As a solution architect leader, a part of your role will be to consider your strategy for your organization. Building a solid foundation for a solution architecture team is essential to the future success of the team and the entire sales organization. The ability to grow and scale your organization will be dependent on defining repeatable processes, consistent training programs, tools, and strong operational cadence. The strength of the SA team will come from hiring the best talent, leveraging remote/virtual models, and creating a more sales-aligned organization. This suggested business plan gives you an outline of items to consider for your annual strategy development. The below comes from lessons that I learned from many talented leaders in the industry.
There are six main focus areas for a successful solution architecture strategy for the leadership team:
The SA team must possess the skills necessary to ensure that we are focused on customer outcomes. The solution architecture team will need clearly defined processes surrounding your solution deal validation. The solution deal validation allows for the SA team to have a clearly defined outcome in each opportunity.
The SA team sitting in the sales organization must also possess skills to participate in sales acceleration motions. In partnership with the sales organization, the solution architecture leadership team should work to create sales motions in which the SA team can have a clear role in driving these motions.
Having a clear communication plan with all teams through status reports, QBRs, and All Hands meetings is essential for ensuring that all team members are clear on the organization’s goals.
Engaging and interlocking with the many teams will ensure that the customer’s point of view is considered as new decisions are made. Having a regular engagement or interlocks with product teams will drive this awareness and allow for the SAs to understand product direction.
The solution architecture organization is always known to be the innovation center. You should consider building a culture of capturing and sharing innovation and best practices.
Every team needs strong leadership to continue to innovate and grow. This is established by developing world-class leaders. Every leader and team member must have a clear development plan that allows for clear accountability for the growth of the manager and the IC.
A culture of reward and recognition encourages team members to increase participation. Your leadership team should create a clear recognition program to drive behaviors sought by your organization.
A growing company needs partners to accelerate the growth of the business. With the assumption that there is a well-established partner ecosystem at your organization. The SA team should work closely with the partners to develop their businesses and provide technical expertise on your solutions.
All solution architecture leaders must recognize that they are part of the business and must run their teams as such. Each SA leader will manage a scorecard that will address key performance indicators (KPI) and other success metrics.
A well-run organization has key performance indicators that go beyond sales attainment. In an SA organization, many KPI’s align with how each team member and leader is working towards creating a leading organization.
Every SA organization must continue to learn. This will ensure that the SA team is up to date on your latest product updates and other complementary solutions required to make our product successful. A quarterly training plan will be co-created with cross-functional teams to ensure we address top requirements.
Metric tracked: Hours completed in quarter (assume 20–30 hours per quarter)
The SA’s role in ensuring that an opportunity is tracking technically is a must. This will also assist in defining the win rate for opportunities.
Metric tracked: % of opportunities with solution validation during the design sales stage that are forecasted in quarter.
Talent Retention (for Leaders)
Talent is a crucial asset at any company. Solution architecture talent is even more critical due to the specialized skill sets they develop. The management team must recognize this as a critical metric for success.
Metric tracked: Attrition under the percentage considered standard for your industry.
SA General Pipeline
In territories where SAs are assigned to reps and territories, your SA should be considered also responsible for driving the pipeline.
Metric tracked: Number of opportunities that solution engineers above a certain number generated.
Talent and Compensation
Recruiting and developing talent will be a top priority for a growing organization.
For an organization seeking to grow quickly, you will need to create a consistent and rapid approach to hiring new talent. Creating hiring blitz days is one example of interviewing many candidates in a shorter amount of time. Other approaches include having a predefined interview rubric to ensure consistent interview questions.
SAs continue to want to be rewarded for the work they do. Having solution architects align closely to an on-target earnings (OTE) that consist of a variable that is tied to sales metrics will be a driver of sales success. Consider your strategy for how you will reward your SAs in your strategy.
An individual without a clear development plan does not feel like their leadership invests in them. Retention then becomes an issue. This can be mitigated by rolling out a bi-annual development plan review. The bi-annual development plan should include: skills development (both technical and human), manager support needed, success measures, and target completion dates.
Study after study highlights the importance of a diverse workforce. It does not end there; the team must also foster an inclusive culture. This can be done by hosting “Listening Sessions,” Manager Inclusive Behavior roundtables, and many more activities that will ensure that leaders and all team members are conscious of creating a culture that people feel safe in.
An SA team can be the catalyst to success in a sales organization. Creating repeatable processes and well-defined metrics to align with you can ensure that you create an organization that can grow and scale effectively.
Note: SA, SE, SC, PreSales are terms that are all used interchangeably and refer to the same role I am describing in this document.
Marjorie Abdelkrime is Head of Multi-Cloud at VMware. She is a believer of "Starting with Why." Her "why" is to inspire and uplift others to shatter boundaries so that they become impactful contributors of society. Connect with Marjorie on LinkedIn.