Ingredients for a Good Roadshow

A common activity when starting up an architecture practice is a roadshow - this post offers techniques to gain stakeholder buy in for your initiative.

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I’m going to go out on a limb and state that most groups that are starting up a modeling practice, whether for Enterprise Architecture or Process Modeling, recognize the value of a roadshow when trying to roll it out. I’ve seen this done well, and I’ve seen this done badly. So here are some observations on the characteristics of the former case.

 

Summary:  A common activity when starting up an architecture practice is a roadshow – visiting the key stakeholders and attempting to gain their buy in for the initiative. There are several things that you can do to make such a roadshow more effective – be able to articulate the drivers behind the initiative; be equipped with examples of past or ongoing problems that the initiative is meant to address; have answers for the most likely obstacles; and, ideally, a stakeholder analysis.

 

The first thing that you need is talking points, and these come in two varieties. The first type of talking point is to be able to articulate why the organization is undertaking this initiative. This sounds obvious, but I've known it to happen, with the length and detail that can end up being sunk into discussions, that everyone involved forgets what the fundamental drivers were to start down that path in the first place. The suggested solution is: eat your own dog food. Or, to be more specific, let the first model created in the practice be a motivation model that shows what the core drivers were to start down this path. Both TOGAF and ArchiMate have elements to enable motivation modeling, and there is also the OMG's Business Motivation Model.

A related question is to be able to point to why these drivers are seen as worthy of concern, and why the initiative will resolve them. A motivation model is useful here as well, but simple war stories will often do just as well. My favorite case is hearing the Chief Architect at State Farm insurers recount how they were wrong-footed after Hurricane Katrina. A CEO promise to institute a payments holiday for victims required a frantic effort to understand how this promise could be delivered, at the expense of other initiatives. So when the Chief Architect started to talk about supporting business agility a few years later, he had a ready-made example to hand.

The next thing to have in your toolbox before embarking on the roadshow is your rebuttals to objections. The purpose of an internal roadshow is to sell the idea internally, and an essential part of any sale is to have answers for the objections that people raise. For most architects, this probably sounds pretty off-putting – the very mention of sales, and objections, and rebuttals, smacks more of Glen Garry Glen Ross than creating value. But the hustling snake oil salesmen of Glen Garry Glen Ross is one end of a spectrum, the other end being a boss that I had once. His response to every suggestion for improvement was to start with “The reason why that won't work is...” and then pause to think up a reason. People like that exist in every organization, and it's necessary to anticipate the 'reasons' that they'll come up with and have ready answers.

Last of all, ideally you'll go into your roadshow equipped with some kind of stakeholder analysis. Now, this may be difficult, especially for someone who is new to the organization. You can infer some possible stakeholder concerns purely from the position that someone holds, but beyond that, asking your project sponsor or known supporters can provide invaluable forewarning of what drivers and agendas a given stakeholder can have.

This can seem a lot of extra work, but, much with design itself, it's a case of investment of effort up front to avoid problems later on. Without sufficient preparation, you can find yourself in the place of a high-level sales director that I worked for once, who spent 2 months securing a meeting with a senior executive at BT – only to be hit with “Tell me something interesting” as an opening line. The sales director froze, because he had nothing prepared – he was expecting to glide through on sheer personality.

It didn't work.

An internal roadshow is, really, a kind of sales activity, and despite the reputation that attaches to sales amongst delivery people, any roadshow is a futile exercise without answers to the question every sales prospect rightly has - “what's in it for me?” The techniques that I've outlined in this post are one way not to come up short like my former boss did.

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