As the author of The Agile Architecture Revolution, one of the questions I get now that I work for a software vendor is how Enterprise Architecture can help my company, EnterpriseWeb, sell its software platform. After all, the only way to sell anything (software or no) is to solve somebody’s problem at a price they are willing to pay. What does that have to do with EA?
Everything, in fact. True EA principles (in particular, Agile EA principles) are focused on business value – although there are plenty of EAs out there who don’t connect the dots properly. But yes, we must always connect those dots.
As I explained in my Agile Architecture course, there are three things that keep the business stakeholder up at night: making money, saving money, and keeping customers happy. (In the public sector, it’s staying within the budget and the mission goals). These priorities should drive all decision making in IT.
One of the themes in the course as well as my book is how business agility relates to these priorities. After all, the CEO doesn’t ask for business agility directly. He/she wants the three priorities above. The challenge of the CIO, and by extension the EA, is understanding when the business driver is an agility driver, and then to make the appropriate technology choices to achieve that agility in furtherance of the core business drivers.
This story goes directly to our positioning in the marketplace. EnterpriseWeb is a versatile tool that can potentially solve a range of problems, and thus is far better suited to enabling business agility than a tool that is built for a particular purpose. But simply talking about our capabilities leads to what I like to call the “Swiss army knife” problem – a tool that does so many things, nobody knows what to use it for.
Our core technology, after all, is our secret sauce, and our technical differentiator that provides a barrier to entry to the competition. But customers don’t really care, as long as we can really do what we say we can do, and we’re a better choice for solving their problems than our competition is – in other words, we’re a better value for solving the business problem.
The Agile EA challenge is then to tell the story: “here’s the business problem (making money, saving money, keeping customers happy), here’s how and why it’s an agility problem, and here are the tools you need to solve the problem.” Then we simply have to explain why our tool is the best choice.