Learning from enterprise architects about stakeholder management

Photo by Nik SilverI’ve found it remarkable that whenever I talk to enterprise architects about their work they always put stakeholder management near—if not at—the top of their list of essential skills. Stakeholder management is, of course, important in so many disciplines, but it’s notable that it’s right at the top for enterprise architects.

In some ways this might not be seen as remarkable. After all, consultants who enter an organisation to solve enterprise-wide problems need key skills in this area. Acting at the C-level of any medium-to-large organisation is so much about politics and relationships. But this is a discipline with “architecture” in its name. It is an expansion from technical disciplines such as software architect and solutions architect. Those are roles where the key differentiating skills are technical. And yet moving up the chain (of technology abstraction and breadth of organisational impact) those technical skills are seen as minor compared to the human skills.

TOGAF, an enterprise architecture model, has a lot to say on stakeholder management. But then TOGAF has a lot to say about almost everything, trying to box it and process it, and what comes out is devoid of character and texture—just another bunch of rectangles and labels on the big Diagram Of Everything. You need to speak to real EAs to understand how central this is to their practical work.

Perhaps we can explain this by saying that if you want to have more of an impact on an organisation then you really need to understand the people, and their concerns and viewpoints, and you need to work to that if you’re going to succeed. The important lesson, though, is one for anyone coming up through the ranks, and one that’s more easily applicable to those coming through the architectural or technical disciplines: for all your technical knowledge and skill, the biggest impacts come when there is a deep appreciation of all the people impacted by your work, and their needs and character.

Photo by Nik Silver