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Attracting, Retaining and Getting the Best from your Architects- the Wrap Up!

6th Nov 2015

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A huge thank you to all of our amazing panellists, Tom Graves and guests who made both the Melbourne and Sydney X:ED & AAN events such a spectacular success. Both evenings drew a crowd and by all accounts its was a fun and educational evening.

For those of you who were unable to attend, we are extremely fortunate to have the wrap up of the evening’s Q & A’s from three of our industry expert panellists, who were kind enough to donate even more of their valuable to time to us. Disclaimer- these views are their own and not those of the companies that they are from;

Firstly we have Peter Cox, Head of Architecture and Integration Services at Newscorp,

    

Helen Davis, Business Solutions Engineer at Oracle,

    

and Ian Morris, Senior Director of Enterprise Architecture – ANZ at Oracle

    

Describe your architecture journey:

PC: I started as a journalist and, as we computerised, I gradually moved into how things are done. Which became technical, especially communicating between Editorial and Technology teams. Which later became an IT role. The key observation in the early days was “That’s a bit shit!” and questions around “What happened before?” “What happens later?” “Why do they do that?”. Then understanding the process and the driving missions of different participants in the process. Then seeking balanced best outcomes.

IM: Fell into it from years of Operational Management in Call Centres/CRM that involved working with business and IT stakeholders to get pragmatic solutions that deliver real world value.

What is architecture, and why is it important to the enterprise? (Duties, Skills, and Knowledge)

PC: Roadmapping - critical for a business with a notoriously short term view driven by it’s primary products. Tell the business about itself in a way that clarifies strategy options.

IM: My view is form follows function, it should be pragmatic, looking far enough ahead to future proof decisions as much as one can, balanced getting this done in shorter and shorter time frames. I use the analogy of building your first home. you may only be able to afford 2 bedrooms, one storey and a car port, but you build the foundations to enable extensions in the future. Rather than a few years down the track having not considered the future having to start all over.

HD: Enterprise Architecture is different when you are in a large enterprise, at a Systems Integrator, or with a Vendor organisation.  For me in a vendor organisation, my role is about bringing together many different internal viewpoints to create a solution that brings rapid value to our customers and addresses their business issues.  As such I need to have a high level understanding of all Oracle’s solutions, good communication skills and even better organisational skills

What makes a good architect for your environment?

PC: Flexible, visual thinker, story teller, learn and listen,

IM: concur with (Peter’s points), only adding an ability to empathise with the end user/stakeholder. Don't assume people have the same understanding/interpretation of something as you, test it. Good (healthy) sales skills are very useful.

HD: A good architect is someone who can bridge the gap between the business and IT.  It is someone who can communicate and lead a team.  A good architect needs to be able to take a position and support it – they can’t sit on the fence.

Who are the architects, and how do we find them and attract them to your organisation?

PC: Business under stress, exciting opportunities. transitioning the business organisation in Australia and globally, moving to drop legacy applications and move. Haven’t had to find any yet, I’ll be listening!

IM: Diverse bunch in my case, some with extensive vendor experience across multiple technology, industry and business domains combined with people who have spent most of career customer side. There is no single template. Have to consider environment, challenges being faced and Customers (internal or external) that are being dealt with plus if there is a particular emphasis on certain technology domains, i.e. digital, cloud, data, mobile, security etc. While a generalist role you need to test their ability to span the range as well as demonstrated ongoing ability/motivation to learn fast and to be awesome collaborators.

HD: Consider carefully what it is that you want your architects to do and draft your job description accordingly, as the people you are looking for and where you will find them will change depending on those requirements.  The original job description I was given when I was interviewing for this job was very technical and didn’t fit with my background.  Conversations through the interview process actually revealed that the organisation was looking for someone with experience in understanding businesses requirements and mapping these to an IT solution, which is why I ended up being a good fit for the role.

What traits and skills do we want from our architects?

PC: Listening, facilitating, story telling, visualising, brave, able to tailor communications to audience. see above.

HD: Leadership, communication, organisation and the ability to bring both internal and external teams along on the journey

What don’t you want in an architect?

PC: Obsession with process, obsession with completion, excessive personal and emotional investment in “pure” outcomes.

IM: Ditto, religous (IT) zealouts, people that are overly into technology for technologies sake. Need to balance passion for tech with passion for business and customer outcomes. Need to be able to relate to a wide range of people, this is often the hardest thing to find. Highly specialised, deep solution architects are incredibly valuable, thoguh not always a good fit for this role. If you are that person, but want to be an EA, consider spending some time in the business itself to round out.

HD: People who keep all the information to themselves and don’t encourage collaboration.  People who have a focussed view around just one area rather than being a wide ranging view.

How do we support those traits and skills in the enterprise?

PC: Immersion in the business culture, clear messaging on value

IM: Agree, and as per above.

HD: Encourage peer and solution review sessions, as well as having regular team knowledge sharing sessions.

How do we support the work of architects in the enterprise?

PC: Tools (by which I mean a good phone, a light laptop with a good battery and access to collaboration and visualisation tools), open doors, provide access to information and insights internally and externally.

IM: Sometimes need to provide some air cover, support building senior sponsorship across business, not just in IT.

HD: Management actively supporting the considered decisions made by the architects is an important way to support their work.

How can we best assess the value of architects and architecture?

PC: Engagement from business and delivery teams, competition for access.

IN: Realisation of architecture, i.e. it ultimately influence deployed solutions that deliver value to the business/customers.

HD: Cohesive solutions that meet the needs of the business is a good way to judge the value of architectures and architects.

How do we sell that to the enterprise?

PC: Enable, don’t block. Even when you are blocking.

HD: Regular presentations and meetings with the teams you are working with will allow for communication, which is essential in order to sell your vision to the enterprise.  Other communication mediums might include running lunch and learn type sessions on various topics of interest.

How do we motivate the architects we have and how do we help them on their career journey?

PC: Recognize that News, a company that doesn’t issue an org chart, is a challenging environment for an EA. Keep them informed, connected, at the table, on the inside track. Understand that they will work on a lot more ideas than are actioned - and that part of their job is to shine a light on ideas to help prove, or disprove, the benefit. Provide practice development and personal development track. Time to think.

IM: Agree plus give them hard, big problems to solve and encourage/support. Connect them with others, encourage networking so they can bounce ideas, share and learn in a collaborative environment. No one has all the answers. " Clever: Leading Your Smartest, Most Creative People Hardcover – August 25, 2009 by Rob Goffee (Author), Gareth Jones (Author)  is a good book to read.

HD: Providing them with the opportunity to work on state of the art projects that allow them to learn and grow, particularly where it allows the architects to develop skills around emerging technologies.

What is the best way to keep the architects when they want to leave?

PC: General principle is that when someone talks about leaving you’ve lost them - unless you know they are really lazy. Need to get ahead of the “just browsing” behaviour through regular discussion and by delivering on promises. Also, be very truthful about the business culture and setting before they join. They must come in hungry for the challenges and opportunities, not shocked in the first week.

IM: Agree, sometimes it is better they do leave, it may be they can go elsewhere and learn things they couldn't in current role, and come back down the track.

HD: Understand what is causing them to look at other roles and addressing those issues.

What will solution/enterprise architects look like in five years time?

PC: There will be a new collaboration approach and platform to allow architects to continue “working the room” when activities need to include global, outsource and partner stakeholders that won’t be in a room together.

IM: One thing I see is shorter spans for roadmaps. The future is getting here faster than ever so "future proofing" decisions becomes more of an art. The ability to build in flexibility so architectures can be more fluid/adaptable is key. Back to the house analogy, you need to think modular, you need to think surfaces that can easily be re rendered/painted be that colour or texture. Walls that can easily be moved, rooms re configured etc.

HD: Everything is changing rapidly in this space, so it is hard to know.  Cloud will however be much more entrenched, and the integration of various clouds will be required.  Also the management of logons, providing secure access to the cloud, and single sign on across cloud solutions will need to be architected into holistic cloud solutions for the enterprise.

We hope enjoyed this invaluable read and we hope to see you at the next X:ED and AAN event very soon!