The Expected Architectural Mindset of a Successful Architect

The previous blogs, of this “modern solutions’ architect expectations” blog series focused on:

Communication skills: Why Solutions Architects Need Exceptional Communication and Leadership skills

knowledge scope:  The Expected knowledge of a Successful Architect

This blog focuses on the architectural and design mindset/thinking.

Design or architectural Mindset (thinking), refers to the commonly known design thought process, that is used when looking to create a new idea or a solution to solve a problem. What makes “design thinking” always useful is: it’s not only meant to be used for a new idea or solution, instead, its more about a method of creative actions that target a customer, more specifically a business problem. that’s why design thinking sometimes referred to a ‘human centered’ approach. As a result, this leads to the following expectation from the architect:

Avoid being product or technology orientated and always focus first on the actual end-user and business problem or need, that must be addressed.

Design or architectural thinking ensure the architect always start with the customer, stockholder/end user first and then come up with ideas or solutions based on the insights gained from their perspective (not based on the architect or technology perspective only). Also, this means that the stakeholders will be involved in the architecture process and helps the architect to obtain suggestions, ideas and feedback from the stockholders frequently, to ensure the solution feasibility and usability match with stockholders’ desirability and viability to the organization. This process can be used to create solutions based on customer/end-user insights. Both Stanford and IDEO combine this method with three key factors; human > desirability, technological > feasibility and commercial > viability.

As it shown in the chart above, this combined model by Stanford and IDEO has three key perspectives:

Feasibility: Technology related in terms of existence or the ability to be created to accomplish the intended goal at a reasonable cost as well as within an acceptable amount of time?

Viability: key question to be asked here is; does this technology solution have a realistic chance of succeeding? Does it have good potential to generate a business benefit/profit or achieving the intended goal?

Usability/Desirability: Is it something users will be interested to use (e.g. enhanced user experience). does it address a real user need to creating a better way of doing things?

As a successful architect you don’t want to build a solution architecture that nobody wants to consider or use. Therefore, by considering a stakeholder/user-centric approach, you are ensuring (to high degree) that your solution architecture will be desirable, feasible and viable. Simply because, true solutions are found when you are emphasizing on the actual problem or need.

As an architect, asking “why” is key to drive the architecture in the right direction, because you will always need have a good reasoning and understanding (understanding supported by reasoning, is always the key to unlocking the vital stockholders’ insights) to provide an answer to any decision or solution, that ultimately must have strong basis to be accepted by the business (viable, feasible and useable). In fact, one of the key responsibilities of a solutions architect is to come to insights for the client.

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Marwan Al-shawi – CCDE No. 20130066, Google Cloud Certified Architect, AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Cisco Press author (author of the Top Cisco Certifications’ Design Books “CCDE Study Guide and the upcoming CCDP Arch 4th Edition”). He is Experienced Technical Architect. Marwan has been in the networking industry for more than 12 years and has been involved in architecting, designing, and implementing various large-scale networks, some of which are global service provider-grade networks. Marwan holds a Master of Science degree in internetworking from the University of Technology, Sydney. Marwan enjoys helping and assessing others, Therefore, he was selected as a Cisco Designated VIP by the Cisco Support Community (CSC) (official Cisco Systems forums) in 2012, and by the Solutions and Architectures subcommunity in 2014. In addition, Marwan was selected as a member of the Cisco Champions program in 2015 and 2016.