So, you’re busy working away at your models.  The team is busy discussing the nitty, gritty things around taxonomies and ontologies.  Others are creating detailed elaborations of different aspects of one of the dimensions of your enterprise architecture.  You look at the work and say, “Damn this is good stuff!”

So now what?

The art of Enterprise Architecture is about influencing the stakeholders inside and outside of our organization that an EA will help them be more successful.  How will they find out if we don’t tell them?

On the surface, this is really pretty 101 stuff.  It really boils down to really answering the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions. I always start with Who.

Who do I want to communicate with and Why should they care anything about what the EA team has to say? That means that you need to take the time to know and understand your audience so that you are communicating something relevant. That means taking the time to truly understand what each stakeholder brings to the table BEFORE you start thinking of how you might be able to help.

I hate trying to add more meetings to people’s schedules or try to get them to read more, so I love to reuse other communications events to get added to the agenda. That might be newsletters, team meetings, web site. Use whatever you can get your hands on to start to understand how you will communicate your message.

Communications Plan

Now this may seem more like marketing than communications, but for me it is in the same continuum.  Try to fit all of this into two letter size pages if you can.

Key Messages

So now – what do you communicate? Well, I usually like to start out with Key Messages. Just a few things that you want to see in every communications event that you have. I suggest no more than three, or else they won’t be key.  These messages will hopefully be pervasive and consistent within the entire team.  These can take some time and may need to be road tested.  Think of each key message being no more than 7 words and one word in bold that carries the day.

Audiences

Then, pick the most important thing to that stakeholder group that has relevance to them.  This can be individuals, or groups.  If you have lots of time you can work on elaborating full personas.  This is important so that you communicate what they want to hear in the way that want to hear it.  You have to really know why they would want to listen to you.  As important as the audiences you put into your plan are the ones you leave out.  Start with a few and then expand once you get going.

Communications Vehicles

You will not be able to cover off everyone and depending on where your Enterprise Architecture team is in the maturity curve and overall size of the team.  In general I like to take advantage of other people’s communications vehicles.  Some of the most common that I have implemented include:

  • Company Intranet Site – note that this audience is primarily employees who may not even know how to place a service request with IT, let alone what an Enterprise Architecture team does.
  • Team Meetings – Go to other team regular meetings with something relevant!  If you believe what I said in my Stealth EA post, you should engage these teams with a presentation on how the application of the EA can help them be more successful.  Better yet – show them some insights that you think you have based on your models and see if you’re right.
  • Team Site – Create your own team site – but don’t restrict access!  Slowly grow your content that is relevant for the team, but written in a way to appeal to a broader stakeholder group.  Most specifically this can be a way to engage a larger community of practice.
  • Coffee Chats – The most powerful and informative communications vehicles is individual conversations.  You have to decide who to have discussions with.  In my experience EAs tend to want to go as high as they can.  I would suggest aim lower and gain your authority by getting invited to conversations rather than barging in.  In a future post I will elaborate on the brochure style deliverable as an alternative to a presentation.
  • Lunch & Learns – This can depend on your personal style and how big your team is.  They can be virtual or in person.  Most often I have used these for solution reviews to show the applied practice of EA.  Occasionally I tackle EA concepts – but quite rarely.  Decide on a schedule that you can actually maintain  3-4/year is probably good.

Measures of Success

How will you know you have been successful?  There’s leading indicators like # of meetings you have had, but what are the real measures of success?  Engagement at more senior levels, more demand on services?  Pick something that you can measure and – measure it.

Now for the hardest part!

I would say that for me, communications consumes 20% of my time!  One day/week!  I personally dream of having access to communications professionals to help with the logistics and content editing, but invariably it comes down to the team to create them in the end.  Take the time, create the plan and execute.

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