Inside the mind of an enterprise architect

An inside look at what a Microsoft enterprise architect does to help move client organizations forward

In previous columns, I've touched on the idea of tapping a Microsoft enterprise architect to help make the most of your existing infrastructure. But to get a better sense of what that process entails, I thought it best to present you with an inside look at what these experts do.

For Microsoft services, the enterprise architect -- formerly known as an ITAP advisor -- fulfills a unique role. The enterprise architect analyzes all the technologies the client organization currently implements, not just the Microsoft solutions, assessing how these technologies may best be implemented, managed, or enhanced by new technologies to serve business goals.

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I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Dereszynski, an enterprise architect and principal consultant at Microsoft's Consulting Services. Dereszynski is currently providing strategy and architecture planning services to a large retailer, one of Microsoft's biggest customers.

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InfoWorld: When approaching a client or an organization that has requested a consultant, what's the first thing you assess in terms of that organization's IT strategy and the technologies it is currently using?

Michael Dereszynski: The assessment starts with a "business capability" assessment. We look at what kinds of things other organizations in the client's industry do. In my particular case it's with a retailer, so things like replenishment, inventory management, cash office management -- those kinds of functions. From that list of industry-specific capabilities, we then map those functions to products that currently fill that need, and then where they're executing in terms of maturity level and value to the business where they feel like they have a competitive advantage in that area.

InfoWorld: What do you do if a company is using a product that you don't particularly like and you really feel it would be better for them to switch over to a Microsoft version of that product -- say, they're using VMware's vSphere, and your passion is for Hyper-V. How do you accomplish the goal of advising without overstepping into selling?

Dereszynski: In my mind, it comes down to business value and specifically what they're trying to get out of the product. In some cases, we won't be looking to displace a product, we'll be looking to figure out whether they can leverage that product better than they currently are or whether there is a fit with some other investment they've made. So we try and stay out of the feature-by-feature comparison realm. That's a different role.

InfoWorld: So you wouldn't necessarily push a product. Even though you're officially there as a Microsoft representative, your goal is not to sell, but to help them work with the products that are already part of the organization's infrastructure?

Dereszynski: Absolutely. Simply focusing on credibility, it gives me better credibility if I can help them maximize investments they've made, regardless of the platform. I'm not there to be selling products. I'm there to help them take advantage of stuff that they currently have in place. This helps build relationships across the customer base. In many cases I'm actually doing silo breaking within the client itself. Two groups may be using completely different products that do the exact same kind of thing, and that's kind of an optimization we can help with as well.

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