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What is a MESA?
Michigan Enterprise Strategic Assessments (MESAs) are strategic planning tools that allow the university community to see what IT services, products, technologies, and capabilities are being used today, what their future might be, and what new items on the horizon.
For IT service providers, MESAs help teams throughout the university align their IT services to U-M’s IT Strategic Plan. Watch this brief video to find out more.
In short, MESAs:
- Describe the strategy for an IT service, product, technology, or capability area for the next three years.
- Visually express the current and desired future state of that area.
- Help make service plans visible to service users, other IT teams, and unit leaders who need to plan for the future.
- Are reviewed annually by the teams that create them.
- Provide a consistent format for communicating strategic plans across the organization.
View an example MESA: U-M Storage Services (PDF)
The conversations and thought processes that occur during the creation of MESAs are opportunities for focused, strategic discussions—ones that often don’t happen because of hectic schedules and day-to-day duties. These discussions are every bit as valuable as the resulting MESA artifacts.
MESAs describe the area’s strategy by listing goals to provide value to customers and by stating the concrete initiatives for making progress toward those goals. MESAs include a current assessment of services, products, technologies, and capabilities, and give a view into where they are headed. This provides input to IT initiatives and helps ensure these initiatives are aligned with the university’s IT strategy.
What do MESAs look like?
Each MESA is formatted as a multipage Google presentation.
- A MESA document contains a statement of the scope covered by the strategy.
- It lists the strategic goals, which describe the value to be provided and the means to achieve that value.
- It contains a list of initiatives to make progress toward those goals.
- There is a MESA diagram indicating the strategic changes that are to be made to meet the goals.
- The diagrams consist of a flattened bell curve which represents the typical lifecycle of the “components” (services, products, technologies or capabilities) within the scope of the MESA.
- Small, color-coded circles are placed on the curve to represent where each component is in its lifecycle at U-M.
- Strategic changes to components are shown by using an arrow to connect the circle indicating their current position on the curve with a triangle indicating their future position.
- For each item, there is a one-page description which includes information to help explain how the item fits into the strategy.
MESAs are used and can be used by anyone at the university who needs to make decisions based on the strategic direction of IT services.
- Within an IT organization, MESAs are used by leadership and management for strategic planning or to make investment decisions. Technology developers and business analysts use MESAs to determine the best products or technologies to use when building a new service or capability.
- Customer relations analysts use MESAs to help those outside the IT organization plan initiatives that depend on IT services.
MESAs aid service and product owners in strategic planning; therefore, they write and own the MESAs for their areas. Enterprise architects facilitate the creation of the MESAs, assist in annual reviews, provide the MESA repository, and employ the MESAs as tools for strategic planning and alignment.
Before building a MESA for a particular area, it is important to identify the key stakeholders for the area’s strategy and have them involved in the process. This may include, for example, service owners, service managers, product managers, technical managers, and solution architects. When the service is provided by multiple IT units, representatives from all the service providers should be involved, in order to create a coordinated strategy. You should also include important customers or people who can speak to customers’ needs. Since enterprise architects facilitate the process of building MESAs, another critical step is to email firstname.lastname@example.org to contact an enterprise architect for assistance.
Creating a MESA usually takes 2-3 meetings with a member from enterprise architecture to review the MESA process, identify scope for the MESA, and work through the steps in defining the goals and initiatives. The enterprise architect can assist in mapping out the components of the MESA onto the various diagrams. It typically takes 1-3 hours offline to finish filling out the MESA document, depending on how mature the area's strategy is.
Since the MESA format is a Google Presentation, each portion of the MESA document has a limit of one slide. This ensures that the MESA is succinct and easy to read; it also means that it should be a straightforward task to complete. To read more about the process of building a MESA, read the How to Build a MESA document.
If you're interested in having your service or product area represented in the MESA repository, please contact the Enterprise Architect team at email@example.com.