How Solutions Architects Renovate the Enterprise Landscape
I had a funny chat with my sister the other day. She’s not very technical but curious about what I do as a Solutions Architect at Bottle Rocket, I was trying to explain the ins and outs of what I do day-to-day but failed miserably to communicate it. For whatever reason, I couldn’t come up with plain enough language to describe my role and the glaze in her eyes was beginning to form when she stopped me and exclaimed, “So basically you’re the Joanna Gaines of technology!” Haha, yes, sis. I’m pretty much exactly the Joanna Gaines of technology, I just hadn’t ever thought of it that way.
For those who don’t watch a lot of HGTV, Joanna Gaines rose to fame as an interior designer in Waco, Texas, with her husband Chip, who starred in the TV show “Fixer Upper.” In the show, they take customers on a journey of selecting a house, providing a vision, and then renovating it to suit the customer’s needs. That’s exactly what I do but in an enterprise landscape as a consultant for our clients. Let’s walk through this to see if I can explain what being a Solutions Architect is so you don’t glaze over like my sister.
Closing Day: Getting Started
Every episode of Fixer Upper takes on a similar journey. The customer has contacted Joanna and is wanting to move into a new home that better fits their needs. The underlying pressure of the show is always the same, the customer is trying to get the best house on a tight budget. They’ve hired Joanna because they trust her to get them to where they want to be, living the kind of life they want to live. Joanna has the knowledge and vision to take them there and she has a team that can make that vision a reality.
On an enterprise landscape, this is my main function. Companies approach Bottle Rocket because they have an issue, and they trust us to have the knowledge and team to provide the vision, then execute on getting them to where their company needs to be. Often that’s creating a new application to reach their customers, perfecting the experience design, or organizing their data so they can understand the patterns of their customers so they can reach them more efficiently.
The Home Inspection: Uncovering The Current Architecture
Once the home buyers decide on a house, there’s an assessment of what the house currently is. Is the house using modern electrical standards? Does it have enough bedrooms? Should there be a hallway there? What’s the condition of the roof?
As Solutions Architects, we must do the same on every engagement. It’s paramount to understand the client through its culture, its leadership, its budget, and its goals before we begin to swing any hammers. Taking inventory of the company’s current landscape allows us to gain an understanding of where a company has come from. We document their current technologies and how the company uses them to support their customer journeys. We call these artifacts the Solutions Architecture Quadrant (SAQ) and the Experience Blueprint. In the simplest of terms, the SAQ is a menu of current technologies a company is using categorized into 4 quadrants:
- Customer Touchpoints: Everything a company uses to interact with their customers.
- Enablement: Everything that allows for the flow of data.
- Operations: Technology used to store data.
- Conversation: Tools used to communicate with the customers.
The Experience Blueprint is simply a mapping of customer journeys to the technologies listed on the SAQ that service them.
It’s Demo Day: Making a Plan & Getting Started
The next phase is an assessment of the pain points and the development of a plan to resolve them. How can Joanna make the house as efficient and comfortable as possible for the family’s needs? What materials are going to be needed? Do we need to knock down any walls? How much is all this going to cost? In technology, it becomes quite evident through discussions with our clients what the pain points of their operations are through the SAQ and Experience Blueprints.
The Experience Design team contributes here to help decide where we need to knock down walls and what light fixture would best illuminate a space to generate the engagement our customer needs to improve engagement with their customer. It’s the Solutions Architect operates as the general contractor in this job to ensure that the XD team’s vision is technically viable as we recommend the best vendors to complete the job. It’s quite an exciting time as work begins, envisioning what the future might hold.
The Big Reveal: Uncovering the Potential
The mission of a house renovator and a solution architect are much the same. We love revealing a vision of what the future holds for the customer. We’re delighted in being intentional in order to address the pain points expressed by the client. Was it a full kitchen gut job? A new powder bath? Or was it just a new perspective on how to arrange the furniture?
Daily, my focus is to provide the technical version of a dream house for our clients. To come in with fresh eyes, equipped with industry standards, adding a flare of personal experience that will improve our client’s experience with their customers, drive product adoption, gain understanding through improved data practices, and reduce costs. So just like Joanna Gaines, it’s all about delivering that “wow” factor and making our clients’ tech dreams come true.