Effective Solution Architecture Is Designing How Multiple Systems Link Together From The 10,000 Foot View.
Gill Walker is a multi-award winning CRM trainer, educator, and mentor. Gill is a Microsoft Dynamics 365 / ClickDimensions expert, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and a Platform Solution Architect with 30 years of experience. In 2021, she was the President of NSW Chapter of Professional Speakers Australia.
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Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:07
Once upon a time, there were millions of businesses struggling every day they wasted time, effort and resources on repetitive tasks that added no value. One day, the better automation podcast by PROCESIO came to help them find a way. Because of this, these businesses save time, reduce costs, innovate, and make better decisions because of that these businesses grow, scale, and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz, and I'm your host that Better Automation podcast by PROCESIO where I interview the world's top experts and share their very best ideas on how to improve automation in your business's processes, and life. My guest today is Gill Walker, Gill is a multi award winning CRM trainer, educator, and mentor, Gill is a dynamics 365 / Clickdimensions expert, a Microsoft certified trainer, and a platform Solution Architect with 30 years of experience in 2021. She was the president of NSW chapter of professional speakers, Australia, Gill, how are you today?
Gill Walker 1:27
I am fine. And it's awesome to be here. As always, thank you for inviting me.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 1:33
It's my honor. It's my privilege. I'm really excited about this. And let's begin with the very very, very basic part, which is what is solution architecture. If someone wants to understand it on a more concrete or simpler way of explanation, what would you say?
Gill Walker 1:51
Solution architecture is designing a system. So it tends to be from the 10,000 foot view down to maybe the 1000 foot view and a Solution Architect will put together how different systems linked together, they will also design how the system overall works for all of the different groups of end users using it. Obviously, I'm answering that question from a very CRM centric standpoint, because that's what I am. Although I suspect that a lot of that is also true for a much broader range of systems. So pure developers, and I have to admit, the term developer is one that I hate. But pure developers seem to have a very small, so they're having the the the one foot the two foot the 10 foot view, where the solution architect has the 1000 under 10,000 foot view of how the system will work for the end user.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 3:11
Thank you. So if I understood you correctly, it's a classic dilemma of people be in so in their work, or the developers being in front of the tree, that they see a tree and they don't see the forest, while a Solution Architect will see the whole thing because I don't know and correct me if I'm wrong about this. Often, when you're optimizing the full system, you might need to sub optimize parts of it or not create constraints are something that are working too much for the whole system or too well. And therefore, if each person tries to optimize each part of the link without caring for the rest, they might create things that make no sense overall, but make sense in their small corner of the world that they understand correctly.
Gill Walker 3:55
I think there's certainly a lot of truth in what you've said there. I think also developers in general, and I'm doing some very, very broad brushstrokes here. And I realized that some of your listeners will be the exception that proves the rule. But in general, the developers, those people that are scrambling around in the very low level of detail, tend to be more junior earlier on in their careers. And one of the side effects of that is the ability to say that's fine, I may, whatever that means. But I'm not developing for me, I'm developing for an administrator, a sales person, a call center agent, and a whole range of other people who have roles and lives that are a million miles from the developer in question. One of the things that I encourage people on my courses on my training to do is to wear three. And sometimes the number increases, but three hats when they're doing development. So the three hats I asked them to wear, the first one is the one that they were quite naturally. So that's for the developer of today who's got a requirement, and they need to deliver it, typically with a deadline that might be a bit on the tight side. So that side that hat, most people in question can wear quite comfortably. The second hat I asked them to put on is the hat of the end user. So who will be using this form this report this, whatever it is that you're working on, and what are their needs once skill level, and so on. The third hat is one that I think really takes people aback. And that is going back again to the technical world, but not the technical world of today. But imagine that they are a developer, a support person joining this project in six or 12 months time, and being asked to do an update, whatever that might mean, to the piece of work that they're working on right now. And a lot of developers find that three hat, and occasionally it becomes more than three. But that three hat idea, quite challenging. And I think I could bet a pretty decent sum of money, that the technician joining the project in six or 12 months time, is a whole idea that they has not even crossed their whatever at all. In previously,
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 7:19
I love that it's taken on different perspectives, or I view that hats in order to not make mistakes that will be avoidable if you just take the time to think and have that 10,000 feet view of the whole system. And I love it and to ask you about your trainings, because some people might have an objection where they think my personality is not like that. Maybe this is not for everybody. So do you do you believe there are specific personality types that you can tell some of the traits that they will recognize themselves and say, this will be a perfect upscaling for me, or anybody with enough dedication can be, you know, take their careers and their usefulness and ROI on their time to the next level by not only being developers but taking it to the solution, architect level and becoming what you're talking about.
Gill Walker 8:20
I think anyone who's prepared to put in the time and effort and do the work, I think that's key. We all know people out there in the world who yes, they'd like to be a solution architect, they'd like to be a senior manager with the corner office and the seven eight figure salary and so on. But do they want to put in the work and the work in their own time? Are they prepared to do a full day's work, and then go home, whatever that means enough COVID work from home environment but go home and get the books out start studying, work through watch videos, put together some structure with a long term view of achieving that now, certainly, there are some people who do it. I by no means am I knocking everyone. But there are also a lot of people who don't understand the importance of the effort that it takes to get from where you are to where you want to go to
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 9:38
thank you and any business at which stage do you believe they should add the solution architecture skills to their portfolio of competitive skills or can someone think me as an entrepreneur with a small team? If I take your training I will take things to the next level is this is not only for Corporation gyms are for big companies. Is this like a correct assumption? Is that useful in that way? Or should it be more left to the corporate world and the people within their own office just doing this all day for big projects,
Gill Walker 10:14
I think there is a role in the social training that I provide for a lot of people. Having said that, my training is very dynamics 365 CE focused. So if you're not looking at becoming more skilled within that space, you probably wouldn't get that much from the training that I provide. Whereas if you are in the dynamic space, I am sure you would get a lot of value in the training that I provide. But of course, as with any training, just coming along on the nominated day, and sitting in a classroom, or even the other side of a camera is not going to get you very far. Again, it comes down to being active, putting effort into the training, doing the labs, asking questions being engaged, training to be well, effective training has to be very active.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 11:30
I agree 100%. And let's discuss tools. And of course, Microsoft Dynamics, he, as you mentioned, is a very powerful tool. But on a more principled thinking base. If someone understands the skills that you offer, can they use it on any tool, or what is about Microsoft Dynamics, that makes it the chosen tool that you have invested everything into
Gill Walker 11:57
The majority of my training is hands-on in Dynamics, having said that, a lot of the stories that I tell and material that's more likely to end up in my keynotes is very relevant to a very broad range of people. Some of the stories I tell relate to my own experience in my company, with finding people to support me with the website. And I found I fell into similar traps over the website, that I see my clients falling into with Dynamics, or clickdimensions. And it comes down to not understanding the importance of understanding the technology. So while I don't expect every employee of a client organization to do full blown training, I do feel it is very important for the organization as a whole to keep the project ownership internal to their organization. But not just to say they're keeping it internal, but to give the people that are therefore making decisions, sufficient training. So they've got the skills to understand the impact of the decisions that they make.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 13:27
Thank you. And I love this, what you're speaking about, but I have to ask you something. A lot of people within the solution architecture space or digital transformation, or automation will say actually somewhat something a bit different. And I don't know if they don't mean something different, or if they mean the same, they will say, look, first focus on your people, and then having them aligned with the why and where the goals and all that. And then design processes that work for those people. And technology is only a minor supportive part of the whole process. And it comes last and it's not so important. And they downplay it and all that. Do you agree with this or not?
Gill Walker 14:13
I do agree with that. However, within that technology space, so even if it is only, let's say 20% of the whole, we are going to work with that technology. And one of the things that I see as being problematic is when people make a decision within the technology. So while I'm completely acknowledging the process and people as being more important and sitting above the technology with within that technology space, if you're going to make a decision. For example, I need you to automate this Whatever this might be in the context, you've got to understand the impact of that decision. And that means understanding to some level the technology and understanding that, yes, we could do it this way. But we could also do it that way. And this gives us a, b, c, that gives us a D, let's look and do some pros and cons. So I'm not throwing the people and the processes out, although I am from the particular conversation that we're having.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 15:39
Thank you. That's a very wise and very clear answer. And you mentioned a lot about how your education process is hands on, there are a lot of like, specific projects or exercises people should do in order to become not only proficient but very knowledgeable about Microsoft Dynamics and all that. What did you notice in the education space that you thought is wrong? Is a wrong way of approaching learning this kind of skill? And why did you set all down on your own way of educating? And how would you describe how do you educate executives or people, developers,
Gill Walker 16:23
You have no plans for the rest of the week? because I could talk forever about this. So Okay. Let's try to keep it reasonably brief. And let's look at mistakes. So one mistake that I see, and this is a mistake on the part of the participants in training, is what I call screenshot surfing. So if I've got a series of hands on labs that are do this type this, whatever, just going from this screenshot, right, make my screen look like that. Now I make my screen look like that. And now I make my screen look like that. Not reading what's in between, and certainly not paying attention to the why. So that's one big mistake on the part of participants, others are reasonably straightforward. Another mistake on the part of the participants is when they have a question, asking the person sitting next to them. Now, if we assume that the person sitting next to them, whether they're from the same company, or a different company, depending on the training is probably equally new to the whole, all of the stuff, that's why they're on that course, on the balance of probability, who is likely to give you the better answer, the person sitting next to you that might have five minutes more experienced than you, or the person leading the session, who in my case, has got 20 years more experience. So they're probably the two main things I see on the side of the participants. If we look on the side of people planning training, and I speak on the seventh sense of while it might be dynamics training, it might be CRM training, it could even be it training, depending on who I'm speaking to. But if we look on the side of planning, training, trying to put this much training into this much time, so people are put under a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, and just either aren't able to complete it, or complete it so quickly, that it's gone. By the time they leave the room. Another mistake again, on the part of people planning training, is not acknowledging that training itself is a skill. So you shouldn't just go and find somebody who knows a little bit more than you, which may of course be very little about the topic in question and say, Fine, you're not doing anything on Monday. Can you go and train those people? Because they are almost certainly lacking in the communication and B transmission skills. So how do we take this knowledge that I know that's in here, and give it to you so that you've really got it not? You've heard it once, but it's gone in and you're then able to apply it to your world in whatever you're doing. Another mistake is I did tell you I keep going all week.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 19:59
I'm not perfect, I just want to ask this because I love what you're doing. I want people to not have any obstacles on their mind that intimidates them from the process, because, you know, it uses a lot of very great, you know, terms that might feel intimidating to some busy executive who doesn't have the time and like you said, would be used to learning under pressure and all that. So to ask you is solution architecture? Common sense that is not so common, so it's easy to understand it?
Gill Walker 20:34
Common sense is anything other than common.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 20:37
Yeah, that's what I mean, or is it counterintuitive, where the instincts of the people are totally misaligned with what needs to be done,
Gill Walker 20:47
I actually think a lot of it is counterintuitive. And that is further fed by people have been doing things wrongly for some time. And then you get into the environment of, well, when I was alive, it was done like this. So this will do. This actually reminds me many, many, many years ago, I'm older than I look, I had a job that required me going into operating theatres occasionally. And one morning, I got down into the theater suite, got changed into these really sexy blue airchecks pajamas that everybody has to wear in theater, and went out the other side of the changing room. And there was an almighty route, the sword that you should never hear in a professional environment. And this route, the short version of it was the consultant had come in, and had found that, I think a registrar so significantly junior person had cancelled an operation that morning, because he was supposed to be doing the operation, the reg. And he'd been up all night dealing with an aneurysm. And he took the call, I don't feel able to do this open heart surgery, because I've been up all night. So I've cancelled it. And what the consultant was doing with you, when, when I was your age, we thought nothing about staying up all night, we could do it 234 nights in a row, your verbeck, Mac, Mac, Mac, Mac, Mac. And the does seem to be a lot of that that Sure. In history, and whether it's 40 years ago, like that was at the time, or whether it's longer ago or less doesn't really matter, just because it used to be done. Like that doesn't mean it's the right way to do it. And I think we all should be open to change. And to understand why. If somebody is saying I don't think this is the right way to do it, why are they saying that? Listen to them, look at the alternatives.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:14
Thank you. And then I have to ask you something, because I spoke to some digital transformation experts who say, don't design processes as a from scratch to design the most optimal way of doing it, because you already have something that is happening or working or like you said, I mean, I don't know if that's the extent of what you're speaking about. That's how it's already been done, improve based on that have that as the skeleton for improvement, rather than beginning with the ideal way things should be done and implementing that because there'll be a lot of resistance, a lot of old habits will come back to confuse people and all that. Do you agree with one of these perspectives? How do you approach it?
Gill Walker 23:57
I probably agree with both of them. And it would depend. So I would look at the process as is. And I'd start asking questions. So for example, why do want to change that process? Which bits of the process are working? What bottlenecks do we have in the process? So there are three of my questions at that level. Because if the process is close to working, and it's more a case that now we've got a process that works using whatever we were using today, we're moving to dynamics, and we need to make it work in dynamics, keeping it largely the same. And just taking advantage of dynamics, in most instances is the sensible way of going. But if this process So what we've got today is error prone, and time consuming. And and and taking an error prone time consuming process and dumping it into Dynamics is probably not very sensible, even though the users might like the error prone, time consuming process. So, as always, there's it's not one size fits all.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 25:27
I love this, like you said, this conversation could go on for weeks and weeks on end. So if people want to learn from you to have you as their educator and their mentor, can you speak about the courses you have the services? Where can people find out more, and I'll make sure to write at least you know, some of your links in the description.
Gill Walker 25:49
Awesome. Thank you is this, let's start with the easy bit, if you want to find our website, it is opsis.com.au that is Opie s i s.com.au. I am normally Australian based the courses that we provide a very wide range of both flexible training, virtual training in person training across the whole of the dynamics curriculum, whether you are an end user or a slightly more senior manager. For example, one of our courses is business intelligence with Microsoft Dynamics 365. So that is not what I would call a level one course, you need to be a competent user, before I'd be comfortable selling you the dynamics 365, the business intelligence for Dynamics 365 course, I also provide a range of training that are specifically designed to help you achieve success in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 C E exams. So very happy to talk to anybody who wants help in the training space, help that will take them from where they are, which of course is always here to there. Another course that I offer, and I'm not aware of anyone else offering this is a train the Dynamics CRM trainer. And that is not focused on the technology at all. That is taking your power users and enabling them to get the information that they've got between their ears, and transmit it to the people that need it.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 27:54
Thank you very much. This was an enriching and enlightening conversation. I'm excited. And I have been excited about this episode. And before we finish, of course, I have to speak about Progressio, which is what makes this whole journey and experience and podcasts possible processes the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. Even in premise. You can request access to a totally free firstname.lastname@example.org. And when people have or anybody who has a lot higher needs, you can get a very generous 50% discount code. You can use it when checking out better 50 off one word capital letters. Use it anytime more information in the description. Thank you again, Jill. I wish you a great day there in Australia if you're there. No I'm
Gill Walker 28:52
In the UK at the moment. But yes
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 28:55
I am. Thank you and I wish you a great day.
Gill Walker 28:58
Thank you Aziz