Why does an architect need this skill?
The architect’s mission gathers inputs from multiple sources, and this in turn involves working with a wide spectrum of stakeholders, from customers to development teams, to management at different levels, and to peer architects from other teams upon whom the deliverable has a dependency.
The deliverable should meet the following:
- the customer’s needs.
- the required and applicable standards
- the expected performance requirements
Collaboration involves the different disciplines working together towards a common goal. It involves the making of collective decisions at each stage. Problems are analyzed and solutions are iteratively fed back by the entire team of stakeholders. Options from the entire team are evaluated.
In other words, the entire team commits its expertise towards a coherent solution.
The architect is responsible for obtaining the final design solution, through collaboration with stakeholders.
Collaboration involves both working as part of the team or as a facilitator – as the situation might demand.
Collaboration is generally tightly coupled with its complementary skill: negotiation. While collaboration itself involves working with multiple stakeholders, one needs to take into account that the stakeholders themselves, while committing to the architect’s deliverable, may have one or more of the following constraints:
- Their goals may not be aligned with the architects in entirety
- They may have higher priority work items, which implies that their inputs may not come in at the desired speed in the architect’s timeframe.
- The stakeholders’ view of the problem may not be the same as the architect’s.
- Organizational politics can impede the inputs from an important stakeholder.
- Personal relationship equations may not be conducive to the goal.
In each of these cases, the architect must talk to the individual stakeholders, and negotiate to arrive at a common understanding. Without this, collaboration will fail. Negotiation is about realizing a common objective through agreement and consultation. Styles of negotiation include creatively including new terms, compromise ( not preferred), working to ‘yes’ etc. Separating the people from the problem is very important, and a sharp focus on the deliverable is essential. A principled negotiation or negotiating based on the merits, is one good way of approaching the problem.
Common tasks involved in this skill?
The common tasks involved are:
- To Understand each stakeholder and that stakeholder’s requirements and constraints
- Separating the people from the problem
- Communicate articulately and effectively with each stakeholder to ensure a common understanding
- Maintaining the communication in order to ensure iterative feedback towards the goal
- Understanding Organizational Politics
- Maintain effective relationships
How an architect would use this in daily activities?
Consider a typical example where an architect needs to deliver the overall design for a project A. His stakeholders are the customer, project manager, development team and the related interdisciplinary teams on whom the deliverable has a dependency.
There must be collaboration between the architect and the development team; indeed, the development will not be of the required quality or on time unless the architect regularly communicates the dependencies and design to the development team, and in turn understands the implementation complexities so that he can design appropriately.
The architect needs to collaborate and negotiate with the related interdisciplinary teams, without whose inputs her/his own design would be blocked.
Collaboration and negotiation with the project management is required in the above case, to communicate the required deadlines and statuses, and provide inputs to development planning.
Last but not the least, the customer needs to be a part of the larger picture, so that changing requirements can be captured accurately and any issues with meeting any of the customer’s technical requirements communicated appropriately.