EAM for Top-Level Management

Introduction, matter of the boss

As an enterprise architect, really reaching out and touching top management in such a way that they take the time and energy to act on the matter at hand seems difficult, or at least challenging. This may already be the case with one's own CIO or IT business management, and becomes further complicated when business managers or even the CEO need to be approached.

Putting all our experiences together, we have come to the conclusion that various factors, some of which build on each other, need to be taken into account if you want to increase your influence on top management.

But as an EAM department, why do you want to talk to top management at all? Isn't it enough to play the enterprise architect role well in the operational business?

In other words, not sitting in the ivory tower, but keeping development projects in line via architecture guard rails and committees, creating transparency in the application and data landscape, securing responsibilities, giving the IT strategy an implementation structure, and perhaps as the icing on the cake, also sorting out business strategies with good capability management. There's enough to do.

So: Why top management? An example: On 23.02.23, the Ostseezeitung writes about entrepreneurial near-death experiences after a cyber attack under the title "Have you been hacked?" According to this, 84% of companies confirm at least one attack in the last 12 months. The impact is sometimes threatening, often devastating, and definitely costly. Editorial conclusion: "Cybersecurity must be a matter for the boss!".

And what is to be done for this boss matter? The status of one's own cyber security must be honestly determined and consistently improved: What consequences can an attack have? How many users are there on how many devices? How are they secured? And trained? Where is the data stored? In which applications? How is it handled? Etc., etc... Already here you can see that EAM has some answers. And if the topic is a matter for the boss, these answers must also reach the boss - and he must understand them.

This is just one example from many other topics that become a matter for the boss because of digitization and also many other 

circumstances, sometimes in general, often quite suddenly and sometimes only for a short but intensive time.

The transparency and structuring power of EAM can play a decisive role here in helping to act faster and make better decisions.

So it can actually be extremely relevant that the EAM department is also able to talk to top management, and it is important that it is understood there as well. But how do you do that? Attention: a completely different appearance, dialog, packaging is necessary than on the operational stage. So how can it succeed?

First of all, there are technical factors (1.-3.), issues, content, facts, followed by soft factors such as personality, language and culture (4.-10.). Overall, it is about successfully addressing the top management of the company from within Enterprise Architecture Management, both in IT and in the business. This does not just mean the C-level, i.e. the board of directors, management, owners, but all managers who have their own business decision-making powers, i.e. also plant managers or branch managers, etc.

Technical factors

1. The basic prerequisite is to be "in the world" of the top manager, so to speak, to know his or her context of thought and action and to act and argue in this context. This is often fundamentally different from more operational or technical perspectives and usually includes strategic views and broad operational lines. Corporate strategy is a good place to start. Where does the top manager want to take the company? What steps and milestones are important to him or her?

2. But what exactly is his personal contribution, his personal interest or even his personal goal? For example, making the company more profitable may mean that the CIO wants to cut IT costs, but it may also mean that he wants to help the business to cut costs by investing in automation. The CFO, on the other hand, will be very concerned about cost transparency across all areas, and so on. The personal contribution in context is the best trigger for a successful approach.

3. However, the EA contribution itself is ultimately decisive. The best and best presented speech is of no use if you cannot deliver anything useful. Assuming EA can contribute something relevant, and that is the basic conviction throughout this paper, what matters here now is to hook and hook this contribution firmly as a strong lever in the context of the top manager. And this hooking, the translation of EAM facts into business meaning, is possibly the most important success factor in these 10 steps here - and the most difficult.

Non-technical factors

4. What type is the top manager, as a person? As a person? This is an important question if I want to reach him. Is it the detail person who wants to understand my excel sheet and get the value in cell B72 explained? Or rather the generalist who likes to understand the big idea pictorially and trusts the experts to implement it. For both, the material has to be prepared completely differently. So it's important to get a good picture of the person.

5. What is the culture in the company? How openly can I talk? How do I present myself? How I'm allowed to talk about other departments is a tremendously important point, because enterprise architecture usually provides cross-departmental input.

6. What scope for action does the current organizational form of the company give me? Is responsibility distributed decentrally, located locally, or am I talking about a holding company? What powers of instruction are there then, what suggestions can be made, e.g., for the recording of applications? Is it a strongly hierarchical company? Or a family business, where traditions sometimes play an important role. Or a foundation as at ZF and Bosch?

7. In which role and which reputation do I myself appear? How is enterprise architecture seen in the company? Experts? Ivory tower? Exotic? Powerful architects? Does skepticism have to be overcome or even ignorance in the sense of "I have to explain who I am and why I am here"?

8. What level of trust do I and EA enjoy in this dialog? The state to strive for is that the top manager trusts the EA role just as much as, for example, his finance or strategy department. The question is whether EA is already seen in this way by him and EA has already earned and deserved this trust. And what needs to be done to achieve that.

9. As a result, the question of how EA appears, in what way and in what role is important. What is meant by this? EA can, for example, act as a facilitator, mediator, translator and oracle between parts of the company, advisor or catalyst, or convince as a leader, driver or enabler. Control instance and governance roles are also possible. Which is appropriate, which is expected, which makes sense?

10. Taking all 9 points into account, the question is to be decided, which kind of communication is target-oriented? Slide presentation with facts? Or analogies? One-players or films? Quotes and testimonials? 

The CBA Lab Workstream Architecture Emotions at the time raised some possibilities in this regard. Core finding: a bad message told well has more success than a good message told poorly.

The CBA Lab workstream "EAM for Top-Level Management" has addressed all 10 points (see infographic below) and gives the enterprise architect a toolbox to find the way to the top manager and into his head.

Infographic "The action space to understanding & to comprehension".