Robert Melton's Writings

The Ultimate Tool for Enterprise Architects: Mastering the Art of Written Communication

In the complex world of enterprise architecture, there’s no magical tech solution that can replace the power of effective writing and communication. As an EA, your role is to bridge the gap between executives, technology, developers, and users. And the key to success lies in your ability to distill complex ideas into clear, concise writing.

Listen up, folks. If you’re an Enterprise Architect (EA) looking for the holy grail of tools to make your job a cakewalk, I’ve got some bad news for you. There’s no shiny piece of technology that’s going to magically solve all your problems. The secret weapon in your arsenal? It’s not some fancy software or cutting-edge framework. It’s the oldest trick in the book: writing.

That’s right, my fellow EAs. The ultimate tool for navigating the treacherous waters of enterprise architecture is the humble written word. As an EA, you’re the bridge between the suits upstairs, the tech geeks in the trenches, and the poor bastards who actually have to use the systems you’re designing. And the only way to keep everyone on the same page is to communicate clearly and effectively through writing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some Luddite who’s opposed to automation and great tools. They have their place. But at the end of the day, the core of an EA’s job boils down to putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, for you digital natives out there).

Take strategic alignment, for example. You can’t align your technology with the business if you don’t understand what the hell the business actually wants. And how do you gain that understanding? By listening and writing down what you learn. It’s that simple.

Creating the architecture itself is a whole other beast. It’s like coding on steroids, with a side of politics and persuasion. You’re going to be doing a ton of research, having countless conversations, and making tough choices. And if you want those choices to go down smoothly with both the tech org and the business folks, you better be able to explain them in writing. Diagrams are great and all, but as the great Richard Feynman said, “If you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, you don’t really understand it yourself.” And if you realized that quote was actually Albert Einstein and it said explaining to a six-year old – bonus points for you!

Governance is another area where people often get lost in the tech weeds. But without clear, written goals, you’re just spinning your wheels. It’s easy to start aligning your governance to what you have instead of what you actually need. And before you know it, you’re so far down the rabbit hole that you can’t even remember what you were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Technical evaluations? You better believe writing is crucial there too. Every time you assess a new tool or platform, you need to be able to summarize your findings in a clear, concise way. Otherwise, every poor sap who comes after you is going to have to reinvent the wheel. And let’s be real, nobody has time for that.

Collaboration is all about communication, and while meetings and water cooler chats are great, they’re fleeting. Unless you’re writing things down or transcribing those conversations (and let’s face it, ain’t nobody got time to read through a bunch of meeting transcripts), all that valuable information is going to evaporate like a fart in the wind.

And don’t even get me started on risk management. You can’t identify and mitigate risks if you’re not talking to everyone and their mother about what keeps them up at night. But once again, if you’re not documenting those risks in writing, they’re going to get lost in the shuffle.

The bottom line is this: there are a ton of amazing technologies and tools out there that can help EAs do their jobs better. But the one skill that cuts across everything, the backbone that holds it all together, is writing. And not just any writing - clear, concise, impactful writing that gets the point across without putting people to sleep.

So, my fellow EAs, embrace the power of the written word. Sharpen those pencils (or charge up those laptops), and get ready to put your thoughts on paper. Because at the end of the day, the success of your enterprise architecture depends on your ability to communicate it effectively.

And if anyone gives you flak for spending too much time writing instead of playing with the latest shiny object, just tell them Mike Acton said so. That’ll shut ’em up real quick.