Federal enterprise architects: Selling EA requires stealth

Architects recommend ways to persuade senior executives to support enterprise architecture initiatives

What is the best way to communicate the benefits of enterprise architecture to senior executives? First, do not use technical jargon. That was what a panel of federal chief architects advised colleagues at FCW Events’ recent Enterprise Architecture Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

“We’re trying to push EA from a business perspective,” said Marlene Howze, chief architect at the Labor Department. The worst thing to do in selling enterprise architecture is talk about it in technical terms, she said.

Howze, who created an enterprise architecture program office at Labor, said her first challenge was gaining support from the department’s chief information officer. She encountered further challenges along the way in trying to acquire automated enterprise architecture management tools.

Other enterprise architects on the panel described their own challenges. Darren Ash, associate CIO for information technology investment development at the Transportation Department, said chief architects should avoid developing a disproportionate sense of enterprise architecture’s importance in senior executives’ decision-making.

“Think about the culture at the agency,” Ash said. Include capital planners and security officers in meetings so they can speak about the benefits of enterprise architecture from their perspectives, he added.

Ash said offering quick, immediate fixes, rather than promising future benefits from a mature enterprise architecture, is the best way to sell it.

Ash advised chief architects to practice explaining enterprise architecture in a few sentences. At any time, he said, a senior executive might spring the question, “What is EA?” and architects must anticipate such opportunities. “Prepare for the elevator speech,” he said.

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