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Architecting Business Solutions vs. the Business of architecting technology solutions (continued)

In my previous post, I talked about the extending role of Enterprise Architects at services firms into Marchitects. This ‘selling’ of architecture services is no different from what our peers in client organizations undertake too.

Enterprise Architects, many of whom report into a CIO/CTO organization are also under continual pressure to ensure that the organization derives an optimal ROI from their IT investments, which means they need to ‘sell’ the value of robust, scalable architecture, planning and roadmaps to their stakeholders, some of whom may be focused on the tactical: ensuring that the quarterly targets are met, budgets balanced and operational challenges addressed. Even the ‘strategic’ focus may sometime involve reacting to external trends (read between the lines: it is the economy, slowdown etc)

But back to the challenge of selling that Enterprise Architects at service firms face:

  • Thinking beyond revenue and dollars: Most service firms aspire to move up the proverbial ‘Value Chain.’ And when it comes to technology services, what better value chain than consulting with client CxOs on their Enterprise Architecture? However, this ‘move up value chain’ is not as simple, or even sexy as it sounds. Why? Because sales teams at services firms are geared towards (and rewarded for) ‘downstream’ and ‘incremental revenue.’ The challenge is that when consultants work with clients on their EA strategies and roadmaps, they shouldn’t - and generally don’t - have downstream-dollar-signs in their eyes…. which doesn’t always please internal sales teams. [footnote: taking this high-road is not always practical since reward (and bonus) structures for individuals, including architects at service firms are geared towards meeting unit, group and organizational numbers.] 
  • Being unbiased while recommending solutions: Another challenge consultants, especially from larger services firms face is while recommending solutions and technology options to clients. Architecture consultants from a product vendor organization may have their account teams tacitly leaning on them. The reason is not hard to find: most service firms have their proprietary solutions, frameworks and toolkits for myriad technologies. Consulting organizations make considerable investments in developing such solutions and the ROI can be derived only when sold/deployed by clients. There are times when these toolkits and products may be an ideal fit for a client need; but not always. Consulting Enterprise Architects need to be unbiased and be willing to push back their Account management teams when need arises. [Again, taking the high-road may come at a personal cost: internal bonuses and incentives]

Clients have an opportunity (and perhaps responsibility) to ensure that the high-end consultants they engage continually provide unbiased inputs. In a sense, the challenge faced by consulting Enterprise Architects is an opportunity to you, the client. You can efficiently leverage their ideation, selling, persuasion and presentation skills to help your internal Enterprise Architects and CXOs sell the ideas and strategies to your businesses and stakeholders. By doing so, you let consultants gain the privilege of being trusted advisors, which in some cases may lead to additional downstream and business for their firms.


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