Well, yes of course. And indeed no, not really. Like much in Enterprise Architecture, we’d start by agreeing the initials match before embarking on a rumbustious dialogue on exactly by what we mean by the word ‘Advocacy’.
A fine debate it would be as well, especially when tangentially gathering ideas around the much debated EA reporting line. I’m leaving that alone for now, other than to offer the perspective that the functional hierarchy of EA is far less important than the individual leading it.
Of course the visibility and value of the EA team is strongly linked to where it is aligned, but there’s an even more contentious point hiding here. And that is the reporting line is largely irrelevant if the EA incumbents lack the skills of advocacy
Successful EA is about many things; but firstly it is about people, and while frameworks, tools and suchlike are vital, they are in support of the function, not the definition of it.
Advocacy can be thought of as three supporting forces as I’ve shown below. These are at work in every situation, in every company and for every person working there each and every day.
EA does have a preoccupation with a ‘mandate’, or more accurately a lack of one. If we go back to my premise that pragmatic EA is more about guiding that map-making, we’ll see that sometimes mandates are a necessary evil, but mostly you create your own through a combination of these three forces.
A good friend and colleague calls Governance ‘the last refuse of a scoundrel’ and only half in jest. How much and what flavour of governance is a whole different post – right now let’s satisfy ourselves that an appropriately robust and flexible framework allows us to agree to where points North and deterministically calibrate our position. If we’re looking for a single version of the truth, this would be a good place to start.
Lobbying is more about where we want to go, not so much on how we get there. It is viewed suspiciously in some quarters and with good reason, but lobbying at its heart is nothing more seditious than presenting an end state, or multiple end states to diverse stakeholder groups. Its’ success can be measured by gaining at least a tacit agreement that this represents a laudable goal.
Influence is the kicker; it’s the voice of the trusted guide, holistic decision support so lighting the bonfire of the competing agendas. It is soft power at its most powerful confidently advocating ‘we stand here now with these options, so go this way and do these things’ without usurping authority or playing to the crowd.
I talked about mandates for a good reason; Governance is rarely successful without one because 90% of people see it as a) not their job b) an overhead c) required only for other people. It’s not the easiest sell especially in an organisation with startup behaviours or silo business units. At it’s simplest it is about changing the way people work, and think about their work. Clearly that’s a tough gig to drive bottom up.
Lobbying requires sufficient mandate to crack open the door of change, against which the weight of inertia tends to press strongly. Convincing people to embrace new end states is somewhat easier if given an executive push. You need a line of sight between strategy and tactics if your goal is changing what people think is right.
Influence is all about you. It’s not about telling bolstered by shadow authority. It’s not promising all sorts of stuff that’s not in your gift to deliver. It’s not about having special friends. It is absolutely about earning sufficient trust and respect from all to be their trusted advisor waymarking the business onto the right path. Or at least alerting them to the consequences of false dawns and dead ends. That’s a pretty big gig because it’s organisation wide and measured by long reach lagging indicators.
You need to be great at all of these. And layer them in the right order. Or to put it another way:
Advocacy = Influence x (Governance + Lobbying)
The better you are at embedding governance and lobbying for the greater good, the more influence you will have. And this should result in the trusted advocate role that’s the sweet spot for pragmatic Enterprise Architecture. After which much of the tired debate about the value of EA, or the frameworks and tools which tend to define it, become moot.
I’ve seen both lobbying and governance delivered effectively through either stick or carrot. I wish the same could be said for influence, but mostly it’s side-tracked by tactics, politics, a failure of confidence or a lack of bloody-mindedness.
Someone far cleverer than me summed it up like this ‘ As a successful EA, you won’t always be liked, but you’ll always be respected’. The woman had a good point.
Where EA functionally resides matters far less than we may think, who it reports to matters a little more but that’s only part of the solution. Where it influences matters completely. I strongly believe Effective Advocacy is at the heart of this.
On the other hand, once you start drawing Venn diagrams and expressing Enterprise Architecture with mathematical equations, it becomes pretty clear I may be overthinking the problem a little…