The Challenger Architect

You have probably heard about the challenger sales methodology. This model centres on the idea of a salesperson taking charge of the customer conversation, teaching and coaching their customer through the sales process. Under this model, the sales person’s key goal is to bring insight to the table and help the customer rethink how they tackle business initiatives or even what initiatives to tackle

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Through a series of posts, I will look at how the role of the solutions architect should also adapt to support the changing landscape. Whether you are in a role designing architecture within an organisation or operating at as a Presales person designing solutions for customers, the fundamental role you are in is changing.

Some basic ideas that are occurring in this evolution are:

  • Increasingly the architect is having to take on a skill set of financial acumen, and apply business, economic and service modelling to what they design. At a recent summit we ran for architects, the “mini MBA” component was one of the most oversubscribed session
  • A shift towards initiative generation, ideation and pipeline or new project build. Once the role of the architect was confined to projects underway and from a sales perspective “qualified deals”. Today that role is shifting to one of establishing new initiatives, proposing ideas and developing new business cases.
  • Being an agent of people and process change and transformation. In almost every CIO engagement I have, whether it is a briefing, meeting or presentation, a discussion around culture and people comes up. CIOs realise that their biggest problem is not technology, but how do I adapt and equip my most valuable resource – my people. Top-performing architects know how to coach leaders on inspiring change.
  • The 80/20 rule of Presales (more on this in a separate topic). This idea means that the architect has to build new skills in opening doors, creating a network and often stepping out of their comfort zone by independently engaging new stakeholders.
  • Understanding business pain. In designing cloud infrastructure and solutions, usually, a good architect will have read annual reports, researched the company, spoken to apps teams and networked across IT. But the best ones will have spoken to business users, gained real insight from their challenges and understood how well technology is applied to business problems.
  • Being a “full-stack architect”. In the world of cloud, this means understanding the baseline infrastructure, service levels, economics, lifecycle management process, service offerings and technology stacks from networking through compute and storage. The architect has to have an knowledge of applications and databases, use cases and workloads that run on top of the cloud platform. These are the elements that drive the top line value for the organization.

These shifts in the role of the architect have come about over the last 5-10 years. The shift means that most of the people and skills in the industry haven’t yet fully been embedded into most architecture and Presales teams. Many organisations have employed architects who had deep skills in a technology discipline and now need to round their skills more broadly. This change will be a journey for almost all of you. My aim is to help through ideas sharing and best practices.