Social technologies offer many opportunities to improve EA communications. I’ll outline some of the practical uses of social technologies that have been used by EA teams that I have worked with.
Improving EA Communications through Social Technologies
If there’s one thing in EA that can always be improved upon, it’s communication with stakeholders. Misunderstandings, confusion, frustration, arguments, and disagreements – all of these can result from poor communication. Social technologies offer many opportunities to improve EA Communications. In this blog I’ll outline some of the practical uses of social technologies that have been used by EA teams whom I have worked with.
EA initiatives generally involve a wide range of diverse stakeholders. Keeping in touch with each stakeholder, and making sure that they are up-to-date with progress can be a daunting challenge, and this task often drops to the bottom of the list – falling victim to the many other daily pressures faced by the typical architect! Sending emails, holding meetings, and distributing documents remain the basis for a majority of EA communications, but each of these options requires a high-degree of preparation and effort.
We are told repeatedly, for example in the TOGAF documentation, that architects must tailor their communications to meet the exact concerns, views and viewpoints of each individual stakeholder. And to some extent this is sound advice, and necessary. But it is also true that some of the basic information that architects need to pass on to participants is very similar. And with a good understanding of stakeholder needs, it is possible to produce standard views that explain architectural evolution to a broad range of stakeholder types.
Not surprisingly then, a blog is an excellent communication tool for passing on this common information. But a blog can easily become irrelevant or boring, and it can then get ignored by the very people who should be reading it! So here are some tips on keeping your EA blogs focused, relevant, and compelling!
Another frequent problem faced by architects is having access to enough of the right information about EA components or how they are used. The traditional way to do this is to talk and to and have meetings with subject matter experts, business users and customers to find out what they know, or how they make use of the architecture. All of this can be very time consuming, and there is a risk that you may not invite the one person who holds the key knowledge. A good solution here is to use a wiki.
I know of several EA teams that have set up either a general wiki for gathering EA knowledge, or a specific wiki to capture things they need to know for a single project. Here are a few examples:
This leads me to my final example, about sharing EA artifacts. Many EA artifacts are produced for a specific project; once the project is over, they get forgotten, and are never reused. There are several reasons for this: once a project is over time is rarely allocated to harvesting artifacts for reuse; and artifacts can quickly become less useful if they are not kept up-dated.
Instead of wasting valuable project artefacts, an EA team “published” all documentation from a project to a shared artefact library, which was available to many people from different backgrounds within the organization. Everyone with access was encouraged to use the materials, but with a proviso: they were to improve the material as they used it – by adding information, providing better examples, giving more detail, or restructuring the material into a more useful form. To make the library work, the organization introduced feedback mechanisms to rate the usefulness of artifacts, and a bean system to reward participants for their contributions, based on the feedback and ranking of artifacts. At first this approach was quite primitive, but refinements were gradually made to encourage participation and collaboration. The results were impressive. Not all artifacts were reused, but some key models, patterns and diagrams became standards throughout the enterprise. In particular, the approach shifted emphasis away from PowerPoint presentations towards individual diagrams or charts that became “standard” views of key enterprise components. A proliferation of individual PowerPoint decks was replaced by a core set of valued slides that were extensively reused.
Communications can always be improved – and these few examples only scratch the surface of what can be done with social technologies. I hope that they inspire you to use social technologies in your EA practice, and then to share any of your ideas or experience through this blog!