It’s been a while since I wrote a professional development post and I’ve been somewhat inspired by the MVP Summit to blog about my personal experiences.  So here we go:

What it’s like working as a Pre-Sales Solutions Architect?

First off, a Pre-Sales Solutions Architect is involved in vetting opportunities, establishing the technology architecture in which the commercials are based upon, and presenting the solution to internal stakeholders and customers.  Good pre-sales architects work in a team and have excellent contacts both internally and with their partner vendors.  Yes it can be very process driven, and there’s a lot commercially riding on a proposal but it’s what keeps the steam engine rolling in an organisation and it does have its own satisfaction if done correctly.  So listen on if you’re still intrigued.

Now let me break down what my day to day looks like.  I spend my mornings catching up with regional account managers, and my practice manager in qualifying opportunities for fit.  Fit in my case, means does this opportunity align with one of our capabilities.  If the answer is yes, and the business case is strong and the technological alignment is good we pursue the opportunity.

Next I spend the next day or so reviewing all available documentation, and performing research.  Research includes reviewing all available commercial off the shelf add-ons that may assist or reduce implementation overhead or risk, researching the prospect and performing a SWOT analysis.  Strengths and Weaknesses of our capabilities/organisation (references of prior work in the domain, expertise required to deliver), Opportunities (such as does the client have the appetite to transition to the cloud), and Threats (from competitors, or changes in the technology landscape for example).

Once I’ve collated all required information, I create a ROM (rough order of magnitude) estimate.  This is usually given as a range (say between $1m and $1.25m plus licensing and fixed costs).  It is used internally so that we can size up an opportunity and give an early indication to customers and our delivery teams.  If the indications are positive, it also serves as an indication of what the bid budget will look like (this is the amount of resources we can use to pursue an opportunity).   The information is provided to the appropriate internal stakeholders, who sign off and the opportunity is given the official go ahead.  Your company’s internal process may be different, but generally speaking most organisations have similar sales processes.

Then the hard work begins 🙂  Understanding the requirements, I then move to building a detailed estimation (to the dollar) and solution architecture.  You cannot do this in complete isolation, and expertise will be relied upon – serving both as a sanity check, and also to challenge your assumptions and biases.

Experts may include individuals who have significant experience in either the platform technology, or the business domain or both if you are lucky.  They provide valuable input in helping with your detailed solution architecture and your fully built cost model.

Once all information has been gathered, analysed, and a vision for the project has been established, the next steps involve several rounds of internal quality assurance and peer review.

If you’re still following this article, you’ve done well and i’ll give you a tip about peer reviews.  If this is the only thing you take away from this article it’s this… expect to be challenged on all assumptions, and the harder you are challenged, the better you’ll be as a pre-sales architect.  This is the ultimate acid test of your proposal, and don’t be afraid to admit when your awesomely fantastic ideas are actually really dumb 🙂

Now at this point, you have all the required artefacts to start on a formal proposal.  There are various courses available on formal business case writing, and proposal writing.  Take advantage of these courses whenever you can, as it is an important part of your professional development as a pre-sales architect.  When writing a proposal build a compelling story, talk to the problem rather then the technology, and show confidence in your ability to solve your clients problems.  If you’ve done your work right, and everyone including the sales team the bid managers have done the right thing you’re on track for a successful proposal.

In the next blog, i’ll talk about customer presentations and demonstrations.  Until then, please drop me a comment if you agree / disagree, or found this article of any interest to you.