Pro tip: Learn to speak CXO

One of my quirks is that I like to collect aphorisms about change and architecture. One of my favourites is “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. You can be the most brilliant architect ever, but if you can’t show the top table that you’re interested in solving the problems that are important to them, then it’s not going to get you very far.

As a business architect in particular, you need to understand the whole of your business from multiple perspectives. You need to be able to see the same issue from the perspectives of finance, operations, marketing, compliance, legal etc. And you need to be able to understand why they have the concerns that they do.

This is why you will commonly see a requirement for high level business architect roles to have an MBA. Now I don’t necessarily subscribe to that view but I can understand the rationale behind it. I do recommend getting a background in the following four areas: strategy; finance and accounting; sales and marketing; and operations and management.

How you go about doing it is clearly up to you and your learning style – courses, qualifications, books, wikis, talking to people are all valid options. If you have a look at my library page you can see which books I’ve found particularly useful.

Now I’m not recommending that you go away and learn all this stuff and them come back to the office spouting buzz words. That is an ideal way to prove yourself a self-important amateur! What I am suggesting is that you understand the concepts so that you can understand the thinking processes of your top table and can ask meaningful questions.

Knowing the link between the amount and sources of capital and the return on equity means you can ask intelligent questions of your CFO. Knowing what gatekeepers are and how they control routes to market means you can ask intelligent questions of your marketing director. Knowing that there is a “shadow side” to your organisation and how that is affected by leadership and culture means you can ask intelligent questions of your COO.

The realisation of your architectures will happen in a real world context and you need to understand that context and the multiple perspectives of your top table. If you can “speak their language” then you will get much better engagement from them and your architectures will be stronger.


About EBAnous

EBAnous works as a business architect for a FTSE-100 company in the south-east of the UK
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