Soft Skills Of A Software Architect

I will not try to repeat what a software architect is, you can read it here at wikipedia

There are various types of architects.

  • Solutions Architect
  • Enterprise Architect
  • Application Architect
  • Systems Architect

A large part of the duties of an architect in a large organization is to design and to communicate.  In my experience as an application architect and in my observation of other architects, I believe the following are the soft skills that are needed in being a successful architect in a large organization.

Run Effective Meetings

It’s rare to see a meeting that is small in size when an architect is in the room. This is actually a good thing. This means the architect has a forum of people who are there to listen. Make sure you prepare ahead, arrive early, get the logistics all setup. Prepare the agenda ahead of time, prepare the material ahead of time and make sure to set the context for everyone in the room. If there are people in the room who need extra time to catch up, you can either prep them ahead of time or it’s worth the extra time in the meeting to make sure they are caught up. Try not to cram a lot of information, but focus on the most important decisions or information. It’s better that people walk away in agreement on one thing rather than being confused with 5 things.

Understand How Decisions Are Made

Often times, there are more than 1 way to solve the problem. There are usually tradeoffs in picking any one solution. Make sure to communicate these tradeoffs and also avoid jumping into the solution you prefer. Layout the tradeoffs, allow others to weight in, clearly communicate who the ultimate decider is. When the decision is going to be made, expect there will be people who will not agree, that is OK. But make sure to talk with the people who disagree that you understand and ask for their help to implement the decision if they want to prove you are wrong.

Listen, Stop Talking

This is one of the hardest thing to do. In a meeting, as an architect, after you get your 15-20 minute, shut up and listen. Let others talk and you make sure to listen. Capture what people say, listen and understand why they are saying it. Think about the outcome of the meeting, would it be better served for you to talk or let others talk. Most of time, I try to let others talk and ask questions. When there is silence, this is the perfect time to go around the room and ask for a vote or an explicit consent. Leave 10 minutes at the end and focus back on getting the outcome I hope to achieve.

Recently I’ve taken up a role, which I have written about My New Role At Yahoo! : Solution Architect