Enterprise architectures need support, say CIOs

A successful enterprise architecture program relies on a communication plan and a strong group of supporters, experts said today.

Ninety percent of a good program is technology and 10 percent is change management, said Chris Niedermayer, the Agriculture Department's associate chief information officer and E-government executive. "The real trick here is to build advocates," Niedermayer said, speaking today at the E-Gov Conference on Enterprise Architecture. "If you can get people to go with you and understand the value, they'll go along. We worked from the bottom up; we worked from the top down."

Developing an enterprise architecture plan requires officials to map out where they want to be, where they are now and what needs to be done to fill those gaps, he said. The enterprise architecture, he added, should be viewed as one of the most important projects in the department and the management support should reflect that.

A base of supporters of the program can help bring others in the department on board. It only takes about 10 to 25 percent of the organization backing a program to lure people sitting on the fence, said Chris Durney, a senior vice president at ICF Consulting, who also spoke at the conference. "Most of the population is on the fence," he said.

Niedermayer and Durney offered a few tips for managers seeking to communicate and implement a successful enterprise architecture program:

*Create a sticky message, which is an easy 10-word phrase about the program and its value. "Once you hear it, it sticks in your head, and you can't get rid of it," Durney said. The message should be clear, important to the organization and encompass the advantage of the program.

* Enlist people early, including the technical gurus, supporters and even those who may initially oppose the plans.

* Set out a few principles for people to follow. If you outline about one to two dozen rules, people will be more likely to change their behavior, Durney said. Examples of rules include requiring that all information technology initiatives be aimed at improving services to the citizen or ensuring that the integrity of personal information is not compromised.

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