Your Options Analysis Does Not Impress Me

This is another post based on a conversation – this time about options analyses. My colleagues were suggesting that it was OK to present options, highlight the pros and cons, and leave the business to make their own decision. Now, I’ve written a few in my time, and my opinion is clear: if, as an architect, you just present an options analysis to your business that spells out options without making a recommendation, then I think you aren’t earning your salary.

OptionsWe are architects because we are expected to understand the business, its drivers, its aims and its context. If you don’t understand this, if you just understand and present the technical merits of an option then you are merely a technical lead, you aren’t architecting (tech leads take note, this is the difference in my opinion between architects and purely technical people). Your options analysis should make a recommendation based on your understanding of what your business needs and wants, and what will be the most effective option with the best risk/return profile. Yes, you must include the technical aspects, after all, that is part of what the business cannot do for itself, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to that. In my opinion what differentiates an architect is that they can connect the technical to the non-technical. You should be able to consider the strategy and goals of the business (both explicit and implicit) as well as what constraints other organisational aspects place on technical options. If you don’t understand what the business needs or wants, go and find out. If you don’t understand what will be the most effective option for your organisation, then find out.

In my experience the business know what their strategy and goals are – but what they don’t know is what is the best technology to support or implement them, and that is where architects can show leadership. So, in the final analysis they will make the decision, and they may ignore your recommendation, but be prepared to earn your salary and put yourself out there.

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