From Barry Manilow to Kiss, to Mary J. Blige and everyone in-between, people have been singing Talk to me for decades. And is it any wonder? Often we don't feel heard or feel that we don't understand what people are trying to say or do. In the fast pace of today's business, effective communication to get everyone on the same page quickly is essential. Needless to say, this isn't always easy.

Given that we have to communicate effectively and the fact that most all of us hate writing documentation, we need a better approach. So, what I’ve started to do with groups I work with, is to move beyond ineffective textual documentation to simply creating illustrations. There are four basic types we use depending on the situation and audience:

  • Business (the functions that our solution will provide and how it interacts with the business) (example)
  • Information (the data and how it moves between systems and processes)
  • Logical (the application view independent of the physical implementation) (example)
  • Physical (the physical implementation and how its connected ) (example)

Of course, making an illustration of the physical implementation is nice enough, but how many times have you been in a meeting that devolves over what the boxes and arrows mean? Or worse yet, everyone leaves the meeting thinking they understand but you have the same meeting again a week later because the illustration didn’t stand on its own?  Not helpful. A simple way that I’ve found to move to the next level is by starting to use an notation (i.e. language) that’s easy to learn and easy to understand for just about everyone - from the business to technical. The ArchiMate® standard is a great example of this type of language. ArchiMate® was developed by the OpenGroup to provide a “unified representation” for diagrams that describe architectures across the four domains. (oh, and in case you're interested, the OpenGroup does have ArchiMate® certifications.) Using this, we’ve been able to communicate effectively in a shorter amount of time with both business and technical stakeholders.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what business you're in or what autonomy your team does or doesn't have. If you're in the business world, there will be someone (think auditors or customers) that will, at some point, ask questions about what is on your production infrastructure. Effective communications becomes and essential part of what you do whether in DevOps, Waterfall, Agile, Kanban, or something else. Start with a couple of simple illustrations across the essential domains and use a common language. You’ll go from ambiguity to clear, consistent, complete communications in no time. This is how you talk to me so that I understand and move from talk to simply getting it done.

#guerrilla_ea - Enterprise Architecture for the Modern Enterprise

Last updated: January 12, 2023