Sunday, 30 August 2009

What seasoned Architects say about the craft

  • I cannot stress this enough: Keep working to clarify your understanding of the desired solution. If you come from a development background, your disposition is to start working on a solution from the moment that the problem is stated. The effect that this has is that the rest of the conversation sometimes gets tuned out while your mind turns to solving the problem that you have heard. It is important to resist this urge and pay attention, so that you can understand what the person is saying. Ask questions, and challenge the things that you do not understand.
  • In India, the general answer was always immediately, "Yes, it can be done," and then the developers would go off to huddle and try to figure out what they thought was being asked for in the solution. In Eastern Europe, every request was responded to with a barrage of questions, and unclear ideas were challenged until everyone had a clear understanding of the desired solution.
  • Communications skills are the skills that I work on the most, because they are the most critical for an architect. Without top communications skills, it's going to be difficult to get your vision into the heads of others. The highest responsibility of an architect is to communicate the solution to the business leaders, technical leaders, and any other interested parties in a language that they understand.
  • Architects must have a mastery of three languages: business language, for communicating with the business people; industry language, for communicating in the vernacular of the vertical; and technical language, for communicating to the technical leadership and the developers.
  • You must become familiar with the domain in which you will be developing a solution. I believe that there is a tremendous benefit to having experience in multiple industries and domains. This allows you to be like a bumble-bee and cross-pollinate the best ideas across industries. I have found also that the DNA of most architects contains a hunger for knowledge in a broad range of subject areas. Architects are interested in knowing about things and understanding how things work. Architects can then synthesize this knowledge into creating solutions.
  • As architects, our minds can be far into the future (as they should be), but we also should not assume that the rest of the team can see that far. We must communicate, educate, and mentor the team to our level of understanding, so that they can understand the full vision. Be like a U.S. Marine: Leave no one behind.
  • I wear a Microsoft Xbox 360 wristband that reads, "Challenge Me"—a statement that I think gets to the heart of what drives a solutions architect. IT solutions architecture is a constantly evolving field, with an ever-increasing set of new challenges. Albert Einstein once said, "You cannot solve tomorrow's problems with today's level of thinking." We must always be striving to take it to the next level. This has been what has driven me for the past 25 years in IT, and will continue to drive me into the future.
  • The DNA of an architect is to strive to understand the problem, envision the solution, and then communicate the vision to the folks who will implement the solution. Educate and mentor your team, so that everyone comes away with the same vision.


    Critical-Thinking Questions

    • Are you listening to the customer? I mean, really listening to the customer? Are you asking questions to clarify the problem? Are you willing to stay in the envisioning phase until everything is clear?
    • What are you going to do today, to sharpen your communication skills?
    • Are you stepping back to see the big picture? How far into the future do you see this vision? Can you communicate this vision?
    • Are you taking the time to bring the team along? Are you making sure that your team understands the vision?




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