Wednesday Nov 05, 2014

2 Minute Tech Tip: Communication Between Technical and Business Stakeholders

As the dust from the mid-term elections in the US settles, it seems fitting to feature this not-so-technical 2 Minute Tech Tip on effective communication between technical and business stakeholders, presented by Oracle ACE Director Debra Lilley (VP, Cloud Solutions, Certus Solutions) and her sock puppets.

Connect with Debra Lilley
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Want more 2 Minute Tech Tips? Click here.

Monday Jan 27, 2014

The Architect as Salesperson

In an interview with InfoQ's Amr Elssamadisy, education consultant and Culture Engine founder Steve Peha offers this comment about the failure of a large software development project he headed:

We were so focused on tools and practice and process and methods, that we forgot about the people, we forgot about the culture.

Peha goes on to explain that the project's stakeholders were quick to assume that nothing could be done to overcome the cultural issues that threatened the project's success. Those attitudes were the catalyst that drove Peha to shift his professional focus from software development to organizational culture and the multiple agreements between project stakeholders that are the foundation of the success of any project, software or otherwise.

And in that there's an obvious lesson for software architects. The success of software architecture at any level relies on cooperation and collaboration across a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The architect's ability to nurture agreement between stakeholders is essential. Like it or not that means that effective architects share characteristics one finds in successful salespeople.

Does that comparison make you feel just a bit uncomfortable? That's something you'll have to confront. A wealth of technical skill will only get you so far as an architect if you lack the powers of communication and persuasion necessary to get stakeholders to see things from the proper perspective and work together toward shared goals.

You'll find the complete InfoQ interview with Steve Peha here: Steve Peha on Agreements-Based Culture.

Thursday Feb 07, 2013

The Most Important IT Career Skill

This is not the first post on this blog about the importance of communication skills for architects, and it certainly won't be the last. But Steve Karam, writing on his Oracle Alchemist blog, has tossed a low, slow one over the plate, and I just have to take a swing.

(Too early for baseball metaphors? Too bad -- I need me some springtime.)

In his post, Karam writes about what he describes as the most important IT career book he has ever owned. As it turns out, it's not another book by Tim Ferriss on how you can achieve greatness in four hours. Nope, the book Karam's talking about is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1937, which makes it even older than me.

Here's a bit of what Karam has to say about Carnegie's book:

Technology has advanced, information has become more available, and business has accelerated beyond anyone's wildest dreams, but the tenets of getting people to work with you toward a common goal have not changed. The beauty is that the 'common goal' may be one that your target audience never knew was their goal in the first place; however, with the right push, the right emphasis, the right details, it can be. And that is what the book is all about.

The enterprise IT industry is in the midst of significant shifts that have an impact not just on the inherent technologies, but on the roles involved in putting those technologies to work. And when you hear knowledgeable people talking about how IT can no longer exist in silos, you must understand that they're not just talking about the technology end of IT. Regardless of your role in IT, If you aren't engaged in the Big Picture, you're headed for trouble.

Related Posts

Thursday Jan 10, 2013

Architects: Sell Yourselves, Save the World

Two recent articles, Why IT Should Be on the CEO's Agenda, by U. S. News contributor Thomas C. Lawton, and Enterprise architects, the economy is in your capable hands by ZDNet blogger Joe McKendrick, paint a dismal picture of the typical relationship between business management and IT. As Lawton observes:

"Few CEOs really understand the implications of new, rapidly changing and complex IT systems and processes for the current business model or perceive a strategic potential and value in new technology implementation."

But both writers offer a hopeful outlook. McKendrick concludes:

Business leaders know IT is the future of their organizations. In fact, in many cases, IT is becoming the business. EAs are needed, desperately, to provide the guidance in this journey from widget-making to data and service provider.

While the focus of these articles is on enterprise architects, architects at all levels should take note that the key element in the process described by Lawton and McKendrick is communication. This is not the first time I've mentioned it on this blog, and it certainly won't be the last, but if you want to evolve and excel as an architect, you need communication skills as sharp as your technical skills. If you can achieve that, everybody wins.

Wednesday Dec 05, 2012

ArchBeat Link-o-Rama for December 5, 2012

Thought for the Day

"If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway. You must invest least 20% of your maintenance budget in refreshing your architecture to prevent good software from becoming spaghetti code."

Larry Bernstein

Source: SoftwareQuotes.com

Thursday Nov 29, 2012

ArchBeat Link-o-Rama for November 29, 2012

Thought for the Day

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. "

Frederick P. Brooks

Source: Quotes for Software Engineers

Monday Apr 02, 2012

ArchBeat Top 20 for March 25-31, 2012

The top 20 most-clicked links as shared via my social networks for the week of March 25-31, 2012.

  1. Oracle Cloud Conference: dates and locations worldwide
  2. The One Skill All Leaders Should Work On | Scott Edinger
  3. BPM in Retail Industry | Sanjeev Sharma
  4. Oracle VM: What if you have just 1 HDD system | @yvelikanov
  5. Solution for installing the ADF 11.1.1.6.0 Runtimes onto a standalone WLS 10.3.6 | @chriscmuir
  6. Beware the 'Facebook Effect' when service-orienting information technology | @JoeMcKendrick
  7. Using Oracle VM with Amazon EC2 | @pythianfielding
  8. Oracle BPM: Adding an attachment during the Human Task Initialization | Manh-Kiet Yap
  9. When Your Influence Is Ineffective | Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe
  10. Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse 12.1.1 update on OTN 
  11. A surefire recipe for cloud failure | @DavidLinthicum 
  12. IT workers bore brunt of offshoring over past decade: analysis | @JoeMcKendrick
  13. Private cloud-public cloud schism is a meaningless distraction | @DavidLinthicum
  14. Oracle Systems and Solutions at OpenWorld Tokyo 2012
  15. Dissing Architects, or "What's wrong with the coffee?" | Bob Rhubart
  16. Validating an Oracle IDM Environment (including a Fusion Apps build out) | @FusionSecExpert
  17. Cookbook: SES and UCM setup | George Maggessy
  18. Red Samurai Tool Announcement - MDS Cleaner V2.0 | @AndrejusB
  19. OSB/OSR/OER in One Domain - QName violates loader constraints | John Graves
  20. Spring to Java EE Migration, Part 3 | @ensode

Thought for the Day

"Inspire action amongst your comrades by being a model to avoid."

Leon Bambrick

Thursday Jan 12, 2012

Hard Luck Without Soft Skills

In my conversations with IT architects, whether for the ArchBeat Podcast, or for my Oracle Magazine column, or just in casual gab sessions, the importance of communication and other soft skills comes up with surprising regularity. These soft skills are as essential for effective architecture as they are for the success of individual IT architects.

Two recent posts on the Harvard Business Review blog come at the idea of soft skills from different angles. Each is worthwhile reading for architects -- and anyone else -- who wants to improve communication and other social skills and the capacity for creative thinking.

In The Business Case for Reading Novels, by Anne Kreamer, discusses research from York University that offers indications that "fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness."

Some people, in some roles, might be able to get away without social skillfulness. "IT architect" is not one of those roles. Socially skillful IT architects are far more likely to be effective and successful, and far less likely to find their cars on fire in the parking lot night after night.

Creative thinking is another important soft skill for architects -- and, let's face it, for everyone else. In Don't Think Different, Think About Different Things, Art Markman suggests that the surest path to real innovation is an indirect approach. "When you need to solve a problem in a new way, you have two options," says Markman. "One is pure research and development. The other requires finding knowledge (which we already know) that offers a novel solution."

Marman suggests thinking beyond the immediate problem. In my experience, I learned long ago to take that one step further. When I'm tasked with coming up with a creative solution to a problem, the least effective strategy is to think about the problem – at all. For me, focsuing on the problem is the surest path to a complete brain freeze.

What works for me is doing something completely unrelated to the task at hand. As Markman points out, the information we need to come up with creative solutions is already in our memories. "In order to solve a problem," Markman suggests, "you need to ask your memory the right question." In my case, the right question invariably has nothing to do with the assigned task.

I'm no neuroscientist, but I figure my strategy works because of the left brain/right brain thing. While the logical, rational side of my brain is focused on some inconsequential diversionary activity (walking, maybe, or reading fiction), the creative, intuitive side of my brain is free to percolate in the background, connecting and reconnecting neural dots until the creative solution emerges. And it always does. Sitting at my desk trying to force a creative thought is a completely pointless activity.

Bottom line: Cold logic and rationality have a very definite place in IT. But it takes people to make IT work for people. Your soft skills are key to making that happen. Neglect those skills at your peril.

Wednesday Dec 07, 2011

ArchBeat Link-o-Rama for 12/07/2011

Monday Nov 07, 2011

ArchBeat Link-o-Rama for 11/07/2011

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