I’ll start by posing a question. What is the most important attribute of an architect? What is it that makes him effective?
Is it technical skill, experience, communications skills? I’d suggest that it is credibility. Where does this come from, obviously it can have it’s foundation in any of the skills noted above and probably many more that I’ve not mentioned. However, I’d argue that ultimately, credibility is about trust. It’s about people trusting the architect. Trusting that he’s telling the truth and that he is giving them as accurate and impartial assessment of the topic as is possible for a mere mortal.
Impartiality is an important lesson that too few architects seem to have learned. Architecture is not about who’s right it’s about what’s right for the client. One way that we ensure impartiality is by having objective processes that minimize individual bias and provide transparency for decisions. By no means are any of these processes perfect, traceability makes the process transparent and so when someone is unhappy with the decision the reasoning behind it can be explained. By this means a good architect protects his client’s interests and indirectly his greatest asset his own credibility.
I’ll give you an example. Recently a technically competent, but frankly rather arrogant architect at a client of mine made a “judgment” call. Without consulting the rest of his practice or recording his process. This resulted in him excluding a particular vendor from a selection process for a pretty much commoditized capability. His reason he’d seen the product “years ago and it wasn’t that good then. I doubt it would have changed..” he went on “besides I don’t like XXXXXX”.
The problem with this is he’s lazy he’s made a call based on information that he admits is old and hasn’t given XXXXXX a chance to change his mind. This isn’t what your boss pays for when he hires you. This architect has no doubt done this many times and because his client trusts him he can get away without due process, he is abusing their trust.
This particular architect however has come unstuck. The vendor unhappy with the unfairness of the decision has forced a meeting with higher management and because the architect has been lazy and not a little bit arrogant he has no defense. There is no recorded assessment process, no defined principles, just his say so. He’s looking pretty vulnerable right now, his management are more than a little embarrassed and have insisted that a proper assessment be done. Architecture is about rigor, being told by executives that you haven’t been rigorous enough should be a humiliation for an architect. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy fixes the assessment process so that the vendor can’t win, because for him it’s about him being right. But, the fool doesn’t seem to realize that the real damage has been done. From now on every decision he makes will be questioned by his executive because he was lazy, biased and has betrayed their trust. He’s credibility is now shot.