14 years, 7 months ago

Tips for gaining adoption

I began writing a quick response to Erik’s question in this blog about Architect’s high-order bit is Adoption. Erik asked the question how to get people to adopt ideas and before I knew it I was over a page in my response because it was a lot of fun to answer it so I decided to make the response an individual blog post.

@Erik, fun question and thanks for asking.

Maybe I should respond using the typcial ‘carrot’ versus the ‘stick’ approaches. The carrot being an enagement between an Architect and the team that has obvious value to those s/he influences. The ‘stick’ approach resembles a policy-enforcer.

I’ve been down both paths and currently think that the carrot is the path of least resistance resulting in greater adoption. So, instead of focusing on the ‘stick’ approaches, let me talk to you about ideas how to acheive results using the carrot approach.

Disclaimers:

1.      I’m not saying that the stick approach cannot be successful. I think that the stick approach requires a lot of organizational and cultural characteristics that finding such an organization with these prerequisites is very difficult.

2.      I’m also not assuming it’s an all-or-nothing situation. Clever Architects appropriately use both approaches. I will say that they often lead with the carrot approach.

Ok, now for some tips to help you gain adoption of your idea in no particular order:

1.      Gain trusted advisor with the business(es) that drive the project. If you are able to build strong relationships with the business leads that control the description of the business problem, you will be able to:

a.     Help them articulate the problem in such a way that

                                          i.    It desciribes the area of the solution architecture you are most interested in influencing. There are always times when the business wish to achieve a goal but focus more on areas of the business problem that meet their concerns and detail these needs. What can happen is that the business gloss over areas that are not focus areas of the business problem, leaving a bit of ambiguity or wiggle-room for interpretation that may result in a poor-quality design in the solution.

                                         ii.    May implictly suggest how to solve the business problem that naturally includes a particular idea you have about the Solution Architecture. If you are able to have the business clearly describe Business Requirements that layout the need for a high-quality solution design idea you have, you will have the ability to ensure that the solution delivery team explicitly meet these Business Requirements by adopting your design idea.

b.    Ask for their support in driving architectural change in the direction you wish. If you find yourself in the position the design team have built a poor design to solve a loosely described Business Requirement, you must be able to articulate the business ramifications of the poorly designed solution in terms of financial risk, Customer experience, Supplier/Partner experience, etc to raise awareness and appreciation of the design. Then, naturally suggest architecture options you have to help solve the problem and work with the business to help drive them through the project team. This can get quite complicated because of the dynamics of the project team. Normally by this time in a project’s lifecycle much of the scope is locked, estimates are done, resources committed, etc so getting these types of changes pushed through will require a very good explaination as well as a good bit of politicking to make sure that the business leads and project leads support your idea.

2.      Contribute to the design of a project’s lifecycle process. I don’t necessarily mean that you are a part of the lifecycle process therefore someone who requires sign-off before a team can continue. Being a Sign-Off Owner is always fraught with pain and I don’t suggest this approach – it normally falls in the ‘stick’ approach and I prefer to stay away from this. What I am saying is to help the team build a project lifecycle process derived from your favourite methodology/technique/framework like Microsoft Solutions Framework (my personal favourite). Ensuring the team adopts the process that enables them to function together in a complimentary fashion is huge value to you.  In fact, I believe that getting the team to function together is onf of an Architect’s prime directives. Help the team to be able to easily declare when an individual is out-of-role or is not performing their function. When you have an idea that you wish to be adopted, you can rely on the project’s process model and team model to gain adoption. If a team isn’t functioning correctly, any silverback/alpha-dog personality can bypass any process and ignore you and your idea…or anyone elses for that matter. Very Bad.

3.      Steward the models. Let’s face it, he who maintains the minutes writes the facts. All projects will require some sort of documentation. The key is to offer up skills and resources to help document it and, coincidentally all the way, you get the opportunity to suggest how documentation might be done to a) have consistency in the documentation and b) communicate it. Offer to take the burden of managing the model repository and be the modeler for the documentation. This is a really powerful technique to gain adoption of your ideas because as model-monkey, you:

a.     Are invited to most meetings to document the discussion so you are well-informed and are present to help influence decisions.

b.    When documenting via modeling, you gain integrity in the documentation via integrity of the models. This assumes you are using a proper modeling tool not what I call a ‘picture tool’. You get to spot poorly written requirements ad designs and articulate them via the model. This helps prove the value of the models and your role to steward them.

c.     Caveats with this technque. If the modeling tool doesn’t allow for the models to be easily accessible and easy to use then you run a very big risk in the models not being used or referenced. When this happens, you also lose credibility and diminish your trusted advisor position. Be very careful when and how you apply modeling tools.

4.      The Architects Middle-out Strategy. Ok, maybe mangling the term ‘middle-out’ too much here J. What I mean is to start with the Leads and work out from there. Avoid top-down and bottom-up, that is, Executive-down and Individual Contributer(IC)-up respectively. Gain trusted advisor for the managers with accountability that do the actual work in the area you wish to change and they will help you manage-up and manage-down. They are often the ones making the decisions that inform executives. They are also the ones who delgate the work to ICs. Partnering with these folks is critical.

5.      Be selfless NOT selfish. We all have vision and ideas to be adopted. The key for an Architect is to find a way to make your vision and ideas resonate with whomever you want to influence. Don’t presume they care about your vision and ideas. Don’t presume they will explicitly understand them and the value they bring to the enterprise, customer, partner or shareholder. Seriously, this is super important. Always focus on helping them solve their problem. Then, along the way, interlace your ideas with the solution. This goes for efforts that are in planning, execution or maintaining situations. For example, even if your idea is as extreme as stopping an initiative, work with the planning team to understand their motives and goals and then cleverly help them discover your idea and collectively agree that it is in the best interest of the company to stop the initiative. Architecture is, and should be in my opinion, a thankless job. We are about doing the right thing which often means getting others to be successful and having their success recognized. Get used to it J. If, as an architect, you’re keen to be recognized or be ‘in the media’ as often as possible for driving change, you will dissapointed and often.

6.      Understand and articulate your value proposition. Have a crystal clear value proposition to every project team lead and every senior manager of those team leads. I have a rule of thumb for describing value of a role. If you can’t explain the value proposition in 10 words or less and the meaning has obvious value to ALL of the project team leads, you are doomed. For example, here are some basic value propositions which resonate with all leads:

a.     Project/Program Manager: Ensure the project is on-time and on-budget.

b.    Testing Team Lead: Prove the solution works

c.     Development Team Lead. Build the solution.

d.    Release Manager. Deploy the solution.

e.     User Experience. Ensure the solution is usable.

f.     Architect: Ensure the quality of the solution to its stakeholders. This is what I often use, and is an extension of MSF’s definition. It is a bit squishy but good enough in my experience. When people question, what I mean by quality I answer based on their role. For example:

                                          i.    For Project/Program Managers, it is the traceability of the business problem to the solution to ensure no wasted efforts and to make sure we are solving the business problem and that the solution nicely fits within the enterprise environment in which it will be deployed.

                                         ii.    For Testing, it is the explicit focus on the solution architecture to optimize system quality attributes (Performance, Security, Flexibility, etc) that they must also test for in addition to the obvious Functional Testing.

                                        iii.    For Development, it is the explicit focus on the solution architect to optimize system quality attributes to meet the needs of the business owners and IT system admins as well as align to the long-term direction of system integration needs of the shared enterprise systems.

                                                           iv.      Etc      

7.      Daily Build. This tip applies the Daily Build principle from MSF. In this context, I mean publish models and diagrams every day allowing you to get your latest thinking out for others to use (i.e. adopt) and provide feedback. You will gain a number of advantages such as:

a.     Heartbeat. Your architecture diagrams will show life through a regular publishing and increase your chances of being seen by other groups used improving expectations that you deliver quickly and regularly.

b.    Accuracy. By building every day you iterate on the architecture and include the latest impacts of deliverables from other groups such as scope changes, technology choices and involved user groups.

c.     Avoid the ‘Big Bang’. You do not want to fall into the trap of waiting for the all requirements or all technology decisions or all whatever to be made. There will always be changes in the things necessary to build the solution architecture. By the time all of these decisions are made the solution will already be done and your ideas for adoption are moot.

This is a good start to the list. I’m keen to collect other tips to add to this blog. If you want to add one, please comment and I’ll post it to this blog.

 

 

14 years, 8 months ago

Marija Gimbutas: The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe: 6500-3500 BC

Rating: I really must do a book review on the books of this very special person. I have several in my library, this is the largest one with a treasure of illustrations. The role of the female in the evolution of humankind has long been suppressed by a period of about five thousand years of […]

Het bericht Marija Gimbutas: The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe: 6500-3500 BC verscheen eerst op Rob Vens.

14 years, 9 months ago

Wales – land of Great Food, Good Food

http://www.ypolynrestaurant.co.uk/Y Polyn Capel Dewi, Nantgaredig, Carmarthenshire, SA32 7LH Tel 01267 290000 info@ypolyn.co.uk Fabulous food, check out the website.

14 years, 9 months ago

Wales – land of Great Food, Good Food

http://www.ypolynrestaurant.co.uk/Y Polyn Capel Dewi, Nantgaredig, Carmarthenshire, SA32 7LH Tel 01267 290000 info@ypolyn.co.uk Fabulous food, check out the website.

Categories Uncategorized
14 years, 11 months ago

St Davids Day

It seems fitting that my blog should start on St. David’s Day – the beginning of Welsh pride as the year begins, flowing with Daffodils, Cawl Cennin (Leek and Lamb stew), all kinds of goodies for children and the flow of love and kindness towards all.T…

14 years, 11 months ago

St Davids Day

It seems fitting that my blog should start on St. David’s Day – the beginning of Welsh pride as the year begins, flowing with Daffodils, Cawl Cennin (Leek and Lamb stew), all kinds of goodies for children and the flow of love and kindness towards all.T…

Categories Uncategorized
14 years, 11 months ago

Conway’s Law

The Wikipedia community describes Conway’s Law like this; I paraphrase it like this: if the architecture of the system and the architecture of the organization are at odds, the architecture of the organization wins. The organizational divides are going to drive the true seams in the system.
The architecture of the system gets cemented in the […]

15 years, 6 days ago

SaaS Service Offerings redefine what’s in a product

As I continue my work on my little nook of Microsoft’s S+S business strategy, the team I work with has noticed something peculiar about what exactly a Service Offering really is. Because we know the packaged software business so well, we sometimes overlook what at first seems like a subtle difference in the SaaS business but eventuates into something quite substantial. One such situations is the understanding of what a Service Offering is compared to a packaged software product.

Service Offerings via SaaS redefine what a product is

In the traditional packaged software business, product features define what a product is but Customer 2.0 expects to have direct access to operational features within the Service Offering itself.

Take for example Microsoft Word. Product Features such as Import/Export, Mail Merge, Rich Editing, HTML support, Charts and Graphs and Templates are the types of features that Customer 1.0 values most in a product. SaaS Products are much different because Customer 2.0 demands it. Not only must a product include traditional product features, it must also include operational features such as Configure Service, Manage Service SLA, Manage Add-On Features, Monitor Service Usage Statistics, Self-Service Incident Resolution as well. In traditional packaged software products, these features were either supported manually, didn’t exist or were change requests to a supporting IT department.

Service Offering = (Product Features) + (Operational Features)

Operational features directly impact the most valuable aspect of the Software Service Provider business…service quality for customer retention. Dr. Nilesh Bhide, one of my esteemed colleagues wrote a great blog post on the value of the qualitative customer experience for a Service Provider business (see here). This is a fascinating reality online Service Provider businesses have.

So, what downstream impacts are there for SaaS products? There are two that I’d like to look at; operational business processes and their supporting business systems.

The operational business processes must now include Self-Service Incident Management and Self-Service Service Management to streamline and enable the direct interaction between Customer 2.0 and the Operational systems to make real-time incident resolution and service configuration changes on the fly. Inability to have these automated business systems result in a degradation of service quality and inevitably customer attrition.

Product Managers of SaaS Service Offerings must include into the Service Offering operational features to optimize customer retention. They cannot be an afterthought nor can they be lower in priority. They are a key ‘feature’ of the Service Offering itself.

This assumption implies that the systems providing the operational features must also have the highest system quality that product features have. System quality attributes such as system reliability, system security, system performance and system usability. Any downtime, lack of usability or any other poor experience with these features naturally reflect the rest of the Service Offering itself. This is the point I want to make with this article. Guess who builds and supports these Operational Features? Your friendly neighborhood IT department in conjunction with the Operations and Service Offering product group. This raises the quality bar for your traditional IT shop.

Oh, and by the way, these must be provided at a very low maintenance cost so as not to cut into the profit of the low profit-margin SaaS business. As noted in the Wall Street Journal the other day “Microsoft’s troubles in online services grew in the quarter as losses widened – to $245 million – due in part to increased costs of data centers…” (“Microsoft Net Surges With Help From Vista”, Robert A. Guth, Wall Street Journal, Friday January 25, 2008). Of course, data center cost isn’t the only factor to the $245 million dollar loss but it was a significant contributor. This is a sharp reminder that online Service Provider business must have efficient data center operations to be profitable.

The need to focus quality on the operational features to run a successful business isn’t all that surprising. Geoffrey Moore once wrote “For core activities, the goal is to differentiate as much as possible on any variable that impacts customers’ purchase decisions and to assign one’s best resources to that challenge. By contrast, every other activity in the corporation is not core, it is context. And the winning approach to context tasks is not to differentiate but rather to execute them effectively and efficiently in as standardized a manner as possible.” Business processes such as the customer-facing sales, fulfillment, assurance/support and billing are all core because they have direct interaction with the qualitative customer experience.  Therefore, these processes become a top priority in order to be competitive in the online software service market. This understanding is a critical component for software service providers today.

15 years, 3 months ago

SWABOK, Archipedia, Uber Architecture Framework, xyz?

Nick Malik wrote blog post “The culture of art vs. the culture of engineering” that described the problem of architects and developers being caught up in invention rather than reusing software system definitions and concepts.

I wholeheartedly agree with Nick. We’ve all struggled with this problem it seems. The situation I observe is when I point Architects and Dev Leads to reference material with the intention of pointing them to reusable content (albeit a design pattern, a design process, reference architecture, reference model, or a theoretical concept), 9 times out of 10 they don’t readily see what it is I meant for them to learn from it. Btw, by learn I mean; a) becoming aware, b) gaining an understanding and b) applying what was understood. A lot of this is dependent on me not being able to convey a message clearly but much of it depends on the recipient not understanding the purpose and context of the problem they have nor being familiar with the material out there to see how the material can help.

Reusing architectural references is not as easy as pointing people to a published copy of documentation. It often involves a lot of handholding and a bit of luck. Only when there is a fully complete, prescriptive methodology to follow that surrounds the nugget of knowledge I find important, do most feel comfortable.

It is rather confusing, let’s face it. There are plenty of proprietary and public concepts, frameworks, processes, models and other material that covers bits of the overall knowledge a senior software system architect needs. The problem is that in the nascent world of software system architecture, there simply is no such thing as the uber methodology that explains how it all fits together and be used for all software system architecture planning, designing, building and operation activities from the Enterprise Architecture to Solution Delivery to Operations Support points of view. To top it all off, when a new good idea comes into the fray (eg SOA, ESB, MDM, S+S, System Quality), rarely do people understand how it fits into the overall software system architecture picture. The result is building yet another methodology, process, framework, etc and the opportunity for old concepts to be renamed and tagged as being ‘new’. Confusion compounds.

There have been attempts in the scope of software engineering such as the Software Engineering Book of Knowledge (SWEBOK) found here http://www.swebok.org/. This is an interesting attempt at building the uber reference for software engineering. I wonder if we could build on top of or expand SWEBOK to include all software system architecture stuff and reuse SWEBOK to form a Software Architecture Book of Knowledge (SWABOK). Essentially, it would be a place that hosts best practices that is anchored to an information metamodel to help connect them together and help readers navigate between the references in a structured, hierarchical model.

Alternatively, we could build a site structured on the encyclopedia metaphor – sort of like Archipedia that is a wiki-format software system architecture site that hosts all best practices and links them together. This approach is a little less intentional and a bit more open but maybe the right path to take.

Or, maybe we need to go down the path of building another framework or methodology. But instead of inventing a new concept we invent only what we have to and then point to best practices already out there. This would give us the opportunity to build out a comprehensive and prescriptive framework including team model, process model, and risk management, templates, and examples. Of course, this would require a lot more work and a tighter community to ensure consistency.

It very well could be we need a combination of all of the above at varying levels of depth. I don’t really know the answer but am interested to hear from others that have an opinion.

15 years, 4 months ago

Elementary Lessons in Vision and Teaming

Have you read The Goal? It is (still) a pivotal book in the Lean movement. I’ve been telling architects that The Wheel on the School (a children’s story by Meindert deJong) is the hidden jewel of that genre—namely novelization of business fundamentals. I believe it could be a pivotal book in the networked, collaborative, dynamic […]