I recently tweeted on maybe the perception of Enterprise Architecture and Chief Architects would change from being seen as the domain of IT to being seen as the domain of the entire organisation if they were renamed Business Design and Chief Business Designers?
It made me think of situations during my career where a name has set certain perceptions for myself and/or others or confused.
Enterprise Architecture – Isn't this something IT do?
First up is that old favourite Enterprise Architecture. I was once on a journey of moving an organisation from having an Enterprise IT Architecture to having an Enterprise Architecture covering Business, Applications and Technical Architectures. The Enterprise IT Architecture started in the IT organisation, as is quite common, and covered Application and Technical Architecture. This objective was a real challenge as I was driving and influencing this from within the IT department.
Whilst on the “world tour” of communicating, stakeholder managing, explaining and extolling the value of Enterprise Architecture I recall speaking to an executive in the organisation. I asked the question “does this Enterprise Architecture thing make sense in terms of what it is trying to achieve and the value it provides?” Their reply was that they thought it was technical. It had the words Enterprise and Architecture, which they associated with IT.
A valuable lesson I learned from this is to never use the word Enterprise Architecture if you can help it. Communicate the approach, the method and value, provide examples and scenarios and let the organisation call it what they want. It is the outcomes that we should be most interested in achieving. Not what we call things. Using Enterprise Architecture can set a certain perception which can be hard to overcome.
IS, IS/IT, ICT – Oh Computers.
So a name can set a certain perception. It can also create confusion. An area where a name can be confusing, to me at least, is in the usage of IS, IS/IT, ICT, IT, TS. It makes me think that we in IT are sometimes trying to be too clever for our own good. If you speak to the average person in the street outside of IT and say I work in IS, IS/IT or ICT they will wonder what you are talking about. Tell them IS/IT stands for Information Systems/Information Technology they will probably say “Ah you work in IT”. Why over complicate the situation. Just call it IT or maybe even simpler call it Technology. Someone I know who is definitely not in IT just says “Oh you work in computers”. However I think have Business Strategies for Computers, Computer Architectures or Computer Designers maybe going a little too far.
A final example is in the names of teams and functions that creates confusion and therefore cannot set any perceptions. I have seen some team and function names that have actually required me to spend considerable time working out what they actually do. They haven't altered my perception of the team as I couldn't work out what they did from the name so I couldn't set any. It was just confusing. When I actually found out what they did it all became very clear - they were the IT department!
Simplicity – Influences perception, removes confusion
So simplicity removes confusion and can help in setting perceptions. One organisation I know had an IT function that wanted to be integrated with the rest of the organisation. It's vision was to be integrated so that it could help shape the organisations vision and direction and provide value enabling IT capabilities to support this aim. In essence creating co-determinate strategies.
The function initially started out being called Technology Office. As it moved on the journey to become integrated it renamed itself to Strategy and Architecture, removing Technology. Then it renamed itself to Strategy and Business IT Systems, removing Architecture. It then renamed itself to Future Design. Simple, doesn't mention IT or Architecture at all. It does exactly as it says on the tin - It designs the future. That is my perception anyway.
It made me wonder what others have done with regards to names to help to set certain perceptions and remove confusion?