16 July, 2009

Development of an Enterprise Architecture Communication Plan

As a strategic activity for IT, communication is important for the effective management of both internal and external relationships. The IT function in many organizations operates with highly diverse stakeholders from different parts of the world. The situation has evolved rapidly over the last years through (standardization, globalization, and optimization…).

Communication significantly impacts how IT is perceived by the organization, and therefore it plays a crucial role in the successful positioning of IT as an internal partner. Moreover, given the competitive market pressure the position of IT within the company is the same that of an external IT provider. Hence the same level of professionalism in terms of quality and efficiency are demanded.

Communication concerns all business and IT employees whether they are managers, staff assigned to communication roles, or IT employees with technical tasks. Internally, multinational companies and global departments demand excellent communication and intercultural skills from employees and managers. This philosophy holds true for the field of IT. Smooth working processes and good performance are dependent on effective communications, especially in periods of change.

Effective communication is part of the overall plan for management of an Enterprise Architecture Program. An Enterprise Architecture communication document has to identify stakeholders of the organization’s Enterprise Architecture Program, the information needs of those stakeholders, and the communication strategy to be followed by the program in meeting those needs.

The goals of the Architecture Board, as established by (usually) the organization’s Management Committee’s mission and charter, requires a successful communication strategy. The Enterprise Architecture and the operations of the program charged with evolving that architecture are important topics that must be communicated by the program if the Enterprise Architecture initiative is to succeed.

The plan consists of sections devoted to an identified stakeholder group (you may reuse the stakeholders management defined in TOGAF). Within each section, the plan would identify:

  • The members of the stakeholder group
  • The TOGAF Enterprise Architecture Framework role(s) to which the stakeholder group maps
  • The information needs of the stakeholder group defined in the Architecture Vision The communication strategy to be followed by the program in meeting the information needs of the stakeholder group

This plan should be a living document, and as such should be updated on a regular basis to reflect new stakeholder groups, new information needs, and new communication strategies. It is important that the Enterprise Architecture Program be held accountable for implementation of this plan, and that the Architecture Board regularly reviews progress with the Program Director.

Stakeholder General Communication

Stakeholders are people who have key roles in, or concerns about, the system. Different stakeholders with different roles in the system will have different concerns. Stakeholders can be individuals, teams, or organizations (or classes thereof).

The list of stakeholders can be also based on the existing Business and IT organization and structure. It also takes into consideration recommendation from HR department addressing the various ways of communicating to various groups of people.

The various stakeholders may include (examples):

- Executive Management Board
- C-levels
- Business Users Advisory Board
- Business Units
- Procurement
- Architecture Board
- IT Units
- Enterprise Architecture team
- Customers
- Developers

The communication plan should take into consideration all groups (use best practices from EA frameworks such as TOGAF), the IT organization and the HR recommendations.

These groups will have to be clearly defined as probably some of the communication tools and techniques will have to be tailored for each community.

General Information Needs

The following information needs to be applied to all stakeholders.

  1. Understand what Enterprise Architecture is (at least at a high level)
  2. Understand the value, benefits, and importance of Enterprise Architecture to the business.
  3. Understand how the Architecture Board and Enterprise Architecture Program are contributing to the pursuit of the organization’s business objectives.

General Communication Tools

To meet these general information needs, the Enterprise Architecture Program should implement the following communications tools.

  1. A set of basic information materials describing the scope of the Enterprise Architecture. This set of materials will describe the value, benefits, and importance of Enterprise Architecture. The materials will be brief and concise, and may consist of: one-page briefing or brochure, key concept map, Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) document, position paper, and a presentation.
  2. In all status reporting, Committee and Program achievements will be explicitly linked to the organization’s business objectives.
  3. The basic Enterprise Architecture scope and value materials, as well as some high-level business-oriented status information, will be available (and prominently displayed) on the Enterprise Architecture website. These materials should be suitable for use/delivery by Architecture Board members as well as program staff. (The use of systems such as a CMS (Content Management System)would allow delivering information based on roles.)

Communication Matrix

A matrix should then be built which associates the various communication tools to the various stakeholders (see example below)

This matrix associates the communication tools to the various stakeholders. Each stakeholder, communication tool should then be described in that document and be related to various steps of the Enterprise Architecture governance.

The various views will also have to be defined in annexes.

Communication Planning

A Communication planning will have to be defined (see example below).

Implementation steps

To implement such a communication plan, the following steps will have to be completed:

  1. Validate if all stakeholders have been taken into consideration
  2. Define the content of each communication tool (reports, newsletters, verbal communication, etc.)
  3. Ensure that the appropriated communication tools are associated to the right stakeholders
  4. Implement the Communication Plan with the Business and the IT Department
  5. Once all communication tools are formalized and approved, identify the Business Units and roll out the communication plan to these stakeholders
  6. Once on board, roll out the communication plan to the Executive Management Board and C-levels


arkanoid said...

Could you please repost sample pictures with higher resolution?

Amol said...

Well said!

Serge Thorn said...

I repost the first one, but have some difficulties for the spreadsheet..haven't been able to improve...:-(

Alex said...

I think, that "stakeholders" categories should be more specific, e.g. "business unit" is a set of "business process owner", "super-users" and "normal users"; "IT unit". I can't image to talk about EA in the same to those different people. The same is applicable to "IT units" which are composed of managers, architects, developers, operators.

I think, that we have to give a convincing explanation to any of those "stakeholder" how EA addresses their concerns.


Adrian Campbell said...

I have found that posters prominently displayed are a useful way of communicating.

One of the most common challenges to enterprise architects, especially in organisations that are new to EA, include:
- Who are they?
- Why are they there?
- What value do you provide?

It is therefore very useful to prepare a set of Messages targeted at each type of stakeholder, that can be given in response to the frequently asked questions, from the classic 'elevator story' one line answer, to the more detailed messages on the EA web site.

The messages should mainly focus on the beneficial outcomes of EA in terms of realization of the enterprise vision, goals, strategies and objectives.

The most important stakeholders to communicate to will be c-level executives. Learn to speak their language and understand what they are likely to be interested in.


Leo de Sousa said...


Thanks for the excellent post. Your writing got me thinking about what we do with EA Communications and I wrote about it on my blog http://leodesousa.ca

Thanks very much, Leo

Ian Glossop said...

I have thought for some time that Enterprise Architecture and Programme Management go together very naturally. Developing a communications plan (to address the stakeholders according to their concerns) is an aspect of programme management good practice.

The plan should of course address different messages in different ways to different stakeholders groups. Programme Management should do the who, when, where and how of the communication. Enterprise Architecture should provide the what and the why of the commnuication. Clearly it makes sense to create the communications plan in partnership.


John Polgreen said...

Thanks, Serge! Can you suggest some resources where I can dig deeper?

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Adrian Grigoriu said...

I would do the communications only when I have something to communicate.
In the beginning when I need to explain what we are going to do, to rally support and later on, selectively, with target audiences, depending on the nature of your deliveries.
The questions that the directors would most likely ask from you are: "what's in it for me" and "what and when are you going to deliver it". Beware because you'll have have to keep up with the expectations.