Solutions Architect?

From first principles, a business solution (assuming that one does exist) should look like it is the answer to the original business problem, although it may not be the only possible answer.  The role of the Solutions Architect, hired by an organisation with a business problem, is to develop a solution, or set of alternative solutions, to solve that business problem.  However, before developing any solution, it is imperative that the problem be understood, and so the first and arguably the most important prerequisite to developing the solution is for the Solutions Architect to adopt a business analyst perspective and apply systematic deconstruction techniques to the problem as presented.

Once analysed, the business problem is made available to the scrutiny of the stakeholders and can then be agreed by all.  This stage in the development of a solution is of utmost importance because there is always room for misunderstanding … and it’s possible that the analysis shows that there may not be a problem at all.

The problem definition provides the outline framework for managing the solution.  In a predominantly waterfall environment, where the cost of errors and misunderstandings increase with time, it is crucial for the problem to be understood at the outset.  Whilst an agile approach can reduce this risk, it is still vital that there is a clear direction.  Agile can provide a development framework capable of responding to the changing needs of an organisation but without an architectural vision, its direction is not guaranteed.  

There are many approaches to “getting it right”, and an even wider array of qualifications attesting to the fact that one can indeed “get it right” when demanded by the situation but do the plethora of specialities and qualifications relating to those specialities imply a change in the underlying technical processes or in the mindset of the practitioner?

The solution architect function – taking ideas, operational needs and specific requirements and turning them into specifications of features and services that can then be developed and delivered – has existed in one form or another for many a year whilst the “Solution Architect” as a job title has not!  The question is: does the appearance of “Solution Architect” as a role imply that the responsibilities of the modern “Solution Architect” are broader than that of the pre-dating solution architect function?  There are certainly more certificates to be had, but does the expansion of the qualification landscape necessarily indicate an equivalent expansion within the related technical knowledge base?

The Problem with Fraud

There is a misconception about the challenges we are facing in payments. Whilst it is well recognised that there is a significant global fraud problem across the payments landscape, payment fraud is not equally distributed. Payment card fraud has migrated to the internet.

Not long after squashing the millennium bug, the UK sailed away into the uncharted waters of Chip and PIN. Whilst it was certainly and exciting time in the evolution of payments – for some of us at least – the adoption of EMV went a long way towards solving the growing problem of face-to-face plastic card fraud. As a result of chips and PINs, plastic card fraud in the UK plummeted and this effect was subsequently replicated abroad. Payments on the internet at that time, compared to current transaction volumes, were few and far between. The cost of internet fraud was very low and therefore not considered worthy of any particular attention.

The problem was, and is, that the 16-digit PAN and the 3-digit CVC (when it is used) is not fit for the transaction processing world of the 21st Century.

Underlying payment fraud problems relate primarily to the weakness of the e-commerce payments transaction structure, and whilst many of the so-called clever, alternative solutions may indeed look clever and alternative at the front-end, they generally rely on the same old “card on file” processes at the back-end. Ultimately, this is all smoke and mirrors … tweaking the front-end does not make the underlying problem go away!

Card payments and card technologies are not going anywhere, anytime soon, so the problem needs to be addressed. The solution to rising card fraud needs to focus on the card fraud problem directly, and not simply obscure it by introducing alternative payment options to the consumer and the merchant.

In the late 20th Century, the growing card fraud challenges in the bricks and mortar world were limited by the introduction of EMV, and it works everywhere – nearly! In the 21st Century the same growing fraud
challenges in the digital world could be resolved using that same tried and tested approach.

It’s time to introduce the power of EMV into the world of e-commerce. The technology exists to support this and history has shown that it works.

I have a plan!