What Makes A Great Architecture Team

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As a prelude to setting up our award and rating system for Architecture Teams, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes for a great architect organization. The question seems simple at first then blossoms into some complexity. This topic has been haunting me ever since one of our chapter leaders was complaining about his organizations lack of recognition and appropriate practice in architecture. He asked me if it was better elsewhere and I stumbled out a reply that I haven’t really seen a mature, fun, challenging organization. Mostly it occurred to me that there really isn’t even criteria for what makes an architecture organization mature, much less fun and exciting. And if they are out there, I am not hearing about them very often.

These criteria are where I am currently at in designing our Top 20 Architect Organizations to Work For, list and survey.

  1. Team Cohesion and Community: Are all of the architects in the organization aware of each other? Do they depend on each other both in mentoring as well as peer based activities? Are the teams split in reporting structure (not necessarily a bad thing) but still work with each other regularly? Are they all involved in the development of the teams engagement model?
  2. Architecture Value: Are architects coveted on both business and technology projects/products? Are they in demand? Do stakeholders have a crystal clear understanding of what they do and why it is important? Are architects measured on the business value they create? Are they rewarded effectively?
  3. Architecture Consistency: Are architecture products and process consistently good? How is goodness measured? Are products measured against business success? Is the team continuously improving the quality of the products of architects?
  4. Fun Factor: I almost listed this first. Is it fun to be an architect at the company? Are people friendly and helpful? Are there regular team activities? Are new ideas welcomed? Is feedback positive and learning focused?
  5. Innovation Focused: Is the team innovation focused or governance focused? Are they just police that tell other people no or are they regularly leading new types of initiatives? Are architects submitting business cases driven from team innovation? Are there useful research and design activities?
  6. Great Leadership: Does the team work for and report to a chief architect who inspires, protects, leads (not manages) them to new heights of accomplishment? Does the least or newest architect feel valued by the leadership? Does the leadership empower individuals?
  7. Tools and Techniques: Do the architects have the tools they need to succeed? Are they able to find and display an architecture to stakeholders effectively? Are new techniques, documents (viewpoints), etc regularly updated? Is there a great repository which allows for deep thinking about architecture strategy? Do they know where to find everything they need? Do they have access to people across the organization?
  8. Workload: Do architects have more projects/programs than they can handle proactively? Are there enough architects to do the entire job? Do they have enough valuable work? Are architects assignments handled proactively based on capability and interest? Is the work interesting?
  9. Longevity: How long has the current architecture practice been around and successful? Has it been restarted recently? Has it ‘failed’ in the past? How has the value created from architecture increased over time?

How did you answer these questions? Did the pit of your stomach fall or did you feel elated at your organizations success? Did I miss anything?

About the Author:

Paul Preiss is the CEO and Founder of the Iasa, one of the largest Enterprise and IT architect associations in the world. Through his time at Iasa, Paul has taken the association from a single user group in Austin Tx to an international organization with chapters in over 25 countries. Paul’s vision is a unified architecture profession with effective education, credentials and ethics which fully supports corporate strategy and delivery. He is a tireless advocate for the field and speaks on topics ranging form architecture ethics to best the best setup and structure for architecture teams. Paul has spoken at hundreds of events as well as held conferences and training for architects all over the world. He is an expert software and enterprise architect in practice and continues to work with companies on optimizing their technology strategy. Prior to developing Iasa, Paul was the chief architect for Dell Pan Asia where he helped to integrate the technology strategy across 14 countries. He also served as the chief architect for the Sears point of sale replacement in North America consisting of 2000 stores and thousands of suppliers as well as the chief architect for a digital asset management firm, Ancept.

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