Documentation Trivializes Everything

June 5, 2017

Several years ago my colleague Dan wrote about how we Should Not Get Distracted by the Document. Dan made the case that architecture documents are tools to figure out architecture, not the ex-post-facto results of architecture design you’ve already done in less disciplined ways (verbal debates, email chains, “brainstorming” and other adhoc, document-less activities).

But I am going to one-up Dan right now by declaring that focusing on documentation absolutely trivializes what we do as architects. Read more

Know Your Personality

May 22, 2017

5 years ago I wrote that the best personality to have in architecture consulting was the “Type A” – a personality type characterized by ambition, high energy, competitiveness, and thought to be susceptible to stress and heart disease. The whole Type A/B model of personalities isn’t a very reliable one (it was concocted by cardiologists in the 1950s), but I went with it since it is still in colloquial use, and was close enough to my meaning.

This is what they call “Passive-Aggressive”

The point was to stress the importance of being aggressive and/or assertive at the right times during your IT consulting work, although this is not always the right way to be. Knowing when to turn on your Inner Hulk, or your Inner Milton Waddams (the wimpy guy with the red stapler in the movie, Office Space) depends on where your baseline is.

So here is some wildly conflicting personality advice that will or will not apply directly to you.




Just Say No!

The Yes Man who strives so hard to help and be helpful, that he takes on too much work needs to practice “No”. This type of person has typically built up so much credibility with the client and his peers, that he has nothing to lose by consciously under-doing it on the job. Its also a mark of maturity to not over-commit, but to be deliberative and circumspect about a task or a project before setting an expectation that it will be done. Also – the Yes Man is the one at most risk of agreeing to do so much ancillary stuff that he may actually fail at this core responsibilities. For example, if an architect agrees to too many project management-type tasks, he risks failing at his core architecture activities.

Just Say Yes!

“For the “I’m not sure…isn’t that Karen’s role?” type of person, who needs to step up and start automatically saying “Yes” to tasks assigned to him and requests made of him: do it! While I would much rather coach a Yes Man into saying “No” more often, the No Man is not completely un-coachable. Often a consultant of ours who acts like this just doesn’t understand the boundaries of a role, and once educated, will begin to expand their horizons, and begin taking on more and different types of tasks that will bring value to the client.”

Stop Talking (so fast)!

If you are “chatty” or tend to talk over others, observe that in yourself and strive to shut up and allow silence. This is especially important in our role as consultants, since we so often facilitate debates, discussions and other types of meetings. Being comfortable with silence, allowing pregnant pauses, is another sign of maturity. Its also effective in allowing a voice to the more passive participants in your conversations.

Talk More!

If you are “mousey” by nature, own it and consciously amp it up! If this is you, and you begin talking so much that it feels uncomfortable, then you’re probably talking just enough. Especially if you are running meetings, you need to both keep the group’s energy up, and keep the agenda moving. Talking more does that.

Don’t Be So Curious!

The old “Type B” personality was not necessarily passive or wimpy, but was more curious and reflective about things. This is the Curious Guy. Although being mindful and deliberative is an advantage in IT consulting (and other professions), getting so intensely interested in a problem, new business or new technology domain is a bad idea, if it distracts from your primary objective. Again – if you know you tend this way, then consciously try to ignore any Shiny New Intellectual Object and get on with the task at hand.

Be More Curious!

Lastly – the person who isn’t naturally attentive to every detail will often not inquire enough about a problem he is charged with solving. Just as with the No Man, the Non-Curious Man (or Woman) is probably a disadvantageous personality type in IT consulting, though it too can be coached. The basic advice for this type of person is to be relentlessly curious and inquisitive about every aspect of a problem or solution, and strive to know as much about it as possible. Just as with other techniques to “overdo it”, this one will land the Non-Curious Person right about where they should’ve been.


I’ve given all this advice to different people over the years, informally and in employee reviews. Its my job as a mentor and manager to know these personality traits, spot them in my people, and coach them toward a “magical mean”, of sorts. Its also my responsibility to take the same feedback from my peers, managers, and even loved ones – and to aim at the same thing myself.

Regis Sets Course on a 5-year IT Strategy

February 27, 2017

We are thrilled to share some public mention with Regis college about the great and rewarding work we’ve done together recently to define their IT strategy! Text of the press release is below:

Regis, a leading Catholic university in Greater Boston, launches a long-term information technology strategy with the help of Systems Flow, Inc., a minority, woman-owned consulting firm based in Rhinebeck, NY, which specializes in IT & business architecture. Read more

April 2017 – Investigative Architecture Training

February 2, 2017

We are pleased to announce our next Investigative Architecture Training which will be held in Lincoln, RI on April 13 & 14, 2017.

Read more

What’s My Function…Or Is It Non-Function?

January 27, 2017

One of the substantial differences between an architect and a software developer is regarding requirements. In general, a developer is concerned with functional requirements while an architect is concerned with non-functional requirements. Of course, there is some overlap between each requirement type and the type of person focusing on each, but that is generally how it’s divided. Read more

The Art of the Recap

November 7, 2016

If a meeting occurs, but nobody sends a recap, did the meeting happen?

We have blogged about the importance of a meeting recap, but spoke more of the practice of using meeting recaps and less of the art of creating a good recap. We do have internal guidelines that we follow, but through our mentoring process we also attempt to build expertise beyond the template and guidelines. This is my attempt to share some of that company lore. Read more

“Who” Creates Risk

September 15, 2016
Costello: Well then who's on first? Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow's name. Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first. Abbott: Who.
Costello: The first baseman. Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy playing... Abbott: Who is on first!

Today’s blog is triggered by the entry authored by my friend and colleague, Ben Sommer, reflecting on the laziness of describing architecture with pronouns. In our roles as architects, IT strategists, or just technical leaders guiding successful project implementations we frequently find ourselves defining plans and parceling out tasks.

Read more

Don’t Hide Behind Pronouns!

September 1, 2016

“Ya know…we send them stuff”

Let’s admit first off what none of us want to admit – that most of us have forgotten what exactly a “pronoun” is…

Its basically any use of “you”, “we”, “them”, “they”, etc. – unspecific references to people or actors in a conversation or past event being discussed.

Believe it or not – the lazy use of pronouns is a huge problem in the field of IT architecture & design, and even business analysis.


  • Bob is a project architect at a college facilitating a workshop for the design of an interface between two systems
  • In describing the current flow of information between the two systems, Bob states that “We send them a file nightly”.

Who is “we” and “them”? Bob needs to specifically state it. Read more

Bank Secrecy Act Compliance

May 6, 2016

Map of Countries Under Sanction by the US Government

Compliance with regulations coming from governments and from industry associations is a big problem for our clients – whatever the industry. In working with several banks over the years, we’ve become adept at identifying gaps and designing solutions for one of the most wide-reaching regulations for such organizations: the Bank Secrecy Act – aka “BSA”.

The BSA was passed by the US Congress nearly 50 years ago. It stipulates reporting and auditing that banks must perform on themselves and their customers to identify potential money laundering, terrorist financing, and other criminal financial activities. Its requirements have only grown over the years – especially since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US – when the federal government heightened requirements on banks and financial institutions to “partner” with it in fighting terrorists and their financial networks. Read more

Open Group San Francisco 2016

January 15, 2016

We are happy to announce that after a brief hiatus, we will be presenting again at the Open Group Conference, this year in San Francisco, January 25-27. Ben Sommer and I will be presenting in the Architecture Methods and Techniques track. 

The theme of this conference is “How Enterprise Architecture is empowering companies to build better systems by architecting for digital business strategies.” Read more

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