Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Enterprise Architecture: Best Practices in Business/IT Alignment
First and foremost, the best strategy for enabling Business/IT alignment is to encourage IT literacy within the enterprise. It isn't sufficient for a CIO to sound like the business as the business equally needs to understand IT. Are you familiar with Stephen Covey and the Seven Habits. Well, if you believe in the principle of Seek first to understand, then to be understood, it is important to also believe that business executives need to know enough about IT to understand its value proposition. This should be based on worst-practices of IT constantly producing metrics and chock-a-block eye candy Powerpoint presentations that are a weak substitute.
Second, it is important to not use the words management and leadership interchangeably. If you are a business person running IT, then you are a manager, nothing more, nothing less. Strong technical leadership is lacking in most enterprises as most CIOs are not really that technical nor really understand the business. Hybridism is a mental disorder.
For enterprises to thrive, they need to hire a true Chief Information Officer and acknowledge that choosing one is more difficult than even choosing a new CEO. Likewise, a CIO needs to be tightly coupled with highly competent Enterprise Architects who understand how to get things done and enable scale.
The third practice is to acknowledge that IT needs to stop twisting the meaning of words in conversations. Many bloggers find joy in reiterating the various definitions of enterprise architecture, which if thought about correctly causes folks to further twist the meaning. Luckily, there is one demographic that doesn't practice this worst practice and that is IT security professionals who all have a common story.
Walk up to any IT security professional in any enterprise and ask them about Alice, Bob, Eve and Mallory. These names always play the same role and at no time do security professionals get creative and substitute one name for another name. The ability to have a common unwavering story that is understood by all where nothing gets lost in the translation is key to alignment.
Many enterprise architects do a wonderful job of presenting accurate information and do so with integrity, yet much of the information gets lots in the translation. Part of the problem is that IT-based business models and internal proposals tend to only focus on the positives causing most IT folks to not bother to understand what the technology can and can't do. Many enterprise architects are savage in the pursuit of happy path architectures and are jeopardizing alignment because they aren't learning about what can go wrong and therefore aren't taking advantage of the opportunity to educate the business. Sooner or later, everything goes wrong and becomes a surprise to the business which simply shouldn't happen...
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