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Solution options

Every time I took over an Enterprise Architecture (EA) team I found that most of my architects didn’t have any standards around how to structure an architecture analysis. I’ll spend this week sharing my opinions on how architects need to portray their recommendations.

One of my first rules was that my team always had to come up with at least two options for any recommendation. Too often did I find that architects would look at the business requirements and then come up with a single solution recommendation to meet the business requirements.

There are typically many sensible ways to deliver a solution depending on business priority.

  • Maybe a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is the way to go because there is an urgent need to get something working asap or because you are not so sure about what the business exactly needs and thru an MVP they can get real customer feedback to move forward in the right direction.

  • Maybe your business partner already came in with a preconceived notion of what software to use to solve for the business problem. If you think the business would be introducing unnecessary additional software and complexity doing that, show them an option of how they can solve for the business problem with what you already have or a better new software. You need to at least show them these two options and explain why your solution option is better.

  • Maybe the best answer is to add a bit of scope to the program so you can retire some apps you always wanted to get rid of without adding much cost. Add that as an option.

The options need to be laid out in terms of a business case with pros and cons. Every business case will have tangible ($) and intangible (can’t translate to $s) components. By presenting options in business terms you can have a meaningful conversation with the business on which path to take.

By showing options you also make it clear to the decision makers that you have thought this through. You do not need to take senior decision makers through each option in detail. Just show them the recommended option and why it provides the best business value. No matter what you always need to make a recommendation.

Finally, don’t come up with to many options. Focus on what makes an option materially different and once you’ve chosen the preferred option you can fine-tune it. Also, if there is only one sensible solution just lay that one out. You should be able to easily defend any deviations from it.

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