This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Matt Valentine: Industry-Leading Technology and Solutions Architect, Microsoft Redmond -- Matt shares his insights on “Practical Architecture in Impractical Times”.

Enjoy,
Stephen Ibaraki

Matt ValentineMatt Valentine joined Microsoft in 2003 to focus on helping customers address business challenges by using world-class distributed-computing technologies. He has over 15 years of experience in architecting and delivering application, database, Web, and transaction systems solutions with major corporations, including AT&T, IBM, ATG, and Microsoft. Key distributed-application projects have included telecommunications OSS projects, distributed insurance solutions, and several of the world's largest travel e-commerce sites. Matt holds a BS in Computer Science from Bucknell University and works on the Application Platform Marketing team at the Microsoft world headquarters in Redmond, WA. You can contact him at mattva@microsoft.com.

See Matt's article, "Practical Architecture in Impractical Times" at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/architecture/aa902620.aspx

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

DISCUSSION:

Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:33:
Matt, can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Microsoft.
"....Specifically, I work with customers, partners and technical communities to improve Microsoft's understanding of their business and IT challenges so that we, as a product marketing and development organization, can ensure that we're providing customers with the best tool, framework and products that they need to grow, compete and be successful..."

:01:39:
What triggered your initial interest in technology?
"....For me, it all started with Lego blocks. The Lego blocks allowed me to learn the basics of engineering - levers, pulleys, gears, motors, etc. They really unlocked my imagination...."

:02:39:
What lessons can you share from your prior roles?
"...The biggest lesson that I would share is: Don't lose the source code.....Seriously the three major lessons I would share with up and coming IT professionals are: Time is the most important variable....Software is a still a mystery to many....IT is a science and an art...."

:05:53:
In your role, you work closely with customer and communities; what do you hear as the biggest obstacles IT organizations are challenged with?
"....In my experience working with customers and communities, the biggest challenge I hear of continues to be how to effectively drive alignment between business objectives and what IT can deliver...."

:07:50:
How would you describe your top innovative achievements in terms of the problems you were trying to solve, your solutions, and the impact it has today and into the future?
"....It's not uncommon for IT professionals, analysts, designers, developers and testers to all be using different tools and this increases the friction between development roles. With an integrated application development and management system like Visual Studio Team System and System Center, businesses can expect to increase productivity, as well as deliver more stable, secure, scalable and manageable business applications...."

:10:58:
Describe your current work and what you hope to achieve?
"...In my current role, I am focusing on creating a bridge between Microsoft and our customers and partners through effective community engagement. It is absolutely critical to stay plugged into the IT community through User Groups, professional associations, blogs, social media. Social media is emerging as a really interesting way to do this...."

:12:31:
Why is driving alignment between business and IT more important than ever?
"....The current economic environment with increased expectations of IT and fewer resources, the ability to drive alignment between business and IT has never been more critical than it is right now...."

:13:17:
How does the recession deliver unparalleled opportunities for innovation?
"....The fact is that in any economy, innovation is the foundation for success. While there is an overall slowdown in spending, organizations will still need to make smart investments in innovation to help them grow...."

:14:53:
Why does a practical approach to IT focus on balancing business, technology, and user goals with the objective of delivering near-term revenue and efficiency gains?
"....A practical approach to IT strategy and architecture seeks to balance business goals (like increasing share or customer satisfaction), technology goals (like increasing reliability and scalability) and user goals (like productivity and ease of use)...."

:15:58:
Can you summarize the key points in your article, "Practical Architecture in Impractical Times"?
"....Practical architecture focuses on finding an effective IT strategy that balances four areas:...Driving efficiency through effective IT practices....Finding new opportunities to grow the business....Creating new efficiencies to reduce costs....Helping all users increase productivity....[Editor note: See article: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/architecture/aa902620.aspx....]"

:18:29:
What action should be taken by those responsible for creating efficiencies to reduce costs?
"....Driving down the cost of IT by using things such as server virtualization and database consolidation to reduce the cost of running those server workloads....Driving down operational costs through improved business-process flow, automation, management, and optimization....."

:19:58:
What can be done to find new opportunities to grow the business?
"....IT initiatives that increase the quality, timeliness, usefulness and flow of information have a direct correlation to increased revenue...."

:20:31:
What are the best ways to help all users: developers, administrators and analysts increase productivity?
"....For IT professionals, this means creating effective collaboration-oriented architectures that help people create, distribute, analyze, and share information by using a combination of on-premise and off-premise software and services...."

:21:18:
How do you manage change?
"....By applying an agile development methodology to all projects in which work is performed in small, rapid increments with minimal planning and is aligned closely with customer needs and company goals, change can be managed more easily...."

:23:42:
Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how business executives and IT professionals can best prepare?
"....The biggest change I see is around the concept of cloud computing....I would advise IT professionals to skill-up and develop strategies to take advantage of this new and exciting area of IT...."

:26:28:
It sounds like you are talking about a combination of things like Windows Live, Azure, Business Productivity Online Suites, etc.?
"....The realm of cloud computing is loosely defined at best but those technologies are definitely included...."

:27:40:
What do you see as the three top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
"....Surviving in the current economic environment....The complexity of IT....Skills...."

:30:24:
What are the best job resources for IT professionals?
"....Having a network of professional contacts...Participating in user groups, professional associations and ensuring that you are effectively "building your brand" across your organization....."

:31:36:
What are some key lessons that you have learned that you want to pass on to enable the success of those in the audience?
"....Being able to quickly identify patterns and to create a model in my head that allows me to analyze and take action based on what I'm seeing. A certain amount of that is experience and a certain amount is education....Dedicate a certain amount of time to staying on top of the current political, technical and business issues....Never underestimate the importance of communication skills...."

:33:33:
Please provide any comments on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession. [http://www.IPThree.org]
"....The IT industry has evolved very quickly and as a result there's a lot of disparity between skills and competencies across the world. This is where a standard means of measurement and independent assurance of skills and competences can help. I think this is a valuable effort...."