User-centric EA is concerned with establishing a baseline and target architecture and transition plan for the organization. This endeavor includes everything from performance results, business function and processes, information requirements, systems and technologies, and how we secure it all. But how about including the organization’s brand and reputation in defining the architecture, especially in targeting and planning for a stronger reputation with customers and stakeholders?
The Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2008, has an article titled, “As Economy Slows, Reputation Takes on Added Meaning.”
Organization’s brands can be an asset or liability, based on how well it has been planned and managed and “cared for and fed.”
‘‘Mending reputations can’t be done overnight’ says Kasper Nielson, the Reputation Institute’s managing partner.” As we do in EA, comparing the current to the target architecture and developing a transition plan, Mr. Nielson “takes companies through a seven-step analysis of what’s causing their reputations to suffer, followed by a close look at which constituencies—employees, customers or investors—are affected and what they are seeking. Then it’s time for the hard work of figuring out what aspects of company conduct are helpful and what needs to be fixed.”
Many organizations only care about their technology and business alignment after they run into problems with poor IT investment decisions or programs that are failing or falling behind because of inadequate automation and technological sophistication. Then the organization wants a quick fix for an enterprise architecture and IT governance, yesterday! Similarly Mr. Neilson states about reputation, “A lot of companies care about reputation only after a crisis hits. Then they want to know, can you fix things? They don’t integrate reputation into their everyday processes. That’s dangerous. You have to do a lot of things right to build up a reputation platform.”
“‘Reputation is invisible, but it’s an enormously powerful force,” says Alan Towers, a New York advisor to companies concerned about reputation issues. He encourages CEO’s themselves to assume the role of chief reputation officer.” If brand and reputation is important enough for the CEO to take the lead role, it is certainly important enough to be considered a factor in building an viable enterprise architecture that will consider not only a company’s technology, but also how it is perceived to customers and stakeholders.
Some examples come to mind in terms of applying EA to organizational branding:
Do we want to organization to be perceived as a technological leader or laggard?
Is the organization viewed as having strong governance, including IT governance?
Do stakeholders perceive that the organizations is spending its resources prudently and controlling its investment in new IT?
Do stakeholders see the company as customer-centric, providing the latest in customer service systems, sales ordering and tracking, payment processing, website information and transaction processing, online help and other IT enabled user tools?
Is technology seen as integral to the future of the organization or a sidebar or worse yet a distraction?
I once heard someone say that “perception is reality”. So, even if the organization is managing their technology and business alignment, if its stakeholders don’t perceive that to be the case, then the enterprise is not being effective with its constituents. The organization must factor stakeholder perceptions and its organizational reputation into the development of its target architecture and transition plan. Brand and reputation does not just materialize, but rather needs to be planned and managed to. EA can help to perform this role.