Project managers and architects

Project managers and solution architects are really two types of persons, each with their own responsibilities.

  • Project managers ensure the project is finished on time and within budget. Their main concern is the scope and planning of the project.
  • Architects ensure a technical solution that fits the enterprise architecture, now and in the future. Their main concern is avoiding quick and dirty solutions that will become costly in the long run.

Because of these different concerns it is good practice in projects to have not only a project manager, but also a solution architect. The project manager and the architect should work together as a team. The project manager being responsible for the process of the project (like the planning, budget, etc.) and the architect responsible for the solution the project creates.

Because the project manager and the architect have different concerns that could be conflicting sometimes, the project must have a good balance between quality (architect’s concern), time (project manager’s concern) and budget (also project manager’s concern). This sometimes leads to conflicts. Architects tend to create solutions that are "elegant" and reusable and therefore not always within the project scope. The design is made for instance more modular or more easily expandable than strictly necessary within the project.

Although in general this helps the organization in the long run, the project managers have different concerns. Project managers tend to keep the scope of their projects as limited as possible to prevent project risks in terms of time and budget. They want the project to do nothing more than strictly necessary. This conflict of interest can be solved best when the project manager and the solution architect have a good working relationship and they are aware of each other's concerns.

Good social skills are crucial for a good project manager and for a good architect. I have good experiences with projects organized with the project manager and the architect working as a team. It relieves the project manager from dealing with technical issues. Since the technical specialists communicate to the architect and not to the project manager, technical issues are handled by a technically skilled person. Technicians, including the solution architect, are not bothered with process issues like milestones, budgets and reporting to senior management.

In small projects sometimes the project management and architecture tasks are not separated. On the other hand in large projects usually more than one architect is working on the solution. Large project also often have project management at multiple levels.

But just like there is one project manager that has the overview of the whole project - maybe managing multiple teams with dedicated team leaders or project leaders - there is always one and only one (lead) architect. He has the overview of the whole solution. The lead architect can manage multiple teams working on parts of the solution by appointing multiple solution architects. But the lead architect is always end responsible for the complete solution. He will have to sign off all deliverables and makes sure all parts of the solution will work together and form one integral solution that adheres to the enterprise architecture and the requirements.

This entry was posted on Maandag 12 Mei 2014

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