8 years, 8 months ago

How to avoid common mistakes with your EA program – Part I

Link: http://resources.troux.com/blog/bid/86081/How-to-avoid-common-mistakes-with-your-EA-program-Part-I

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by: Bill Cason – Troux CTO – June 12th, 2012

Part I: Overcome inexperience when initiating a program

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I frequently see Enterprise Architecture (EA) practices make a common mistake when initiating a program. They think: We know what we are doing, even though we have never done it before. This is one of the Top Three most common EA mistakes I’m going to discuss in this blog over the next few weeks. And I will provide insight into how you can avoid them.

If you recognize yourself in this first example – either starting or restarting a program – you can take these three steps to ensure success: Secure executive sponsorship, establish a clear rollout plan, and identify strong internal program leadership. 

Why do EA practices embark on such significant organizational change without these factors in place? It’s typically lack of experience. While many EA teams have members who have participated in successful programs across their business, typically they have never been initiators of such a program. Hence, they may not know what the success factors are.

Executive sponsorship

Executive sponsorship is absolutely crucial. Organizational change management is one of the hardest things in the world. If you don’t have executive sponsorship, you just aren’t going to get the organization to change its behaviors. For an EA program to be successful, you need participation from people outside the EA program. Outside participants will be required to contribute data, participate in analysis, and maintain that data going forward in order to help make crucial business decisions. This is in addition to their day jobs. If you don’t have an executive sponsor who establishes the importance of the program, you are never going to get the participation of these other parties.

The executive sponsor does not need to be an EA expert or even care about the discipline of EA. But he or she must care about the results.

It’s not an explicit decision to start without an executive sponsor. It’s often because the EA team assumes it’s their responsibility to make things happen.  Most of us who are technical believe a good product sells itself. It doesn’t. Just because EA is the right thing to do doesn’t mean the organization is going to do the right thing of its own accord.  Make sure you have an executive sponsor.

Clear rollout plan

The next critical success factor is a clear rollout plan – simply stated: define what the program must deliver and when it needs to be delivered. To me, executive sponsorship and rollout plan are inseparable. You should get your rollout plan down to something very focused, with high business value. And it should be thoroughly achievable in a short timeframe.

EAs can easily be sidelined by day-to-day firefighting, so sticking to your plan ensures you can contain the scope of what you have to get done and keep a laser focus on the business value. You should know what you have to get done in the next 30, 60, and 90 days. 

Management is not patient. If six months go by and you haven’t done anything the EA program will suffer.

Strong internal program leadership

The third critical success factor is strong internal program leadership. The day-to-day leader of the EA program is going to have to manoeuvre the political fields of the enterprise to get support, show value, manage program scope, and more. This is not a job for a novice.  Often, because EA may appear to be internal to the IT organization — it isn’t by the way — , it isn’t considered a program – and mistakenly the organization does not assign a leader with the appropriate skillset. This can have devastating consequences. 

There are some key qualities in a good EA program leader. That person needs the political skills to successfully negotiate support from the other organizations. And, of course, he or she needs good project management skills: the ability to understand the importance of scope control, meeting deadlines, having the right resources, and knowing when to escalate to the executive sponsor.

If it’s your first EA program, you can expect some bumps. Having executive sponsorship, a clear rollout plan, and strong internal program leadership can help to ensure success.

Watch for the next two blogs in this series: How to avoid common mistakes with your EA program!