Failures in IT Governance - No Communication Plan


As I discussed in my previous article, Enterprise Architecture (EA) cannot be separated from IT governance; it must inform the IT governance process. I also pointed out that this is a problem for many Enterprise Architecture initiatives because any change to the governance process will need to involve stakeholders, something that rarely comes easily to most architects. And because the governance process affects every significant decision in IT – this is its purpose, after all – it will attract a large number of different stakeholders.

So – a failure to engage stakeholders is a good way to inadvertently sabotage the governance aspect of any EA initiative, which means it is a good way to inadvertently sabotage any EA initiative, full stop. In my previous post I discussed the two key stakeholders and the need to engage with them. The obvious question to this advice is – “OK, so how do we do this then?”

The simple answer (which is correct as far as it goes) is ‘by talking to them’. But in practice you need to apply structure – each specific group of stakeholders needs to understand why they should care, and why they should be on board.  The best way that I’ve seen applied to accomplish this is by setting out a communications plan.

Now, the phrase ‘communications plan’ will probably invoke images of a large or cumbersome document, especially for anyone who has come into contact with a big 4 consulting organization (which in practice, means anyone who works or has worked at a medium or senior level in a large organization themselves). But the basic concept is sound – a concise document that outlines each group that needs to be addressed, and, more importantly, how to address them.

The second part of the last sentence seems throwaway, but it actually cuts to the heart of a communications plan – unfortunately, trite phrases such as ‘the medium is the message’ hide a larger truth, which is that no initiative, no how meritorious, will be judged on how it seems to those judging it. To put it simply, “what’s in it for me?”

Which means, for the purposes of an Enterprise Architecture initiative, that it is worth identifying – “how does this help me?”

And now we come to the essential parts of an enterprise architecture communication plan.

So – what should an EA governance communication plan contain? I’ll outline a skeleton plan.

  1. Preamble:  Why this change needs to be made
  2. For each stakeholder group
    • A list of reasons why this initiative will help the group in question
    • Map of  concerns
    • List of possible objections and answers
    • Scheduled presentation of concerns followed by question and answer session using stakeholder concern map
  3. Why this change needs to take place.

Now, this technique may seem obvious, but in practice it is often not followed – but in truth, EA cannot exist without governance, so that establishment of a communication plan before implementation of an EA initiative is essential.