Don’t look back: My journey from System Architect to Business Architect

Tom Nedwek,

There are System Architects and there are Business Architects. Two contrasting roles, two contrasting types of people. Completely different, right?

Not so much. At least, not all the time.

I am a Business Architect at Pega, but that wasn’t always my role. I began my career here as a Senior System Architect.  So how did I end up as a BA? And why?

TL;DR

A Pega Business Architect has one foot firmly in the business and the other foot firmly in technology. This combination can make the role very interesting for someone with a strong technical background who also enjoys the interpersonal side of solution delivery.

Well ... how did I get here?

My career started in the days when “computing” meant mainframes and “business programming” meant COBOL. As I followed IT’s evolution from there to where we are today, I spent most of my time slinging code. But through all those years I got most of my satisfaction from the look on users’ faces when my work made something hard suddenly easy for them, or when it gave them the ability to do something they couldn’t do before.

Telling that story when I interviewed at Pega must have resonated with them, because they brought me onboard as a Senior System Architect. And off I went to my first project.

Strange things sometimes happen on projects. If I remember correctly, we lost our BA three times in the course of a couple of months. After that third departure I offered to fill the BA gap until Pega found a replacement, and I filled it for over a month. At that point Pega found a potential resource and told the client, “We’ve found your BA”. The client replied, “Darn right you did. He’s been here for five weeks!”

That reply surprised me. First, I was surprised that they thought I had done so well … I had never thought of myself as a BA. Second, I was surprised to realize how much I had enjoyed filling that role. One of the things I see often (and value highly) at Pega is the opportunity to try something new – to go in a different direction, even if only for a while. So I asked Pega if they would let me try being a BA full-time. They did, leaving the door open for me to go back to the SA world if it didn’t work out.

That was about 10 years ago, and I’m happy to say that things have indeed worked out.

Could it be that I have found my home at last?

What do I do as a Pega BA? I spend a lot of time talking with my client about their business processes, about business problems and how we might solve them, and about how a good solution would look to them. So, I still get to see their eyes light up – particularly when they see the power that the Pega product brings them right out of the box. But I also get to have meaningful discussions with my more-technical colleagues; I even get to do real work on an application from time to time.

Jo Warne wrote a great post on the difference between a Business Analyst and a Pega Business Architect, and I’d like to expand on one thing she said: that a Pega Business Architect “is a hybrid of the industry standard Business Analyst and Business Architect roles.” This is true, but because Pega is a software company, Pega BAs also need to be conversant with technology … something that neither Business Analysts nor industry-standard Business Architects must do.

From my perspective, this makes the Pega Business Architect much more of what is often called a Solution Architect: we have one foot firmly in the business and one foot firmly in technology. It is, in fact, exactly this combination that makes me enjoy my role so much. Many companies fail to comprehend the value of a role that understands both of these worlds – Pega embraces it.

One more significant thing to consider: as low-code solution development becomes more prevalent, the combination of technical, analytical, and interpersonal skills is becoming more important daily. And these just happen to be the key skills of a Pega Business Architect.

Hello from the other side

And that’s how one System Architect became a Pega Business Architect.

If you’re someone who’s comfortable telling a computer what to do for you but also likes listening to what other people need a computer to do for them, perhaps you’d like to think about giving the BA role a try. It’s not an easy role, but I’ve never regretted taking it on.

Have you made the transition from System Architect to Business Architect? Do you agree with Tom? What advice would you give to others thinking about doing the same? Let me know what you think on Collaboration Center HERE.

 

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Don't Forget

About the Author

Tom Nedwek has seen his career morph from mainframe coding, through client-server and web-based development, through numerous architectural and methodological roles and is now exploring the business/technical landscape as a Lead Business Architect for Pega.