Communicate highly complex information to a broad audience

One of the common tasks that enterprise architects are dealing with on a daily basis is the need to explain complex IT issues to different audience, including non IT audience and CxO level. I can find many discussions around this requirement but I can hardly find any best practices or advices. In this post I'll try to share my experience and knowledge and I'll be happy to hear other experience as well.

The are 5 main principles that I follow when I have to prepare for presentation of complex domain information for non domain members.

  • Focus: I started to use this technique when I had to present to CxO, due to time restrictions that usually coming with those meeting, But I'm using it for any audience now. This technique enforce you to deliver 3 main messages to your audience, No more. The Idea is to create a matrix of 3 rows and columns. Each first column in each row should present one message that you want to deliver and the two following columns enable you to extend a little bit your message. This is quite challenging since it takes time to find out what are the main 3 messages that you want to deliver and to sharpen you message into 3 slides. The benefit is that you're coming focused to the presentation and you won't find your audience bored.  Focusing also yields simplicity.
  • Visualization (and animation): A picture is worth a thousand words. When I need to show complexity or to show some Ideas that are based on huge amount of data, I'm always looking for a way to show the message in a graphical way.  Two examples here. In the first one I want to show that IT is really complex to our CEO. So I took all of our IT assets and grouped them in to four main domains. On top of this grouping I added all mapped relationship between IT assets. The result was a jungle of dots and line. The message was transferred and accepted very fast and easy.

    The second example was about transferring the message that we're building an IT structure that will be based on shared and reused services and components. In this case we created a pipeline with two levels, external that demonstrate projects work that needed to be done to create overall business solution and internal level which represent all the common services and components. We use animation to enlarge the internal level and minimize the external layer to  demonstrate what we pursuing. We also split the internal layer to several segments the explain what type of services we want to provide.



  • Examples that everyone knows from life. I think that the most common example here is the usage of city planning when expanding enterprise architecture. People know and understand city complexity and can easily relate enterprise architecture to it.


  • Example from enterprise business domain. This principle works mostly when I have to present something from IT world to Business domain (VP, SVP, CxO).  The idea here is to take business example that demonstrate the same problem that I want to discuss from IT domain. If for example I want to explain the need to create MDM, I would ask the CEO if he can manage the company if any division has it own number and definition to the same product that we're selling (same product has different catalog number in different unit of business).
  • Break and abstract: If I have to present something that it complex and contain a lot of information (how to identifying needed, existing and missing services) , I tend to break it and abstract it as much as possible. The first thing is to break the complex idea that I need to deliver in to a list of topics ordered by relations between them. When Finalizing with the list and dependencies I can start presentation from high level process that shows what we up to. Then I'll address each entry in the list and summarize the presentation with the process again.

I hope that I didn’t miss any principles that I'm using, But what about you? What are the principles that you're using to deliver complex messages?


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