Enterprise Architecture communication: Lessons from ‘Louis from Gaal’

Tim Vehof
Posted by Tim Vehof on Nov 28, 2013

Enterprise Architecture

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As a consultant at BiZZdesign, I help organizations in professionalizing their Enterprise Architecture practices. In these projects, I see architects struggling with ‘selling’ their products to their internal customers, often referred to as ‘the business’ (not as in “mind your own business”, a common response in architecture work). The inability of convincing the business of the added value of architecture products can become a big frustration in organizations. Recently, I found some inspiration in football.

In this blog, I will draw some communication lessons for architects from someone who has been struggling with convincing his critical audience (mostly the press) his whole career: Louis van Gaal. Even though Mr. van Gaal typically blames this on the inability of his audience to understand his brilliancy, I will try to draw useful lessons from this. 

1. Speak the language of your audience!

Convincing your audience starts with speaking the language of your audience, in the architects’ case, the business. Trying is probably appreciated, but be aware that people might make fun of you.


 A special twitter account was created as a tribute to Mr. Van Gaal’s trying.


2. Be clear about the direction the organization is headed…upstairs! 

As an architect, your job is to translate the strategic outlines of your organization into guidelines to reach the intended strategic goals. As stressed by colleagues Marc Lankhorst and Wil Janssen in a previous blogpost, we need to stretch the possibilities of our organizations to the limits. To do so, we need to translate and transfer the essence of the organization and its strategy into the architecture. As the facilitator of this translation, the architect should not only be able to explain the architectural choices, but also inspire the organization to embrace them! Ambitious as always, Louis hopes to inspire his team towards the title, by “looking upstairs”.               

Since most architects do not have the luxury to invest  £145,500,000 per year to ‘look upstairs’, they need to be even more convincing and inspiring!  

3. Put your teams’ competences to good use

Being a Lead Architect, you should have knowledge of the strengths of your team members, and be able to put them to good use. In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Mr. van Gaal has shown the direct result of putting one of his team members’ competences to good use: in the quarter-finals of the World Cup he made a last-minute goal keeper substitution, choosing specifically for a “longer reach and better track record”.



Maybe this lesson is more about showing courage in an all-or-nothing situation… And that might be a good tip for architects as well?! 

4. Don’t just say it... alternative ways of presentation support your message! 

Compliance with the enterprise architecture is an essential aspect of architecture governance. Be aware, disagreements with projects may occur. Since others mostly have valid arguments for not agreeing to comply with the enterprise architecture, do not fear to engage in the debate! Gesture supported presentation can be a powerful add-on to you communication toolbox that also comprises models, cartoon sketches and plain text.

5. Always celebrate success! 

Be proud of the successes in projects, in the business and in IT. And please don’t be shy to underline the role architecture played in this success. Mr. van Gaal takes this to the next level: 


These communication lessons from Louis van Gaal prove that communication, confrontation and courage is not only difficult, but also very important! BiZZdesign can support you in communicating the added value of your EA capability. The choice for consultants with an objective view of the organization is obvious, but in terms of speaking the language of your audience, our Enterprise Analytics suite offers a great solution! 



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