Architecture in turbulent times – part 2

This post will follow on from the previous ‘Architecture in turbulent times’ post covering some of the shifting demands on architects and further highlighting ways we can add value even during this tougher economic period.

The first thing to do is ensure you understand the shifting demands on the architect, and the business; doing this will ensure you remain at the centre of major IT decisions, either by making or advising on those decisions.

These changing demands may include areas such as;

–         Reducing project costs and doing more with existing or even less resource (as per the previously mentioned increasing efficiencies), with many businesses having a strong focus on reducing or managing Opex (Operating expenses).

–         Maintaining and encouraging talent, this may sound strange in the current environment, but keeping and providing a career path and training for talented employees is key during tough times.  Use this as an opportunity to train, mentor and encourage others in your department.

–         Outsourcing – in line with innovation and cost efficiency, are there repeatable processes that could be outsourced? Do new technologies and services such as Platform as a Service enable the outsourcing of technology to manage / reduce costs?

Use and develop your skills in areas including;

–         Negotiation and inspiration – this will enable you to gain buy in for your vision / plans, and get people motivated to drive changes forwards.

–         Problem solving / issue assessment – the ability to quickly and where required tactically resolve problems is more important than ever, and the architects ability to do this while looking holistically at the bigger picture is where we can add great value.

–         Understanding the business and their processes is as always a key component of the architect’s role.  We love technology, but it is the understanding of the business requirements and the ability to provide the simplest and most cost effective technical solutions to these requirements rather than just technology itself that is critical.

We need to think more tactically while still maintaining a holistic view of our business and the environment in which it trades (e.g. relevant regulatory considerations).  In this way the role of the architect remains key, and will ensure that the current technical solutions meet the business requirements of now around optimisation and simplification while being flexible enough to allow the business to grow and capitalise on any improvements in the economy.

I am thinking of the new focus as being tactically strategic, or strategically tactical! 

K

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Architecture in turbulent times – part 1

Given the current economic climate it seemed timely to give some thought to the role of the architect during this period of uncertainty.  The role of the architect is traditionally a relatively strategic one.  While we all get into the nitty gritty of technical detail on a fairly regular basis (how often is likely dependant on where your role fits in the spectrum from technical type role to enterprise type roles), one of the primary focuses is usually to strategically align IT with the course of the business, to ensure interoperability across IT projects and solutions, and to define and lead delivery against technology roadmaps.

This all works very well in a relatively stable environment where the business is growing and the economy is understood.  In the current economy many businesses do not have longer term plans / roadmaps as the environment has been so unstable and changing at such a fast rate.

So in this environment how is the architect to add value?

I believe rather than this being a negative time for architects it actually offers a huge opportunity for innovation, adding value and growing the reputation of yourself and your role within the organisation!

Move away from looking at long term strategic goals (where possible of course keep these in mind), and instead focus on using sound architectural practices (e.g. patterns) and ways to improve efficiency and drive near term revenue.

Think in terms of creating new efficiencies via areas such as;

–          Improving business process flows

–          Ensuring solutions are as flexible as possible to meet the changing business needs

–          Ensuring the architecture is flexible and will scale both up and down (e.g. using Service Orientated Architecture principles)

–          Optimise your infrastructure – e.g. by virtualising servers and desktops where possible, thin provisioning storage.

–          Deliver user focused solutions – work with the business to understand how they work and ensure delivered applications allow them to work as efficiently as possible

–          Enable / facilitate collaborative working

–          Work with the business and your BI (Business Intelligence) team to maximise the value derived from the datawarehouse and associated reporting architecture.

In short if you focus on driving efficiencies and cost effective new capabilities as an architect these can be very rewarding and interesting times.  Part 2 to follow.

K