EA Communications

This seems to be the topic of the week with excellent posts on the subject from both Leo de Sousa and Serge Thorn.  This has been on my to-do list since a meeting with Bruce Robertson where we discussed both my thinking on EA Services and Gartner’s, which also resulted in a blog post from Bruce. In that conversation, Bruce convinced me that communication should be a top level EA service, rather than an implied activity within all other EA services, as was my previous stance.  This was also challenged by Aleks Buterman in our discussions on Twitter.

Bruce’s stance was that communications was essential to everything that EA does.  If your EA team can’t communicate effectively, then their chances of success are greatly diminished.  By defining it as a top level EA service, it emphasizes its importance for not just the EA team, but everyone who utilizes the EA services. 

Given that assumption, what does the communication service look like?  I think Leo gave a great start at a communication plan.  In reality, the EA communication service shouldn’t be very different than any other communication service, the only difference is the subject being communicated.  Therefore, let’s learn from practices of the communications experts.  Leo relied on a communication plan created by a colleague that is used for many things, not just enterprise architecture.  I’m trying a simliar approach, initially based on a template from ganthead.com, but has now been customized quite a bit. In the plan we capture a number of items.  You’ll see there are many similarities to what Leo had to say, plus some additional items I think are important.  The plan is a simple Excel spreadsheet, with each row representing a unique “audience.”  These audiences do not have to be a mutually exclusive, in fact, it’s quite common to have one row targeted at a broad audience, and then other rows targeted at more narrow subgroups.  For each audience, the following things are captured:

  • Questions to answer / Information to present: In a nutshell, what are we trying to communicate to the audience?  What are the two or three key items to present?
  • Sensitivies: This one isn’t on Leo’s, but I think it’s very important.  What are the biases and background that the audience has that may positively or negatively impact the effectiveness of the communication?  For example, if your organization has tried the same initiative 5 different times, and you’re proposing the sixth, you should know that you’re walking into a room full of doubters.
  • Mechanism: How will the communication be delived?  This can involve multiple mechanisms including presentations, podcasts, webinars, blogs, whitepapers, etc.
  • Objective: What is the objective of the communication for the audience?  This is different than the information to present, this instead is the expected behavior you expect to see if the communication is successful.  Obviously, the communication alone may not achieve the objective, but it should represent a big step in that direction.
  • Author(s): Who will create the communications collateral?
  • Presenter(s): Who will present the information?
  • Delivery date(s): When will the communication be delivered, and if it’s an on-going process, at what frequency?  If there are mutliple delivery dates, when will the last delivery occur?
  • Evaluation Method: How will we evaluate the effectiveness of the communication?  There may be multiple evaluations.
  • Follow-up date: When will follow-up occur with the audience to gauge effectiveness and retention?

This may seem like a lot of formality, but I’ve seen the benefits of it first hand, and the risks associated with ad hoc communication efforts.  My experiences with ad hoc have been hit or miss, but when the time was taken to develop a formal plan, the efforts have always been successful.  I hope this helps you in your efforts.

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