Putting a Total Architect to Work: Lean IT Implementation on Steroids (Part 4 of 4)

Wherever a Total Architect goes, projects get better. We explain why.

By Frank Bucalo, Enterprise Architect, CA Technologies

In this series, we have identified a new role -- the Total Architect -- as a person capable of architecting across the people, process, information, and systems domains. We reviewed common traits Total Architects possess and compared them to those of accomplished musicians. Using the example of James Cameron, we demonstrated that the traditional talent acquisition process often filters out Total Architects and how you can adapt your process to better align with the desired skill set a Total Architect offers.

This article continues the Total Architecture theme by considering how the role of a Total Architect can fit into your implementation team.

Many Roles of the Total Architect

Whenever I first introduce the concept of the Total Architect role to an executive, I see their eyes roll and can sense them thinking, "Oh, great! Now I have to hire another expensive resource to try to achieve implementation success." I am quick to point out what I am telling them is they actually need fewer, not more heads, to achieve success. The reason for this is that the Total Architect can perform across roles. They can perform business analysis, process design, data design, and technical architecture at the same time. That's not to say they won't need to consult other experts during the implementation life cycle, but a Total Architect reduces the number of heads required, along with the corresponding number of miscommunications and the associated amount of rework.

The concept of Total Architecture aligns with the project management concept of progressive elaboration. That is, it is rare that the initial pass through the analysis phase captures the final set of requirements. Therefore, premature design and construction, although presenting the illusion of rapid implementation, will typically result in waste and rework. This waste and rework often raises its ugly head when the project is 90 percent complete, leading to the joke, "We are 90 percent done and have the other 90 percent to go."

The concept of the Total Architect also aligns with the Project Management Professional concept of fast tracking, a technique that compresses the project schedule by performing tasks in parallel. Imagine if the analysis, design, construction, and preparation for turnover could occur simultaneously. How much time, effort, and associated cost reduction might you realize? The Total Architect can accomplish that. Such an approach replaces long, costly iterations with short, fast iterations. The number of meetings can be vastly reduced, so more time can be dedicated to performing work rather than communicating.

Finally, the concept of the Total Architect aligns with the concept of Lean Manufacturing, where multi-skilled teams come together so individual workers can better understand the implication of the overall manufacturing process, thus yielding significant increases in efficiency. Now, apply Lean Manufacturing techniques to lean IT implementation and you see the value of a Total Architect is that they represent the multi-skilled team in the form of one individual.

Fitting into your Implementation Team

Where, then, does the Total Architect role fit into you implementation team?

Let's consider one use case -- an informal, very small but highly visible project. Such a scenario is not uncommon. Because the Total Architect can perform across many roles, a high degree of efficiency and a rapid solution can be realized. Recently I encountered a C-level executive who needed a business analytics solution by "Tuesday." The Total Architect was able to utilize all accumulated knowledge and skill to deliver a quick (albeit down-and-dirty) solution, thus increasing the executive's satisfaction with the IT department. Such an approach does not conflict with your enterprise efforts (e.g., master data management, SOA implementation, Enterprise Data Warehouse) where governance and control is highly desirable. Rather, such an approach can supplement and facilitate your enterprise effort by offloading quick and one-off solutions for senior executives from your enterprise team. This also takes the immediate pressure off you to corrupt your enterprise effort.

I heard one CEO lament the schizophrenia of simultaneous short-term and long-term demands with the statement, "I know the goal is to drain the swamp, but first I have to swat the alligators." One or more Total Architects can be charged with "alligator swatting" while the main team continues to "drain the swamp."

Now let's consider another use case -- a small but more formal project. In such a case you might want a Total Architect to be engaged throughout the project, across multiple roles, to provide guidance and continuity, especially during analysis and design. They might surrender any coding requirements to more junior resources, who might have more hands-on exposure to the platform of choice. Those coding efforts might even be efficiently outsourced, given a set of accurate and detailed requirements and an appropriate design. In such a scenario, one might use a Total Architect across projects, staggering the analysis, design, and construction phases, thus optimizing their utilization.

In another use case, a formal but larger project is necessary. In such a scenario, one might utilize the Total Architect as the project manager -- one with sufficient project experience and who having possibly studied books pertaining to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), or Prince2 (two prominent project management methodologies). This achieves continuity across the project lifecycle. The Total Architect uses skill and experience to identify qualified project resources and to monitor the quality and correctness of the day-to-day work. The Total Architect might act as a mentor to less-experienced project resources or might even perform in one or more project roles in addition to performing project management tasks determined by the size and demands of the project. You can see that a Total Architect can bring much value to the project.

A Total Architect can prove to be an asset across multiple projects as a member of the project management office by providing guidance and coordination to support integration and cross-project optimization. Furthermore, a Total Architect can oversee multiple projects, especially during the crucial analysis and design phases.

One other use of a Total Architect is as a project troubleshooter. In such a scenario, I've seen Total Architects rapidly turn projects from failures to successes. They can quickly and accurately assess project shortcomings -- be they people-, process-, or technology-based -- "righting the ship" and moving on within as little as two weeks.

A Total Architect performs in the role of trusted advisor to CIOs or other IT executives. Given a traditional failure rate of 75 percent, any and every IT executive yearns for a proven resource to help show them how to achieve higher success rates, reduce costs, and increase business user satisfaction. I heard one executive refer to his Total Architect as "my CIO builder".

Finally, a Total Architect can perform as an enterprise architect. Many enterprise architects approach enterprise architecture strictly by the book. The book usually consists of policies, procedures, rules, and checklists. Although governance is both useful and critical for enterprise success, a Total Architect knows that the real world does not always align with the book. For example, one client I recently worked with had made an enterprise-level architectural decision to standardize on Java-based applications. After a year, they made an acquisition. That organization had standardized on .NET-based applications. So much for the book! In this case, the Total Architect understands that they must gain expert knowledge pertaining to Java-.Net integration and interoperability.

A Total Architect requires both knowledge and appreciation of the book, as well as the wisdom to know when and how to creatively adapt it based on real-world challenges. It is always a balancing act. Total Architects thrive in such environments and bring considerable value to your organization.

Regardless of the specific scenario, it is clear that Total Architects will never be "on the bench." You will be able to plug them in almost anywhere and anytime. Anywhere they go, the team becomes more effective and more efficient. I once heard someone say, "Wherever you go, things get better," which I considered to be the highest compliment. It's the mark of a Total Architect. The quicker you incorporate one into your organization, the better off you will be.

Frank Bucalo is an enterprise architect with CA Technologies specializing in ITIL implementation and risk management systems. Prior to his time at CA Technologies, he was an architect and a consultant with banking and brokerage clients. He is a member of the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) and an ITIL Service Manager. Mr. Bucalo represents the new breed of "Total Architect" – knowledgeable and experienced across business, technology, and technology management domains.You can contact the author at

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Other articles in this series:

Part 1: How Total Architects Enable Project Success

Part 2: Traits of a Total Architect ... And All That Jazz

Part 3: Hiring a Total Architect

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