cast a wide net across the enterprises personnel, including but not limited to executives, strategic planners, business and IT management, the EA team, other architects, various subject matter experts from just about every business and IT domain, project managers, procurement groups, vendor management, portfolio managers, governance bodies, and even external roles like vendors, industry analysts, and industry standards bodies.

Engagement artifacts run the gamut from strategic planning documents to principles, standards of all types, enterprise context models, business process and capability models, data and information models, infrastructure patterns, inventories and portfolios, road maps, communication and education plans, process descriptions, governance process flows, package selection criteria, and position papers.

Engagement modes represent the communication style that the participants should use during their interactions. These are closely tied to the purpose and participants involved. The following modes are the most common:

  • In some cases you are going to engage in a Communicative mode, usually with a purpose of trying to inform or teach the participants, or trying to influence them. This mode is dependent on the timing, content, and medium used to communicate.ea architects engagement model
  • Some engagements require a Collaborative effort, when it is helpful to develop a strong relationship with the engagement participants, building EA credibility while recognizing other’s expertise or contribution to the effort.
  • The Consultative mode involves elements of the two prior modes, in that the communicative nature of the engagement is important to provide information or influence your target, while also recognizing the relationship aspect as well.
  • The Authoritative mode is used when you are engaged with a governance/decision-making purpose. The most important aspect of this mode is to identify or establish the accepted authority for the engagement.

An important point to consider is that a specific type of engagement can, and often will, require more than one mode of engagement.

EXAMPLE ENGAGEMENT MODEL

This example of an engagement model is one that not every EA program intuitively thinks of as a formal engagement. One of the important, but often neglected or minimalized, engagements involves the researching of new trends and innovation opportunities. The purpose here is to be able to understand the impact and potential benefits to the enterprise.

Much technology research is done by the specific SME—at their whim. Basically, they investigate the things that they are personally interested in. Maybe that is of benefit to the enterprise, maybe it isn’t. EA should provide some direction for what type of research should be conducted. This should not preclude SMEs from following their own intuition, as they are the expert in their area. However, there should be some kind of business benefit being pursued, not just curiosity.

The approach is to understand the impact of trends and new product features or offerings from the vendors on your specific enterprise, then match the new/improved capabilities with the business benefit that can be achieved through leveraging that new trend, product, or innovation.

Figure 1 is a sample engagement model for researching new trends and innovation opportunities and publishing the findings. The highlights for this model:

  • The EA team collaborates with SMEs and vendors to explore various trends and ideas that may be relevant to the enterprise. By combining that investigation with the Business Capabilities, the EA team can identify opportunities for improvement leveraging the trends and ideas.
  • EA will publish its trend findings, and also make R&D project recommendations to the PMO to consider, that may require executive approval.
  • SMEs also will conduct efforts on their own, publishing their findings as well as sharing with relevant business R&D projects.
  • The timing on these engagements will vary. Someone may come up with an idea from capability mapping or reading a magazine. The annual strategic planning time frame may reveal specific areas to investigate. There may be a special request from someone to investigate something specific.
  • The modes of engagement are pretty intuitive. You need to be able to collaborate with the SMEs and be able to communicate the results of your research.

The primary point to take away from this engagement model discussion is that while R&D efforts are performed by a variety of different groups and types of professionals, defining an engagement model like this can help coordinate, eliminate redundant and non-value efforts, and increase the value produced.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

There are at least eight engagement types in which an effective EA program most likely engages. However, all of them will be unique in their specifics based on several factors, such as organizational, cultural, and political factors. For instance, a typical engagement model covers how EA engages with project resources for both design compliance and requesting exception variances. Besides factoring in the maturity of your project management approach, this engagement model may have to consider the differences in the project development life cycle (PDLC) for typical custom development, Agile development, or packaged systems integration.

CONCLUSION

Defining how, when, and with whom EA teams engage is not only a sign of maturity, but also could be helpful in dealing with the misconceptions that may exist in a specific enterprise. It will help some people understand, through the interactions modeled, what EA is trying to accomplish and why there is a dependence on working with other groups. Also, figuring out all of the ways in which EA interacts with other groups helps in covering all of the bases with executives who are wondering if an investment in EA is worth it. If you are struggling to gain traction with your EA team or you have established some of the engagements you need, but not all, spend some time defining all of the engagement models for your EA practice.

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Tim Westbrock
About Tim Westbrock 2 Articles
Tim Westbrock is managing director at EAdirections, a firm specializing in mentoring business and IT leaders on the practices of EA, strategy, governance, and portfolio management. He is a leading authority on IT leadership, enterprise architecture (EA), enterprise portfolio management, governance, and organizational issues related to enterprise level planning. He started EAdirections with George Paras from the META Group in 2006. He has worked with 300+ companies in various industries and the public sector to mentor them in their approach to enterprise architecture. A frequent lecturer and educator at industry events and workshops, he has more than twenty years experience in the IT industry as an analyst, consultant, and architect.