Build What Sells, Don’t Sell What You Build

I just read the Forrester document, “Inquiry Spotlight: Building An EA Practice, Q2 2009,” written by Gene Leganza and Katie Smillie, with Alex Cullen and Matt Czarnecki, and there’s one line that really stuck out for me.

When creating EA artifacts, you should focus on “building what sells” more than on “selling what you build.”

I think I should take that line and make a poster out of it. This consumer-first thinking is really, really important. I’ve seen too many things that were written for the convenience of the author rather than the consumer, and it never is as successful as it should be. This applies to EA artifacts, to user interfaces, to services, and just about anything else that’s supposed to be consumed by someone other than the person who wrote it. If you don’t make it easy to consume by the intended audience, they won’t consume it at the rate you desire. The trap that you can also fall into is to fail to recognize that you have more than one audience. If you assume a single, broad audience, then you wind up with a least common denominator approach that frequently provides too little to be useful to anyone. While some “100-level” communication is a good thing, it must be followed up with the “200-level” and “300-level” communication that is targeted at particular audiences and particular roles. For example, if you’re planning your communication around an enterprise SOA strategy, you may create some 100-level communication that is broad enough to wet the appetite of project managers, organizational managers, and developers, but not enough to tell any of them how it will impact them in detail. Follow that up with pointed conversations targeted specifically at the role of the project manager, the organizational manager, and the developer to get the messages across to them, and them only.

Finally, getting back to EA artifacts, consider not just the roles, but also the context in which the artifacts will be used. If the artifacts are used in project activities, then structuring them so the appropriate information is provided in the appropriate phase of the project is a good thing. Organizing the artifact to where people must hunt all over for the information they need at a particular point in time is not a good thing.

Once again, take Gene and Katie’s words to heart: Focus on building what sells more than selling what you build.

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