Don’t Show Me ArchiMate, Show Me PowerPoint

Showing people ArchiMate views to leadership is not always a good idea. Today i wanted to talk a little about presentation of architecture in PowerPoint!

I am probably going to shock a few people who know me with the title of this blog, because I use ArchiMate all the time especially when I am talking to architects – they all need exposure to it, and as a common modelling language between architects its very useful to avoid miscommunication, but sometimes when I am in a presentation with senior management and I see an ArchiMate view, it sometimes hurts.

In one of my recent blogs I created a motivation view; this is from part 1 of Motivation Layer Modelling:

Figure 1 – A motivation view

Its a good view – it follows the ArchiMate rules, and it provides a lot of value when you work with stakeholders to define it – but as I mentioned previously, I probably wouldn’t share this with a stakeholder, because not everyone loves ArchiMate, and it looks complex; it switches some people off.

About Leadership

There are many types of leaders out there – I have been in a few leadership teams where they do psychological tests, and use a number of techniques to determine things like how analytical you are, how competitive you are, or how dynamic. Even the most analytical of leadership are likely not to have the time or motivation to learn a language like ArchiMate.

Just as analytical thinking brings benefits to the table, other approaches do as well. The view in figure 1 – may be really attractive to an architect who understands the relations and notation – it may even be very exciting; but to a business leader, even an analytical one, if you present ideas in such a complex form, issues will arise, and your message can be lost in the complexity.

To some, ArchiMate is just drawing pictures. I spoke about the value of ArchiMate and the value of modelling in my blog Understanding Architecture Value because I felt at the time that a lot of the people I was talking to didn’t understand the value of the work I was doing, and in retrospect, the reason wasn’t because of the work – it was because of how i was presenting it at the time.

A PowerPoint presentation has the value of communicating things to an audience, and an architecture model brings its own values. ArchiMate modelling is a better tool for designing, and ensuring solutions are water tight, with different relations and elements and is good for communicating between architects who design solutions. Depending you your stakeholders, PowerPoint is often a better visual tool for communicating concepts. A leadership team typically doesn’t want to get into the small details of a solution – but needs to maintain an overview of a lot of moving parts, and trust its architects to do their jobs.

About Presentation

I spoke to a colleague in a large establishment about this at one point – he told me a story about an architecture he did for one part of the organization, which he thought was really good and could be reused in another part of the organization. He presented it and to his surprise the audience hated it. He went away, and several months later, changed the colors and the logo on the view and presented it again. People loved it – he had made no changes to the actual content. How we present things is sometimes as important as what we present.

Our architecture story

Our architecture views are telling a story. We can tell that story in different ways. If we look back to the view in figure 1 – we have stakeholders, drivers, and goals. and one easy way of presenting a motivation view is to focus on those parts; they all address questions. There was a reason I split the last two motivation blogs the way I did. Stakeholders, Drivers & Goals focus on the stakeholder needs – where as when we start to talk about requirements, principles, and outcomes we are very much thinking about how we will achieve those goals. Just as we do this in the motivation layer, we could take a similar approach with any part of the model. We think about the different element types and their connection and then figure out how they relate as part of the story they can tell to whoever we are presenting to. We need to consider our audience and the questions we are answering – because we want the story we are telling to resonate with them. There are many books out there on presentation skills, but if you can tell a simple story that your audience can relate to, you are more likely to be able to tell your architecture. EA is very much about people.

Doing the modelling in ArchiMate and following an architecture process gives us value, and ensured we hadn’t missed anything in our thinking. Sometimes I might want to keep a view like figure 1 at the back of my slide deck for support if complex questions come up, but for presentation I want something better focused, and maybe even more simplistic to grab the attention of the viewers

Stakeholders

Lets create some simple slides for presenting the view in figure 1.Lets assume we have been given a short time to create a presentation which we may have to present in a meeting. Its different to prepare presentations that may be part of an information pack. In that view there is only one stakeholder. On a presentation I may chose to just present this in the context of other stakeholders in other views (if there are any, or if the presentation is only about things in figure 1 – focus on our CEO; iI think carefully as I may want to make the audience aware of the different stakeholders and that this view is part of something bigger. These are the people we are providing value to, and a good starting point in a presentation. At this point its worth mentioning I am not going to talk about how to present things in PowerPoint – I limited myself to only having 10 minutes to prepare this PowerPoint, and used a PowerPoint stock theme – at work I would use the company deck. On the view i am presenting, I only have a single stakeholder so I create a single slide that’s basic – just to make sure i don’t forget about this important topic: I could include a bit of information about our CEO, and if there are several I would introduce the stakeholders at a high level on a single slide. I lacked imagination so just stuck the CEO photo in, and use it as an anchor in the presentation for talking about him. I am setting up the basis of my story.

Figure 1 – Our Stakeholder

Drivers

Once we have set the stage with our stakeholders, in our figure 1 view, we are flowing to drivers. Drivers are the primary stakeholders that have needs. In our tools its really easy to just select all elements of a single type and copy them into a piece of smart art. Once I did that I tweaked the text a little to make more full sentences, because in the object model we sometimes skip a word or two to make the element boxes smaller when drawing, but i am trying to connect to our audience: The importance is in the message, and I didn’t put anything in there to detract from demonstrating our understanding of our stakeholder needs. The colors i am using are fairly strong, in the real world you may not want use softer colors, or create a little more space, but for a quick presentation this would do.

Assessments

Looking at our motivation in figure 1 there are a number of assessments that really support our reasoning behind why we have our goals. Depending on the size and complexity of our presentation, i could break these out into a separate slide but sometimes its better not to. In this case i am thinking these are talking points i could run through when we speak about our goals. So I copy and paste them into the presenter notes for the next slide.

There’s a balance to be had. if i put too much text on the slide, the focus of the audience may shift from listening to the presenter, to reading. You want the slide to be focusing the message of the audience, not taking away from it.

Goals

In our figure 1 view we showed goals in two levels – the higher level goals connecting to the more specific goals. Depending on who we are presenting to, we may only wish to show the high level goals. Again i keep it simple. not too much text. In every slide i am asking myself the question is this answering the question of my audience.

Values

Its important we express out value and when I did those three slides above I considered 3 different approaches to representing them.

  • I could have put them in the notes for the goals with the assessments – A skilled presenter can tell the story of the challenges being met by the goals and the value our goals bring, beyond just stating bullet points
  • I could have them on their own slide. It felt to me a bit much to do this, as value seemed like more of an integrated topic than something that stands by itself
  • I could put them on the project goals slide above. If i had a little more time I may have done that.

Summing it up…

You may or may not like the slides I produced above – Visually I just picked a random default theme in PowerPoint. End to end it took me 10 minutes to go from having an ArchiMate view to having a few standard slides that can be used to tell a story. We are telling a story. We introduced the charactors, set up the challenge, then said how we would meet the challenge.

I chose the example i did today because right at the moment i see a lot of people presenting motivation architecture, and it is an easy example. Of course, for a full presentation you may want to be presenting a lot more, from multiple views, but the concept is still the same.. you can think through elements and relationships, think about the questions you need to answer and visualize your ArchiMate in many different ways, indeed some tools let you customize the visual representations of your views so they don’t look like ArchiMate at all..

ArchiMate is used to communicate architecture, and in the architects community is a fantastic way to convey a message, but the point of this blog was to show that ArchiMate is not the beginning and end of architecture presentation.

As an EA my job is not focused on technology – really its about the people, and whether the more analytical of us like it or not – PowerPoint is a standard way to communicate in some circles, and being able to effectively look at our model, and think about which elements we need to convey in the context of a story, then abstract away from the technicalities of our modelling language is an important skill.