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.

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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





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