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Do Architects need to be better story tellers?

Architects need to convey, convince and influence internal as well as external stakeholders on several technical / non-technical matters. Whether it is around creating a glorified to-be state vision in front of business stakeholders or influencing technology adoption strategy for the technical stakeholders – Architects have to play a major role. On other hand, not every situation is a happy one – delays, flaws, issues and interruptions are part of everyday life. Architects have to convey such messages as well. How well, Architects need to be in conveying such good and not-so-good messages to these stakeholders?

Good communication is different than art of story-telling. Architects need to have great skills of story-telling. It is the skill which reflects self-conviction, vision, visualization, confidence and emotions. This is the skill which needs to be built with ancillary skills like verbal and written communication, body language, public-speaking, etc. The great story tellers believe in what they talk, what they see and what they want others to see. Whether it is a legacy modernization program or adoption of future technology which does not exist today, Architects are the ones who can tell story and show journey from past to future through words and pictures. Characters, roles, responsibilities, hurdles, mitigation strategies – all can be told through scenarios, actors, interactions and dependencies. Actors can become hero and hurdles can become villains. What matters to the listeners is better understanding of possibility and feasibility which someone can tell them convincingly. Who other than Architect can do this job better?

Here are few tips on how someone can become a great story teller:

  1. You need to be convinced with what you are telling others: You are not creating a fake image of what can be done or what is possible. Make sure you know the subject and you are convinced with possibility and feasibility of what you are telling. Self-conviction, confidence and homework are must.
  2. Know what audience wants to listen: Who are you going to tell this story to? You should not tell great technology adoption story to ones who are worried about how business can be improved in a recession time period. There is a correlation but timing matters too.
  3. Basic images and drawings only to convey your thoughts: Great power point presentations does not mean great outcome. Story has to be visually created through your story telling skills and not through decks. Keep minimum relevant images and drawings to keep people just focused on what you have to say.
  4. Engage them as participant than listener: think how your audience can become part of your story and how they can play an active role. More you see their participation in your story, more success you would see towards the end.
  5. What are you expecting the outcome to be? Do you know what you are expecting the outcome to be? Agreement on certain thought process? Approval on certain decision? Decision on specific matter? You do not need to keep them reminding on what it should be, but set the objective clear in your mind and direct the audience to the conclusion through your story.
  6. Challenge status-quo: Past is changing and style of conveying thoughts is changing too. Power points and animations are being replaced by creative ways. Thought leaders use words than texts, they show practical case studies than lengthy methodologies, they are the ones who are self-convinced with certain ideas and who can direct others towards the possibilities. Art of story-telling was always a powerful skill and it is going to be same forever.        


What you think?



  1. Ankush Joshi says:

    Architects need to be “folklore” tellers, not just any storyteller or strong communicators. The key need is to connect the Architectural History, Issues and Evolution at customer environment to the story we have, that is possible only by using right anecdotes, examples and experimental results from specific group, one can think of it as “Domain Driven Architecture” than any standard structure driven.

    The biggest issue I continue to see that we tend to assume that Architecture is without domain specific history e.g. Retail will have Informix and AS400 based history of fast, non-GUI interfaces OR Banks will spend too much time in getting approvals because IT budgeting is messed up.

  2. swarrajk says:

    You are 100% right Ankush. Yes, connecting past to the future and aligning it to the “Domain Driven Architecture” story is absolutely must 🙂

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