Roundtable Q&A What Makes a Good IT Architect – Stories

REDMOND,Wash。

June6,2005Astheroleofthehighlytrainedandexperiencedtechnologyprofessionalhasevolvedinmanybusinessesfromoneofpuretechnologisttothatofstrategicbusinessmanager,expectationsoftheskillsanITprofessionalmustpossesshavelikewisechangedsubstantially。

Inresponsetothenewdemandsbeingplacedupontechnologymanagers,MicrosoftLearningcreatedtheMicrosoftCertifiedArchitectcredential,anewtrackthathelpsITprofessionalsadvancetheirskillsbeyondthoseofatechnicalexperttothelevelofITarchitects,strategistsandbusinessmanagers。

Inasignificantadvance,theprogramcertifiesskillsintechnologiesotherthanMicrosofts,aswellasthecompanysown。

MicrosoftLearningresourcesforITprofessionalsareamongthefocusesofthisweeksTech·Ed2005inOrlando,Fla。

Microsoftslargestannualconferencefortechnologyprofessionals。

MicrosoftLearningworkedwithveteranITarchitectsthroughouttheindustrytodevelopaprogramthatreflectsthedailyrealitiesofthehighestlevelofITwork。

Ratherthanpresentaprepackagedcurriculum,theprogramrequirescandidatestodemonstratetheirskillsbycreatingITarchitecturesthatsolvebusinessproblems。

Thecenterpieceisapeer-reviewprocess,wherecandidatespresenttheirworktoapanelofrespectedITarchitectsinaforumsimilartothatinwhichdoctoralcandidatesdefendtheirdissertations。

TolearnmoreabouttheMicrosoftCertifiedArchitectcredential,PressPasshostedaroundtablediscussionwiththreeoftheboardmemberswhohelpedcraftthearchitectcertification。

JoeShirey,regionalvicepresidentandgeneralmanager,RockyMountainRegion,forInterlink,isaMicrosoftRegionalDirector,amemberoftheMicrosoftArchitectAdvisoryBoard,andsitsonthe。

NETPartnerAdvisoryCouncil。

TonyRedmond,vicepresidentandchieftechnologyofficerforHPServicesandHPSecurity,haswrittentenbooks,includingMicrosoftExchange2003,andisacontributingeditortoWindows。

NETMagazine。

AndyRuth,MicrosoftCertifiedArchitectprogrammanager,isauthorofseveralbooks,includingConciseGuidetoWindows2000DNSandSQLServer7Administration。

PressPass:Whatdoesthepeer-reviewprocessachievethatcannotbeaccomplishedinmoretraditionalmethodsofcertificationprograms?

JoeShirey:Theprocessofdoingaface-to-facereviewinfrontofaboardofpeersismuchmorerigorousandforcesthecandidatetodemonstratetheabilitytoapplytechnologyappropriately。

Additionally,inordertobeaneffectivearchitect,anindividualmustpossesssoftskills,whichcanbeverydifficulttogaugeusingtraditionaltestingmethods。

AndyRuth:Iagree,skillssuchasleadership,abstractthinking,adesiretomentorothers,andanabilitytonavigatethepoliticsofanorganizationarekey。

Theseareskillsthatarenotgainedbysimplyreadingabook,butthroughexperience。

Byhavingacertificationprocessbasedonaninterviewofthecandidatebyotherarchitects,thecompetenciesofanarchitectcanbebettermeasured。

TonyRedmond:Andpracticingarchitectsknowtheworktheydobetterthananyoneelse,sotheycanrecognizeagoodarchitectprettyquickly。

Havingapeer-reviewprocessprovidesalaserfocusonthecandidatesandemphasizesthepracticalnatureoftheaccreditation,ratherthanthesomewhatacademicfocusthatsomediscussionsaroundarchitectureoftentake。

Peerreviewalsoallowsatechnicaldeepdiveintoaspectsoftheprojectthatcandidatespresenttotheboard。

PressPass:Therearetwotracksintheprogram:SolutionsArchitectandInfrastructureArchitect。

Whatarethedifferencesbetweenthetwo?

Redmond:SolutionsArchitectmightbebetternamedDevelopmentArchitectbecausethesefolkshavetomasterthedevelopmenttoolsandframeworkssuchas。

NETorJ2EEthatareavailabletocreatebespokesolutionsforbusinessproblems。

Ruth:AnInfrastructureArchitecttypicallyworksmorecloselywiththeoperationsgroupfortheoverallITenvironment,aswellastheCIOandCTOforthecorporateITgroup。

Heorsheismoreconcernedwiththephysicalnetwork,servers,desktops,storage,managementandoperations,security,andsystemicqualitiesoftheplatformsthatsolutionsaredeliveredon。

Shirey:Thereisalsoasubtledifferenceintheskillsrequiredforeachoftheseroles。

TheInfrastructureArchitectneedstobemoretechnicalinnature,whiletheSolutionsArchitectwillneedtohaveabetterunderstandingofthefunctionalaspects。

PressPass:Wouldsomeonewantcertificationinboth?

Redmond:Itscertainlypossiblethatsomeonehasthenecessarystrengths,technicalbackgroundandexperiencetobeabletoachievecertificationinbothtracks。

ButIpersonallythinkthatthesepeoplearetheexceptionratherthantherule。

Enterprisearchitectshavetohaveexperienceinbothdomains,butrelativelyfewpeopleoperateatatrueenterprise-architectlevel。

Andevenso,atthatlevelthechallengesareentirelydifferent。

Ruth:Ithinksomewouldwanttoprovetothemselvesthattheyareamongthebestinbothcamps。

Butthegreatestvalueinachievingcertificationinwhicheverdomaintheycertifyisbeingpartofthatcommunityorcommunities。

PressPass:Only25percentoftheskill-setrequirementforthisnewcertificationistechnologyrelated。

Whataretheotherrequiredskills?

Redmond:Communicationisabigrequirement。

Thegreatesttechnologistsintheworldlosemuchoftheirpowertoinfluencepeersandcustomersiftheycannotcommunicatebothverballyandinthedocumentsthattheywrite。

Goingbeforeaboardcanbeaprettyintimidatingexperienceifyouarenotusedtocommunicatingyourthoughtsinaveryconciseandcogentsense,especiallywhentheboardmembersbegintoquizyou。

Communicationisalsoakeycontributortoleadership,andtheprogramfocusesontheabilityofcandidatestolead,influenceanddirectthevariouspeoplethatgetinvolvedinlargeprojects。

Shirey:Architectstendtobeleaderswithintheirorganizationsorhavestronginfluenceoverteams。

Theabilitytoprovidethisleadershipanddevelopothersisessentialtosuccess。

Anotherimportantaspectisbeingabletobalancebusinessneedswithexistingandfuturetechnologiestoprovidetheoptimalsolution。

Thisrequiresanunderstandingofthebusinessstrategyinordertoeffectivelyrecommendtheappropriatetechnologies。

Butasimportantasstrategicthinkingis,actuallyputtingsolutionsintoproductioniswherethearchitectismeasuredforsuccess。

Redmond:Ialsothinkitsimportanttoseethatcandidatesarepeoplewhoarenotstove-pipedintooneparticulararea;thattheyarepeoplewhoadapttochangeandcanquicklyassimilatenewtechnologybecausetheonlythingwecanpredictabouttechnologyisthatitwillchangeovertime。

PressPass:Howdoesthisnewcertificationprogrammeasuretheseskills?

Redmond:Theboardprocessprobesthenon-technicalskillsofthecandidatesinaveryrealisticway。

Thecandidatesareexpectedtobeabletoperforminareasonablyhighstresssituation。

Theyhavetokeeptheircalmandrespondtomanydifferentquestions,sotheabilitytolistentoquestionersandcomprehendwhattheyrelookingforisalsoagoodskilltohaveandbecredibleintermsofthesolutionthattheyproposetotheboard。

Myownviewisthatthesuccessfularchitectsshinethroughbecausetheyreallyenjoythechallengesetbytheboardandalmostenjoythegrillingthatcandidatessometimesreceive。

Ruth:Architectshavetobethedriversforproperuseoftechnologyinsideofacompany。

ThatrequiresthebusinessskillstobeabletoexplaintoaCFOandCEOhowtechnologywillprovideareturnoninvestment,provideacompetitiveedgeoverthecompetition,orbeincompliancewithregulationsforthatcompanysverticalmarket。

Theyalsohavetodeterminewhatishypeorjustplaincool,andwhattechnologieswillactuallyaddressbusinessgoalsinthemostefficientmannerwhileprovidingthebusinessagilityrequiredintodaysbusinessenvironment。

Thatrequirestheabilitytospeaktechtalktodevelopersandengineersaswellasdrivebusinessawareness,oratleastthenotionofbusinessneedstothatcommunity。

Forthis,theskillsneededarenotonlythetechnicalskills,theyarealsobusiness,communications,regulation,programmaticandprocessskills。

Sincetheprojectsarelongterm,highcost,andhighimportancetoacompany,thearchitectmustbeabletomaketherightchoicesforthebusinesseverytime。

PressPass:Whydothesecommunicationandleadershipskillsoutweightechnologyskills?

Ruth:IdontthinkoutweighisquitethewordIwoulduse;theyhavetohavewell-developedskillsinmoreareasthanjusttechnology。

Wehaveorganizedthecompetenciesallsuccessfularchitectspossessintosevendifferentareas,andtwoofthoseareasarecenteredontechnology。

Shirey:Butbeingagoodtechnologistisonlypartoftheskillsrequiredtobeagoodarchitect。

Thesoftskillsarewhathelpclarifytherealneedsoftheorganizationinordertorecommendtheappropriatesolution。

PressPass:Doestheprogramrecognizereal-worldexperience?

Ruth:Absolutely。

Infact,candidateswillnotbeabletogetacceptedintotheprogramwithoutit。

Manyoftheskillsrequiredofanarchitectcanonlybegainedthroughyearsofexperience。

PressPass:Howimportantiscollaborationtothecertification?

Redmond:Successfularchitectsareinvariablygoodcollaboratorsnotonlywiththeircolleagues,butalsowiththeircustomersandpartners。

Noonehasalltheanswers,socollaborationisfundamentaltosuccessinthisfield。

Shirey:True。

Theymustworkwithanumberofdifferentpeopletobringtobeartheappropriatesolution。

Thecertificationprogramtakesa360-degreeviewofthearchitecttodeterminehowtheyinteractwithpeopleinsideandoutsideoftheirmanagerialcontrol。

Successfulcollaborationcomesthroughtheabilitytocommunicateeffectivelyandinfluenceothers。

PressPass:TheprogramcertifiesarchitectswhoemploytechnologiesotherthanMicrosoftsindevelopingITsolutions,aswellasMicrosofts。

Whythechange?

Whyisthatimportant?

Redmond:Weliveinaheterogeneousworldandmostlargecustomershaveavarietyoftechnologiesthattheyworkwith。

ItscertainlypossiblefortechnologiststosuccessfullyfocuspurelyonMicrosofttechnology,butIthinkthesepeoplewillstruggletodesignsolutionsformanyofthebusinesschallengesthatlargecustomersfacetoday。

Ruth:AndthearchitectsIvemetdonotimmediatelytalkaboutproducts;theytalkabouttechnologiesandthequalitiesandcapabilitiestheyrequirefortheenvironmenttheyareworkingin。

Architectswhodonotknowwhatproductsandcapabilitiesareavailablefortheirareasofexpertisewillnotalwaysprovidethebestsolutionforthecustomer,regardlessofwhosellstheproduct。

Shirey:Goodarchitectsnoticepatternsintheirsolutionsandcanapplythosepatternstoothertechnologies。

Thetechnicalimplementationdetailswillcontinuetochangeandmorphovertime,butthesuccessfularchitectwillbeabletoleveragetheirexperiencetoprovideappropriateguidance。

PressPass:WhatistheultimatebenefitforpeoplesuccessfullycompletingtheMicrosoftCertifiedArchitectprogram?

Ruth:ThearchitectsIhavetalkedtoareexcitedthattheyhaveacommunitytoshareideas,experienceandknowledgeontechnologiesandproducts。

Theyarealwaysmindfulofproprietaryinformation,butenjoybeingabletogainandshareknowledgewithotherarchitectsforthebettermentofthecommunityand,ultimately,thebenefitoftheircustomers。

Shirey:Beingincludedasamemberofthisselectgroupisanhonorthatcannotbefoundbyanyothermeans。

InmanywaysitisntbecauseitisaMicrosoftcertification,butmoretheapprovalofaboardofpeersthatarerespectedintheindustry。

Redmond:Thereisnoothercertificationtodaythatcustomerscanlooktoinordertoensuretheyregettingthehighestexpertiseinarchitecture。

TheMicrosoftCertifiedArchitectcredentialisatotallydifferentdimensionintermsofprovingyourself。

Itrequiresalotmorework,butalso,moreimportantly,hugeexperiencegainedovermanyyearsandastrongtrackrecordofsuccessfulprojects。

Thatsanicethingtobeabletodemonstratetoacustomer。

PressPass:Whatarethemostimportantcompetenciesarchitectsmustpossess?

Ruth:Thecommoncharacteristicsarchitectshaveincludeleadership,goodcommunicationskills,strategicthinkingincombinationwithgoodtacticalskills,organizationaldynamics,andadepthandbreadthoftechnologicalexpertise。

EveryoneintheITjobspaceneedssomelevelofskillineachoftheseareas,butthearchitectmusthavesignificantskillsineachoftheseareas。

Theyarewell-roundedindividualswhoarepassionate,canthinkabstractlyandareconstantlyseekingnewknowledgeandtobettertheirskills。

PressPass:Whatcontinuingeducationopportunitiesarethereaftercertification?

Shirey:Aftercertificationthereisanopportunitytomentorotherarchitectsthatarecomingthroughtheprogram。

Thisisanexcellentmeanstofurtherdevelopleadershipskillsandremainsharpinmanyotherareas。

Additionally,servingasaboardmemberisawaytospendaweekhoningskillsinalloftheareas。

Theboardprocessisveryintenseandagreatmentalexercisefortechnicalandcommunicationskills。

Ruth:Wewillalsoprovideanareawhereproductvendorscanprovidedescriptionsandspecificationsfortheirproducts,andanarchitectcanprovideareviewthatotherarchitectscanread。

Yearly,wewillhostasummitwherearchitectswillgivepresentationsandconcepts,anddiscussfutureproductenhancementsandnewarchitecturaldevelopmentsintheindustry。

PressPass:Wheredoyouseethisprogramheadinginthelongterm?

Ruth:Asweevolvetheprogram,wewillconsideraddingcertificationforotherdomains。

Redmond:ButcustomerswillreallydrivethesuccessoftheMicrosoftCertifiedArchitectcredential。

Ifcustomersvaluetheaccreditation,thenarchitectswillwanttogothroughtheprogram。

Customerswillvaluethecredentialiftheyseeitasahighqualitybarthatensuresthatqualifiedarchitectspossesstheabilitiestohelpthemdesigntechnologysolutionstotheirbusinessproblems。

Shirey:Andbecauseitrequiresapeerreviewandaveryrigorousprocess,Iwouldexpectittobecomeaveryprestigiouscredentialforthearchitect。