Making better tech decisions in three simple steps

Enterprise architects (EAs) play a critical role in achieving alignment between IT and the business.

Respected for their technical savvy, they ensure sure IT systems run smoothly so the business can rapidly implement new strategies.

Simply considering all the technology, applications, and sheer amount of data EAs deal with on a daily basis can feel overwhelming. What’s more, business stakeholders are now laying claim to their time and talents as well.

Digitalisation is changing the way businesses work and what they call success. They are looking to EAs to help reduce cost, manage risk, and create business opportunities.

It’s time for enterprise architects to start having business conversations about technology instead of technology conversations about business. Where to begin? Here are three ways to start helping business partners to make better decisions.

Speak the language of business partners

The separation between IT and the business, along with disparate communication styles, can make it difficult for business partners to understand the rationale for and the implications of the technology decisions made by IT.

They may feel that the reasons for technology decisions are obscure, irrelevant, or even contrary to their needs.

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In fact, according to a recent IDG survey, the business acumen of the enterprise architecture (EA) team is often put in doubt partly because, instead of evaluating emerging trends from a business standpoint, EA teams do so from a technology perspective.

EA teams must overcome scepticism by demonstrating how they can help the business make smarter decisions about technology investments – without talking about technology. In order to do that, IT must highlight the relationship between the applications and technologies under consideration, and the business capabilities and services they support.

This translates into tying IT initiatives closer to business outcomes to prove their value as a key contributor in developing and executing business strategy. It also entails learning how to communicate and translate IT strategy into business strategy, and being more collaborative in helping the business make smarter decisions about technology.

In this way, organisations can understand how EA impacts the business– from goals and strategy to business capabilities. This means that opportunities and risks can be evaluated in the context of the entire enterprise and decision-makers become equipped with the insights they need to make business investment decisions faster and with greater confidence. As a result, EA teams can become an integral part of the strategic planning process.

Analyse the right data and create a decision-ready environment

Finding data to support technology decisions is not a problem. However, finding accurate, valuable data is a challenge, and a time-consuming one, as cheapening storage, continually growing demands from leadership to see more, and the natural tendency to save everything has led to the reality that we’re all drowning in data.

That’s why presenting business partners with large tracts of data drawn from spreadsheets is not the optimal way to support a complex decision, nor will it likely lead to one the EA team feel good about defending.

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The first step is isolating the right data from the rest. IT should work with their business partners to understand the key drivers and KPIs for their decision process, and focus on these.

From there, it’s again all about analysing the data and presenting it in a context that will be meaningful and relevant for those who need to understand the decisions made on its basis. This is what turns it into information that supports action.

Visualise data in order to drive change

No matter how well you structure your data analysis, presenting it for understanding is often a tedious, error-prone exercise involving spreadsheets and presentations that, all too often, miss their intended targets.

While spreadsheets may have served the EA practice well in the past, as the enterprise and its portfolios grow, it can be challenging for spreadsheets to keep up. Linking, macros, and version control get thrown out of kilter too easily, rolling up multiple spreadsheets manually is laborious and error-laden, and updating to account for current data is a painful process.

Purpose-built solutions designed for EAs will not only scale with their needs more effectively, they will greatly simplify the search for relevant and up-to-date data.

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They will also help visualise the data, so that the EA team can tell the story it needs to, better than they could using a dozen spreadsheets or presentations could.

A good visualisation can make the correct decision seem obvious. But decision makers often want to understand the back story before committing.

Using the right visualisation tool means EA teams can click through from the high level to see the complex data that supports the initial view, examine it from every angle and review it with their business partners and leadership to ensure complete buy-in. Both parties can then move forward with total confidence.

Business stakeholders are looking to enterprise architects to lift the cover off the IT black box and guide them to the path of success. In this new era of IT, EA teams have the opportunity to become strategic advisors and communicate their value to all parts of the business – and help their organisation capture the benefits of the digital economy.

 

Sourced by Jeff Ellerbee, solutions marketing manager for Troux by Planview

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.

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