Over the last year or so, I have been working with a company, BluePrint Marketing, which specializes in improving the sales and marketing capabilities of IT vendors. During that time, two things have become clear to me. 1) While IT vendors are increasingly aware that EA plays a role in strategic sourcing and procurement decisions, they aren’t sure how to leverage (or even identify sometimes) the EA team. And 2) the EA teams of most companies are not getting involved in strategic sourcing and procurement processes early enough to influence the strategic direction … more like an afterthought.
Let’s tackle the vendor issue first. Vendors need to understand that EA is a process that is focused on aligning current activities (projects, operations and investment decisions) with the strategic directions of the business. Leveraging the EA team and its plans, models, and processes would enable them to have conversations earlier in the sales cycle and more closely align their offerings with the capabilities that the business requires for significant change. Most vendors want to be more than just a commodity provider, but they lack the access to strategic thinkers in their target accounts. The EA team can not only provide the access, but also the interpretation and linkage back to business strategy. Given the relative lack of maturity of EA in many companies, the challenge for vendors is figuring out if the EA team is mature and credible enough to influence the sourcing and procurement decisions.
On the client side, increasingly we are seeing that EA teams are getting better at publishing standards and design guidelines that influence commodity procurement and design activities at the project level. Inroads are also being made in many companies and government entities to influence capital planning and portfolio decisions. One of the missing pieces seems to be sourcing decisions. We believe the key to linking EA with sourcing decisions is in the development of service management strategy. More on that later…
Vendors who want to leverage client or prospect EA teams involvement in sourcing and procurement decisions are going to have to identify the EA team and its role within the target company earlier in the sales cycle.
End-user EA teams who want to affect sourcing decisions more directly are going to have to develop service management strategies that identify ahead of time services that are candidates to be outsourced and those whose criticality to business value demands that they be an internal core competency.
In the last couple of weeks, I have spoken to two clients who had common symptoms which I have termed ’EA Senility’. Both are Chief Architects in large, global companies. Their EA functions are mature by any measure. Strong EA governance and communication. Completed TOGAF-like frameworks that are comprehensive, fully populated, current and well crafted. Artifacts are polished. In short, they are models of EA excellence and could serve as case studies for newly minted EA teams.
There is only one problem.
Both Chief Architects believe they are slowly losing the support of leadership – both within IT and the BUs. By ‘loss of support’ I don’t mean ‘anti-EA’ sentiment but rather a loss of relevance and interest. Both wanted insight and advice on how they could return to their ‘glory days’.
One of the clients had just had a meeting with their new CIO ,who was hired from the outside after the long-serving CIO retired. One of the first things the new CIO asked was “How is ‘open systems’ incorporated into the enterprise architecture?”.
The fact is there isn’t any open systems ‘stuff’ in either client’s EA. No Linux. No MySQL. No Apache. ‘No nothin’. I found this hard to believe.
In talking with them I found that projects had come forward with open systems proposals but, it became clear to me, that ‘governance’ and ‘process’ and ‘standards’ eventually ground out innovation. The EA teams had effectively become inhibiters of business change. In their old age they had gotten away from the raison d’etre – to enable the business.
When, as architects, we stop looking forward and we stop innovating then we should retire. We have become ‘the man’. We have become senile.
‘Senility’ doesn’t happen to the young, it happens to the ‘mature’.