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The “People Risk” in Solution Architecture

Craig McDade
April 16, 2021
people risk

In our previous series on Risk, we talked about how to Leverage Risk for Solution Architecture. Specifically, we discussed the competing forces that pull a solution architecture design in different directions: 

  • Functionality 
  • Cost 
  • Time 
  • Risk 

The way these factors are weighed will determine the solution that is presented and, ultimately, the success or failure of a project.  Today we are going to talk about "people risk."

The "People Risk"

Today we are going to talk about how people play into risk and solution architecture, and how to work together with stakeholders to drive a positive outcome on a project. 

Often times a solution decision can be clear cut; it costs less, is faster, provides more or updated functionality, or lowers risk. There are times though when the risk evaluation gets a little, well, muddy. A solution can lower a technical or business risk but subsequently increase a more and sometimes harder to define “people risk”. This is where the people who will be impacted by the solution are not on board or do not agree with the changes being made. 

Likely, you’ve experienced some type of personal change over the last year #ThanksCovid; Adapting to working from home, canceled vacations, not being able to visit family, etc. Change is hard! We all have to find ways to handle ourselves when this happens. 

But what happens when the change being introduced isn’t at home, but at work? And instead of reacting to the change, you are the one creating it? How do you handle yourself and get people to believe in you and your vision? As a solution architect, your answer, and approach to change and the people that are impacted, will most likely drive the success (or failure) of your project or initiative! 

Be a People Person!

In that regard, here are 7 tips to help mitigate the “people risk” that can be created when introducing new solutions to an organization and improve the odds of a successful project: 

  1. Listen. Talk with the people who will be impacted by your solution. Understand their concerns, workflows, and hesitancies. Involve them in the process. Listening to their feedback is a crucial first step toward success, helps create trust, and sets a positive tone. 
  1. Communicate. Make sure your users have a clear understanding of how this change is going to make their life easier (it should). Use the information gained in step 1 to direct the conversation toward how their pain points will be relieved. Be transparent about the needs for the change and how the change is going to be implemented. This is a team sport, engage your stakeholders. If you have a project manager, have them help you, and find those that can help you influence the group and be a cheerleader. Proper communication should last the duration of the project and over-communication is better than not communicating enough! 
  1. Manage Expectations. Be careful that you don’t oversell your solution. Be honest and open about what is happening, the timeline, the pitfalls, etc. If the solution doesn’t meet a requirement, say so. Remember, there is likely some hesitancy in the change that is happening, communicating (Remember step 2!) is key. 
  1. Watch Your Attitude. Nobody likes a cranky solution architect. Be positive, have a good attitude, even when things aren’t going perfectly. Your attitude is contagious, if you show up to a meeting and are negative, chances are it’ll spread quickly to other attendees. Likewise, have confidence in what you’re presenting. If you don’t, people will be able to tell and will be less likely to buy-in. 
  1. Be Strategic. Does the solution make more sense in multiple phases? What are the prerequisites that need to be taken care of first? Work together with the project stakeholders to make sure all of the various components are in place to make sure your solution is set up for success. Moving forward in a disjointed manner will be felt by the users and organization. Work to minimize this! 
  1. Support and Train. Make sure a plan is in place to offer support for the new solution. Never implement a change without a training plan in place. Leaving the users to figure it out on their own will result in chaos. Again, work together with the project team to build a process that works for your particular situation. 
  1. Go the Extra Mile. Be available to help. Your users may not be as tech-savvy as you are. Help them out, even if it doesn’t have to do with the task at hand. Just the other day I couldn’t figure out how to right-click on my MacBook and a coworker told me about the two-finger click to get the “right-click menu” to appear. It changed my life. Do that for somebody else. It’ll make their life easier, and yours. Being helpful goes a long way! 

Make a Plan

Having a plan for how to build positive and engaging relationships with the users in your organization is critical. By including the users in the process, you'll open lines of communication that should result in better solutions, more successful projects, and improved team morale. Including the people lowers the people risk! There is no reason to make technology change any harder than it needs to be. 

If you keep these tips in mind when moving forward on your next solution, I’m confident you’ll be on your way to success. 

Want More?

If you found this helpful, please take a look at our foundational articles in the risk series: 

  1. Solution Architecture Risk: A Primer – A “101” that introduces basic risk concepts and describes solution architecture risk. 
  1. Identifying Solution Architecture Risk – Techniques for identifying solution architecture risk. 
  1. Solution Architecture Risk Register – A method to track solution architecture risk, including determining risk responses. 

Please contact us if we can be of any assistance! If we can do great things for you, we will. If we can't, we'll say so. 

Craig is a seasoned IT leader with 14 years of technical leadership experience in local government and healthcare industries. He spent the first 8 years if his career developing and maintaining Geographic Information Systems and performing advanced geoprocessing and data analysis to drive key business decisions at the City and County Level. After a brief stop as an IT Security Officer, he was promoted to infrastructure management, where he led infrastructure design, implementation, operations, and support. Over this 4-year period he built his skills in technical leadership, and enterprise planning, and solution architecture. He has spent the last 2 years as a Solution Architect focused in the Health Care industry.
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