I was introduced to the term “eat your own dog food” many years ago by a Microsoft project manager who pointed out that if you don't use your own products, maybe you should think about working for someone else (some of the best advice I ever got from Microsoft). Some years later I was teaching an EA leadership class in Sydney and used the “eat your own dog food” metaphor. A very indignant architect stood up and with great flair said: “Man, we are enterprise architects! We slurp our own caviar.” Well, whether it’s dog food or caviar, if you build it you should use it. The problem often isn’t that we don’t want to use our own products; it is that we are so busy trying to get everybody else to use them that we just don’t think about it.

I just published a report titled “Use Business Architecture Tools To Align EA With The CIO’s Agenda.” The genesis for this research was the realization that EA teams, along with many other organizations, don’t do a very good job figuring out what their bosses really need from them. And architects, unlike other organizations, have all the tools and skills they need at their disposal. So here are my four simple steps to better alignment with your CIO:

  1. In less than a day you can build and validate an IT capability map to describe all the unique functions it takes to deliver IT services to the business. You can then use this map to help your CIO focus on the capabilities that need enhancement.
  2. Next, take each of the in-need capabilities and execute a SWOT analysis to uncover opportunities for improvement. Take what you learn from the SWOT and select the high-value targets – those that fit EA’s mission and have a high return on engagement. This should take no more than half a day.
  3. Most EA initiatives only come to fruition through the actions of others, so create a value chain to better understand how you fit into the solution mix and to show your CIO precisely where and how you will add value. Another half day.
  4. Once things get rolling, lay out the work you are doing on a simple road map to keep your CIO informed of your progress. Most people are surprised to find that their boss likes less-detailed but more-frequent updates.

With about two days of effort, you can easily put business architecture tools to work for you. Capability map? Check. SWOT analysis? Check. Value chain? Check, Road map? Check. You’ve got everything you need. So, eat your own dog food, guys.