SATURN 2011 Session: Soft Skills for Architects (morning, May 19, 2011)

Notes by Peter Foldes

Why Good Architects Act as Chameleons
Rik FarenHorst, Eelco Rommes

Abstract and presentation slides

Architecture does not lead to architecture. What happens is that architect creates a lot of documents, architecture definitions, etc., and it doesn’t really lead to an architecture. With smaller system, one person can do all of that, but these don’t need architect roles. In bigger systems, architect roles comes up, but they usually don’t change the system itself. This leads to a paradox.

Hotel system example. Started with spaghetti code, architects got hired; 6 years later it was still spaghetti code, but they had a lot of documentation.

What happened? Architects architected, but could not put their ideas into the product. Management resistance, key people left. Architect failed to influence the social system. This brings us to change management.

There’s a change model based on five modules.

  1. Yellow way of thinking. People are only willing to change if their ideas surfaced or if they are pushed to accept others’ ideas.
  2. Blue thinking. People change only if there’s a really clear plan and process on how to arrive to the goal. Architects have to have a roadmap to show how to get from the current situation to the goals.
  3. Red thinking. Motivating people by belonging. People need to close the gap between stakeholders and divide roles and responsibilities.
  4. Green thinking. Architecture can be used to learn, develop, and innovate. Coaching and conferences.
  5. White thinking. Change will happen anyway, it will occur in the organization, but it can be stirred in the organization.

Going back to the hotel example: the architect was blue, really precise roadmap, etc., but the management was yellow and was not convinced of the idea. Organization can have multiple colors, and it can be really hard to change the mindset.

The ideal architect needs to have skill to adapt to each color. It’s important to know your own color, but it’s also important to know your stakeholder’s. There’s still a lot of blue architecting, but increasing awareness in yellow aspects, while companies are mainly looking for red/green.

Themes for Architecture Success
William Koscho, William Ries

Abstract and presentation slides

There need to be cultural infrastructures in place for architecture to work in an organization. Four pillars are needed for them:

  1. Sponsorship
    People to push the idea/architecture and also “break the wind”
  2. Common goals
    Based on shared values and vision. For example aligning the goals of the management and the developer team by splitting eight hours of bugfixing to six hours of that and two hours of building a test suite.
  3. Decision Making Mindset
    It is a mindset to adapt to, similar to Stephen Covey proposed: differentiate between urgent and important.
  4. Trust
    Follows the other three pillars, it’s mutual confidence in leaders and colleagues.

Created an assessment model to have a systematic way of measuring these pillars, including a group of techniques to improve them. For example, making sure to capture requirement importance from stakeholders helps improve common goals and trust. Also, improvements can have a ripple effect.

From a survey, one of the most important things found was the importance of communication among stakeholders.

Architect as Organizational Change Leader
Suzanne Miller, Software Engineering Institute


There are some things we hear a lot, like communicating the project design.

Architects can lead change by the product, by usage of a toolset, and the evolution of the architecture itself. For example, stepping back after the requirements changed from 10 thousand transactions to 10 billion.

There are other areas where architects could change the world, for example the view on technology.  What a specific technology can mean in a particular space.  Market and means of production changes can be influenced by architecture. (see diagram)

Architects observe product practices. People see that there needs to be change, but might not know how to change it.

There are also ideas in other fields.

  • For example, star model for organizational structure on how to structure people, strategy, rewards, processes, and structure itself.
  • If you make a wrong decision, change doesn’t work. If it’s the right decision but the implementation fails, it will also not work. It works only if the decision for change is right and is implemented well.
  • Another idea is to use value networks to describe stakeholder dependencies/interactions on what stakeholders can give and what they need.
  • There are a lot of known problems with the technologies, and adaptation is one of them.
  • Satir change model is shown.

Alignment and understanding where it’s lacking is important. Also, metrics are important to measure all important relations within an organization. Sponsorship, deployment and other skills must also be considered for a successful project.

Change leaders/agents:

  • Thinkers – don’t act
  • Navigator – can navigate if they have a vision
  • Wise greybeard – lot of wisdom to add, but need to stay up to date
  • Repeater of past mistakes
  • Theoretician – lots of theory, not enough practice
  • Visionary – need to learn to navigate and do
  • Mult-taskers – lose path easily
  • Persuader – might not be the right idea
  • Windmill tilter – trying to change things, but it’s not the time and place

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