Implementation is vital when it comes to the Microsoft Power Platform, and for a Solutions Architect, the responsibility of successfully delivering a solution is in your hands – which is no small matter!
We spoke with Solutions Architect, Chris Clark, to find out what this role looks like day-to-day, explore the challenges it presents, and talk a little bit about his favourite project.
I joined Tisski a little over a year ago now, in March 2021. Before starting here, I had been working in the education sector delivering Dynamics solutions to universities but was looking to move on.
After speaking to several members of the senior management team and other architects at Tisski, it was pretty obvious that they were something special. Although Tisski is continuously expanding it still has that family feel to it, with a key focus on people – which is what I was searching for.
There is a great team of architects here at Tisski, which is divided into Technical Architects and Solutions Architects, with each person having a unique experience and focus in different areas.
The role of a Solutions Architect is to take responsibility for the whole solution being delivered, which includes providing technical governance, ensuring best practice is adhered to and advising the team on the best way to achieve any given requirements.
No Power Platform implementation is an island, and there are usually many component parts to it; as a Solution Architect it’s often a case of asking, ‘what do you have to work with?’ and ‘what are you trying to achieve?’, then deciding how it can be done.
The Power Platform itself is huge, it changes almost daily and presents amazing opportunities to transform businesses. However, the platform also presents opportunities for bad architectural decisions to be made with the best intentions. It is our job to keep on top of these changes to ensure the most robust solution is delivered in the most cost-effective way.
That is an interesting question, the short answer being there is no such thing as a typical week – but the longer answer might be something like:
Monday - Review of a high-level design document with a Functional Consultant
This would involve walking through the design to review any queries or conclusions based on the customer requirements. We have a team of highly experienced Functional Consultants and Developers, and the Solution Architects role is to keep an eye on the bigger picture rather than the smaller details. It’s mainly a peer review session.
Tuesday - Customer strategy meetings
It’s important when working on larger programmes, with multiple projects, that the customer maintains control of the overall strategy of their implementation. On any programme of work there are operational and strategic decisions to be made. Operational decisions are regarding the requirements and functionality, whereas strategic decisions refer to technology choices and approaches. An architect can help the customer make those strategic decisions.
Wednesday – Deployments
Deployments are where agreed changes are deployed to production systems. They can be complex and have a high impact if any problems arise from them. While architects don’t always run the deployments, they are generally on hand throughout the deployment process to help and advise in creating deployment processes and automated pipelines.
Thursday – Mentoring
This is a great part of the job as there is always a constant stream of questions from a variety of different people, which can relate to any part of the project. As a Solutions Architect, it’s important we help refine certain choices to facilitate any decision-making, as with the Power Platform there’s often several ways to achieve any given result.
Friday – What’s new?
Microsoft’s incremental improvement strategy means new platform features are constantly appearing – our role is to decide whether they are ready for inclusion in customer implementations.
It involves taking new functionality and implementing it into a trial environment in a small proof of concept. This will tell us if it’s ready for use or highlight any limitations, allowing us to make an informed decision.
There are several aspects of the role which are great, but it’s really all about problem-solving. Most architects want to be given a problem, with the relevant requirements and domain, to then show how best to deliver it with the Power Platform.
With some of the more complex problems, it may not be quite as simple. I often find myself waking up at three in the morning with the solution presenting itself. When solving a complex problem, unconscious cognition – the processing of perception, memory, learning, thought, and language without being aware of it – is a key factor. Once you have absorbed all the facts about a certain piece of work, the problem will often solve itself thanks to the unconscious mind.
The biggest challenge is also one of the greatest things about the Power Platform – the pace of the platform changes. It wasn’t so long ago I knew everything upside down and backwards about the platform; today this is not realistic, and the concept of specialists is starting to emerge. There are so many new things becoming available that can truly transform a business, and there are several ways to achieve any given result.
The great thing about Tisski is the architects operate as a team, and between us, we cover all bases. It’s easy to spend a brief time with another architect to discuss implementation strategy and come to a design decision.
I currently work across a programme of work at NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). They have multiple business areas using Microsoft Dynamics and their usage is increasing. There are usually three or four projects ongoing at any one time.
I have spent a large amount of time working with their technology team, helping them put together an overall strategy for managing their multiple implementations. It is hugely rewarding watching their team take on the ideas presented and incorporate them into their own strategy.
I can’t believe I’m going to answer this honestly! Quite some time ago I ran pubs; I really, really wanted a career change. I hated the unsociable hours and wanted to do something completely different. I had no idea what and really was struggling to find another path. Walking down the street one day I thought, ‘what did you want to be growing up? A wizard. What is the modern-day equivalent to a wizard? A computer programmer.’
This was back in the 1990s when programming was somewhat of a black art. Later that day, I quit my job and started a programming course – my path was set!
Check out our ‘Work for Tisski’ page, where you’ll find all our available vacancies and more detail on what it’s like to work for us.