Many articles that I have read speak about the complexity of BPM and SOA technologies. In my experience, the most complex part of implementing these enterprise wide initiatives is dealing with change. And the number one way to address change is to have a solid communication plan. But is a good communication plan enough? Managing perceptions, attitudes, fears, and confusion takes more then a communication plan. The execution of the communication plan is where the rubber hits the road.
What I am getting at is the Chief Architect, the business sponsors, the enterprise architects, the CIO, and all of those people who are thrust in the spotlight need to be consistent in their message, their attitude, their goals, and their delivery.
With many culture changing initiatives, you have people who are ready for change, people who fear change, and people who take the "wait and see" approach to change. The wait and see people are like the swing voters in the upcoming elections. They need to be convinced before they commit. What that means is that they scrutinize everything about the candidates from what they say, to how they say it, to how they react to certain questions and circumstances. They same thing applies in your BPM/SOA implementations. If the people driving the change show signs of weakness, frustration, or stress the "swing voters" will pick up on this and may be turned off. The people driving these initiatives must also speak publicly as careful as a politician so not to say things that can cause the swing voters to run away.
Early on in my implementation, we had some challenges with some of the vendor tools that we purchased. I was pushing the vendor hard to resolve the issues but also expressed some frustration with the vendor that many swing voters picked up on. The next month or two I was in damage control mode fighting the perception that our SOA stack was a pile of garbage. The SOA tools in the market place today are early in the maturity phase and tend to have various integration issues across the various components of the stack. That doesn't mean that the products are garbage, it just means that stabilizing the new environments are challenging. Because I am very visible on this project and people saw my frustration with the vendor, I had to spend a lot of energy changing the perception of the tools. This is just one of many examples of how the swing voters' perceptions were swayed by the actions and delivery of both verbal and non verbal communications.
After dealing with and heading off many issues, perceptions, and fears, we have put together a more strategic plan for communicating going forward. The business leaders and the CIO will now send out frequent communications to all employees on the progress of the projects. We are spending more time showing demos and prototypes to anybody who wants to see them. The architecture team started blogging about the vision, the technology, and the project. But the most important part of these communications is the delivery. All of these communications must be delivered with confidence, consistency, and must explain the value of the initiative to the audience. We must think of our audience as swing voters looking to decide if they want to join the campaign or turn and run. After all, it is the swing voters contributions to the cause that will make the difference in the long run.
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