The Iasa Architecture Competition

Our organization supports and works closely with the local (Seattle) chapter of Iasa, and when we get the chance, with the chapter in Ireland. This week the Seattle local chapter is kicking off an architectural competition and I am honored to be a mentor for one of the teams. The competition will end in January with scheduled milestones in November and December. The website for the competition is I plan to blog about the competition throughout, so stay tuned if you are interested.  

The competition opened to graduate and undergraduate students who formed teams and entered. Each team is assigned a mentor who does not/cannot create the artifacts. Rather, the mentor provides guidance and has the opportunity to teach hard and soft lessons. For me, IASA leadership encourages me to focus on the harder lessons – I suppose they have not had the opportunity to experience my honey badger side.

The teams had a meeting a few days ago (on the 18th of October) and the mentors had their meeting last night (on the 20th). During the meeting, the teams were provided with a scenario where they had to create a solution for as well as the expected artifacts/outcomes (and a simple set of templates). There will be an introductory email that goes out this week and we will have some form of meeting this week.

I don’t expect but hope that my team immediately does an Internet search or views my LinkedIn profile as soon as they have my contact information. My name was in the materials they received, but so far there have been no unexplainable views of my profile. Why is this important? Every architect I know will try and find out as much as they can about every stakeholder they work with so they can better understand the person’s perspective and motivation to help with communication and collaboration. Architects, if you are not doing this you may want to consider how you are practicing architecture.

I believe the first time we meet I will ask the team if they have everything they need to start designing the solution. It will be interesting whether they say yes or no, as it will be my second opportunity to teach. As a deliverable, the team will need to create a conceptual architecture. The scenario provided gives enough information to start understanding what the solution should include--but for me, as I looked, the scenario left me with more questions than answers.

Since I am a mentor and not the leader of the team, I will show them a number of tools I use to collect all of the information I need. I typically like to build a solution that maps to the requirements provided and also solves the business problem the organization is trying to solve or provide some tooling that exposes metrics to understand if the expected business value is being achieved. That said, I’ve worked with organizations where the executive sponsor felt that type of dashboard tooling may expose less-than-optimal results; it would not allow me to create a requirement around tooling the solution for KPI capture.

Since IT/IS stands for information technology / information systems, one of the deliverables also covers information and data flow. I believe that will provide another great opportunity to teach as I believe this will provide the opportunity to discuss regulatory and compliance concerns, mapping customer interactions with information flow and the underlying systems that support getting the right information to the right people at the right time. It also is the thing that gets CIOs, CTOs and CEOs fired if recent news headlines are any indicator.

Some of the areas that may be a bit more challenging to discuss with the team are why they would want to read strategy books, SEC 10k (and similar) reports, and industry-specific analysts. But, where there is a will…

More to come. 


Andy Ruth
SEI Mentor
Apprenticeship Program