Do you need a program architect?

The quick answer is often no, but the failure rate of large transformation programs says otherwise

With larger programs, there are three challenges where you would benefit from a program architect or a technical program manager.

  1.     Alignment of IT-solutions done by different streams in the program
  2.     Alignment  of new solutions with existing systems
  3.     Alignment of IT-solutions with changed business solutions. 

The obvious question to the program manager and the sponsor is to ask who in the program is responsible for these three tasks. The program manager and the stakeholder should be accountable for these three alignments, but in a larger programs they doesn't have time to do the work.

This is why we need a program architect and/or technical program manager who carries out the task.

Alignment of different IT-solutions

A small or medium size project consists of one system with integration to other systems. It's not always simple, but the complexity from a solution perspective is reasonably manageable.

With a large program where you have several different solutions, and when to amount of work is so huge, you often separate the work in different streams. Each stream have a separate sub-project manager with a set of deliveries. 

The challenge here is the coordination of each solution so that they fits together and scope is not overlapping or part are missing from scope. Some one else does that is a rather common thing.

Alignment of legacy IT

The second challenge is assure that the new solution will work together with other legacy stuff, that the solutions needed for changes in legacy is taken care of. 

In the example above is the a large need for changes in the existing Billing solution and changes to this platform is within the scope of  existing application management. To make a good enough solution acceptable for both the program and existing line organization with legacy systems is  both a technical and political task.

Alignment with business

The third challenge is the most important if you need business value out of your program. You have to assure that the necessary changes to organization and processes work with the new IT-systems. 

Another twist of this question is to align the IT-solution to the business value. You can make everything with custom development, nothing is impossible. Is it worth it is the $1,000,000 question. Often, you say yes to features that doesn't add value to the business.