What Business Leaders Want

I’m not a big fan of Mel Gibson (in fact, not a fan at all) but this week have been reminded of the film What Women Want in which he played the lead role. For those who have not seen it (and I’m not recommending it by the way) the film revolves around a chauvinistic executive (Gibson) who, after an accident, gains the ability to hear what women are really thinking. This reminder came about during a conference I have just attended on the role that architects play (or more to the point, should be playing) in industry today. I guess the conference could have been called: What business leaders want (from us architects).

Here’s something I drew during one of the sessions showing the dichotomy we face when trying to build and deliver solutions to a business whose key drivers are less cost, more value.

The perception is that value is only obtained if solutions can be built quickly and cheaply. To a business this usually means within a financial year (or less). For an architect bought up on the importance of delivering integrity and solutions that adhere to best practice and standards that equates to “fast and dirty” which gives us the black curve. To be clear, value is what the business want, which often comes at the cost (in the eyes of the architect) to both their, and that of the systems they are building, integrity. The “trick” then is how to deliver both integrity and value (i.e. the green line)? Here’s my take:

  1. Value can be delivered quickly but only if its done in increments. Plan to deliver something quick (within a financial quarter) but not dirty.
  2. Create a hassle map and focus on the big and nasty hassles first.
  3. Don’t throw out everything you’ve learnt about architectural integrity but instead learn to focus on what matters for the short term. For example architecting for every possible change case may not be relevant if the entire nature of the business is likely to change within the lifetime of the system. Maybe throwing out and staring again is actually an option.
  4. Adopt a “bring you own” rather than “build your own” philosophy. Learn how to prove the business value of bringing rather than building.
  5. Do build for scaleability. Be optimistic that the business will flourish and require more not less of your solution. Take advantage of cloud technology to smooth temporary blips in workload.

These were five things I thought of straight away, there must be loads more (tell me). What is clear is that in troubled times such as these, we must look at adapting our approach to building systems so that we deliver measurable business value more quickly than ever, or we won’t be around to enjoy the next Mel Gibson tale!

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