C01-potential-at-work

3 steps to improve communications and operational excellence

Raise your visibility, credibility, and influence by using business terms with stakeholders, then translating them into your own best practices.  

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"With more business visibility, you can provide a foundation for reusing and leveraging data, which can potentially save millions of dollars.”

—Marina Kerbel, principal information architect at Deluxe Corp.

To truly succeed as an architect, you must be able to explain your vision in a language that key business stakeholders can understand—their own. But each industry speaks a different dialect, so you must be conversant in your own industry’s vocabulary as well. To be agile, translate industry-specific requirements into universal enterprise architecture (EA) language so you can reuse existing best practices. When it is time to present your concepts, translate them back again to communicate your efforts to the business in its terms.

So how do you learn the industry-specific language of your business? If you are in the financial sector, for instance, you need to understand the difference between credit risk, operational risk, and market risk and how they relate to the Basel II Capital Adequacy Ratio. The business bears some responsibility to communicate its requirements effectively. But yours is essentially a supplier-customer relationship, and the bulk of responsibility is on the supplier. That’s you.

Model, capture, define

EA’s language, on the other hand, remains consistent, regardless of industry. To be agile and take advantage of existing methodologies, follow these three steps:

  1. Build an operational service function model.
  2. Capture it in a structured EA repository.
  3. Create a business glossary.

Modeling will demonstrate how key business functions interact and will capture details about information exchanges for day-to-day operations in business process terms. The process of capturing the definitions in a repository will reinforce that learning.

By creating a common language and operating according to the business model, “the immediate benefit to the business is that you can communicate across all the project’s work streams,” says Marina Kerbel, principal information architect at Deluxe Corp., a marketing firm for financial services organizations. “With more business visibility, you can provide a foundation for reusing and leveraging data, which can potentially save millions of dollars.”

Consider this scenario from a consumer electronics retailer that deployed a team of architects to model the business with its merchandizing, inventory, and distribution staff. The architects found redundancies, but could not communicate them in business terms. Six months later, after learning the “language,” the architects could point out the redundancies. The business cancelled the projects, and the architects saved the company USD$20 million.

Upper management support

Many enterprise architects are aware of the need for modeling and establishing a common vocabulary. But few do it, usually because of a lack of funding or organizational support. “The business doesn’t always have the money to create solutions from scratch,” notes Kerbel. “But by bringing in a common framework and language, IT can effectively show what information already exists and where.”

If you can align business processes across multiple channels, you can position yourself as a key strategic player in the effort to inspire and support business transformation. You can lead the charge by envisioning the way you want to operate, not just by working within the capabilities of your existing systems.

Find out more on how IT can improve collaboration with the business by using with a common business vocabulary.

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