How speaking the language of business helps EAs to drive business transformation.

Author:Ellerbee, Jeff

In today's business environment, technology is a crucial part of pretty much every aspect, increasingly complex, and rapidly changing. Organisations need to reign in this complexity and mitigate risks in order to transform their business and stay competitive. Enterprise Architecture (EA) professionals are ideally positioned to do just this. In fact, Gartner forecasts that "by 2018, 40% of EA teams will be distinguished as leaders by their primary focus on applying disruptive technologies to drive business innovation." However, most enterprise architects are buried within IT and all too often, business leaders sidestep IT and go rogue. Why?

The problem is clear. Business stakeholders and IT often speak different languages. While EAs tend to speak in technical detail, the business needs to understand business outcomes. Failing to hear about outcomes for too long, business leaders stop listening--and EA teams lose their chance to earn a seat at the business strategy table that drives business transformation.

What EA really brings to the table

EA teams are capable of helping organisations to reduce cost, manage risk, and create business opportunities. A 2015 Gartner survey revealed that "70% of leading EA practitioners report that they are either responsible or accountable for the success of digital business." In addition, according to IDG, four out of five IT decision-makers believe their EA team is highly capable of delivering valuable technical subject matter expertise and strategic thinking.

However, business leaders believe EA teams lag in competencies that are critical for business transformation, such as making business model changes or being able to improve business processes.

While IT decision-makers say EA teams are important to strategy development, line-of-business managers in such areas as sales and marketing are far less likely to hold that opinion. In fact, a majority of sales and marketing professionals don't know what EA teams actually do. Although 56% of CIOs and heads of IT view the EA team as critical to strategy development, 58% of sales managers and 61% of marketing managers are unaware of the role of EA.

This is a significant barrier when considering technology's increasingly important role in improving the customer experience across both digital and physical channels. It means that often, EA teams have answers to problems which have yet to arise, while business managers may know what they need to do, but not which technology innovations can help them reach their goals. It's up to EA teams to marry their services and technology to the organisation's needs.

The communications challenge

In reference to an EA Awards programme, Forrester describes entrants as helping their "organisation engage more agilely with their business and customer ecosystem," "guiding a business's digital transformation," and "engaging with product, marketing, sales and customer experience initiatives to accelerate results." Nevertheless, EA teams' acumen is often doubted partly because instead of evaluating emerging trends from a business standpoint, EA teams do so from a technology perspective. Consequently, EA is viewed as less important in areas that are tied closely to business performance--such as increasing competitive agility, managing risk, and bolstering company growth. As a...

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