Combined with reading some of the latest news in EA and having spent a full week with many architects at an internal Microsoft event called TechReady, I decided to share a seemly relevant topic of concern for architects, communication. I’m pulling areas of a deck from a recent speaking engagement in which I talk about the future of the role of an architect.
At the event I talked to an infrastructure architect that has aspirations of becoming an enterprise architect. He mentioned a few successes and a few trials. The problem was he seemed to be stuck in a rut in the organization. He felt he wasn’t as relevant as he could be. And he was right. He was an extremely intelligent and competent architect, I could see that within a five minute conversation.
There was a problem though. The communication he felt most comfortable with was that of talking about infrastructure. His conversations were grounded in that level of depth.
So why is that a problem? He’s a smart guy. He can solve lots of problems. Isn’t infrastructure everywhere? So why isn’t it a relevant topic or depth to speak at?
It’s story time!
So imagine you are in a big meeting with a variety of different stakeholders on the big cloud project. You have people from the marketing department, LOB stakeholders, business analysts and executive stakeholders. Let’s take a step back and look in the mirror to see what our customer could see and hear if architects communicate with such technical depth.
The questions from around the table: “Sure, if you say so…” , “What did he just say?”, “The what component?”, “I didn’t follow that”, “Where’s my next meeting?”
This has been an all too common behavior from architects. I have to admit, I have done it myself. It’s easy to do. But we need to be mindful of the messages we convey.
Now let’s turn the tables a bit. It can be frustrating for us architects as well. Have you ever been on a project where you in your most compelling voice tell a business person that there is impossibilities/contradictions in what they are asking or how much of a bad idea their technical request may be? I would venture to guess most of us have had those conversations at one point or another in our career.
So since we poked fun at ourselves, let’s look at how it can seem to architects on the other end of the table.
Sound and look familiar? It happens and sometimes it’s down right frustrating.
So what are the takeaways?
The key is to understand your audience. You can do that by understanding these four areas of communication:
- Awareness – Understand who they are, the role they play in the organization and any personal biases they may have. Once you do that, you can manage the conversation with a level of situational leadership.
- Context – Make sure your communication is at the right depth and coverage area for the audience. Missing this can really hurt your credibility and applicability in the organization.
- Story – Take the customer on a journey by learning how to tell a compelling story for what your trying to accomplish. One of the most powerful tools you can use is your own experiences. Use real examples in your pitches to ground your audience.
- Empathy – Not only should you understand your audiences challenges but you should empathize with them as well. If you do this, you have skin in the game and are much more credible as you are truly partnering with your customer.