Recently, Patrick Gray blogged on TechRepublic that IT has a Chicken and Egg problem. In his post, he describes two mechanisms that CIOs take to become recognized as strategic leaders: a) work in anonymity to demonstrate that the work that they are doing is aligned, hoping someone will notice, and b) wait for the business to take on the responsibility for ensuring that IT’s efforts are aligned. He charts out a course that involves a) get the utility aspect perfect, quietly, b) speaking the language of business value, and c) pitch the strategic expertise of IT.
Reasonable advice in some ways but, as always, the devil is in the details.
How many times has a “business client” of IT asked for a project without any rational reason for believing that the project is actually a good expenditure of money? How many times has a good, valuable project been cancelled or poorly funded while a pet project moved ahead. The language of “value” is necessary, but not sufficient, to get business peers to include you in critical conversations. They have to believe that they need your resources, your input, and your power to deliver. For the CIO to exercise power, he or she must first have it, and then must demonstrate it. I’ve seen many who either did not, or could not, do that.
Enterprise Architecture is a business function that allows the business to do a very important thing. EA is based on the simple rule: “Do what you say you will do.” Many a business executive will declare that they can’t actually get the business to do what they want it to do. EA is part of the solution to that problem. It is a necessary business function. The leader who owns this function has an “ace” to play. And if that leader is the CIO, then the CIO has a useful capability.
Patrick Gray is right… you must not “live” with the hand you are dealt. You must build a better hand. Enterprise Architecture is one card that the CIO can build into his or her hand, and then play to great effect.