Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

Enterprise Architecture and the Elevator Pitch

A couple of days ago, I was in the hallway at work and asked two peers of mines to provide me with honest, candid feedback on how I am perceived. Figured I would share one of their recommendations on something I needed to work on...



Strong Technical Leadership while sorely needed within most enterprises simply isn't enough. The main problem is that the vast majority of management in a large environment may literally think about fifty things a day which only leaves time for about fifteen minutes at most to understand anything. Of course most technically competent people who aspire to be leaders may have read books such as the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and may have even tuned into the notion of "seek first to understand then be understood". The problem may be with technical folks the part about being understood. Management is not ignoring you, they simply don't have the time to understand anything. Therefore for an enterprise architect to be successful, he must develop an elevator pitch.

An "Elevator Pitch" is a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description about your company that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. Having worked for a couple of Internet startups prior to joining corporate America I was of the belief that I had a handle on what the elevator pitch was. Sadly, it didn't occur to me until recently that the 30-second elevator pitch used by CTOs of Internet startups is a little different than what Enterprise Architects need to practice in corporate America.



I have provided advice in the past to Software CEOs and venture capital firms as to better ways to appeal to selling to me aka "the elevator pitch" only that this occurs first over the phone or via email but figured I would at least share what the pitch should contain:

  1. What is your product or service?

    Briefly describe what it is you sell. Do not go into excruciating detail.

  2. Who is your market?

    Briefly discuss who you are selling the product or service to. What industry is it? How large of a market do they represent?

  3. What is your revenue model?

    More simply, how do you expect to make money?

  4. Who is behind the company?

    "Bet on the jockey, not the horse" is a familiar saying among Investors. I believe the CTO is the jockey and if you got a famous one, don't hesitate to let me know. Send me the URL to his blog if I dont. If you have a strong advisory board, tell them who they are and what they have accomplished.

  5. Who is your competition?

    Don't have any? Think again. Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition is an advantage-they are proof your business model and/or concept work. If you can't tell me this then the only thing I can conclude is that you have an expiriment not a business.

  6. What is your competitive advantage?

    Simply being in an industry with successful competitors is not enough. You need to effectively communicate how your company is different and why you have an advantage over the competition. A better distribution channel? Key partners? Proprietary technology? (sometimes proprietary technology is OK, sometimes not);


The main problem is that this form of elevator pitch has works well for software startups but has no lift in corporate America. Venture Capitalists sooner or later spend time analyzing the financials, getting the pitch validated by others and so on. Sadly, this time never comes around in corporate America. I have noodled the idea that the corporate pitch has different characteristics. I have came up with the following five attributes:

  1. A "hook"

    Open your pitch by getting the person's attention with a "hook." A statement or question that piques their interest to want to hear more.

  2. Some notion that they will get fired if they don't listen

    Folks like to know someone has their back and appreciate that one is looking out for them.

  3. No more than 100 words

    Your pitch should go no longer than 40 seconds.

  4.  Passion

    Management truly doesn't understand technology can only within the small time they have measure passion and energy from whomever is representing an idea. Mediocre ideas stated with passion are better than game changing ideas that can make millions of dollars stated with facts alone.

  5. A request
    At the end of your pitch, you must ask for something. Do you want them to open a door for you, talk to their boss about the idea, etc


As you are probably aware, most enterprises at this time of year enter their annual review cycle which makes us behave differently. I previously mentioned in a past blog entry how most technical folk are absolutely horrific at self-evaluation. I hope that I can figure out how to become mediocre at it. Anyway, I hope to see how well my thinking on this topic works over the next couple of days with a handful of IT executives (I really hope they aren't reading my blog and think of themselves as one of my expiriments). Hopefully though, I will openly try it on my fellow peer and blogger JT. Maybe he can chime in a provide additional insight...




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