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Monday, January 30, 2006


Healthy Tension-building Between Project Managers and Architects

A gentleman on my blogroll inquired about numerous topics, and since the issue of IT governance generally gives me a headache and temporarily causes me to rant, slobber, and develop unflattering facial tics, I'll hold my fire on that topic for another time and work the issues between architects and project managers. Specifically, said individual is asking about developing a healthy tension between architects and PMs. Here's my buck-and-a-half take:

Let's begin from a simple premise: architects specify and design, and PMs have to plan and execute projects from them. Although I have functioned in both roles, I don't to both simultaneously because its impossible to do both of them well in that mode. I also agree with other EA bloggers' assertions that good IT PMs primarily have an IT background with significant business-facing exposure as a side skill.

Now, let's look at this interaction of specify/design and plan/execute in a bit more detail. The architect has the following general responsibilities to the PM and project teams:

Those are the basics for the architect with respect to projects. Now let's look at what the project manager buys into in this deal:

From these two lists, the areas where architects and PMs intersect can breed a bit of tension, but the 'healthy' part of the tension is the intersection of accountibility between the two..design/specify (and in some cases, defend) for the architect, and understand/execute/deliver for the project manager. If the two set and hold proper expectations for each other, the correct tension that develops is that each excells further at what they're tasked to do, and can develop and maintain healthy respect for the other's work.

Lots more to say about this in future posts, but I'll throw this out to the blogosphere to start and for always-welcomed commentary.

Your second to last bullet is key. This message needs to be amplified...
I completely agree with James on that bullet - the PM's need to keep their hands off the design, something that's difficult for recycled techies to do sometimes. I had an old COBOL hack as a PM on a project once where I was the architect, and he spent more of his time trying to override my designs than manage the project. I left the project, he kept going, it was a year late and the client is now considering bringing me back in to review the design and help them fix it.
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