IT Pros Unplugged: John Timney – 'Managing Architect'

I was lucky enough to track down SharePoint expert John Timney last month (in-between numerous speaking gig’s, might I add) and persuade him to pen down his experiences and daily adventures to kick-off our IT Pro ‘A Day in the Life’ series.

This is the first in a series of up close and personal insights into a day in the life of an IT Pro.
Find out why John is a “stickler for process and best practices and a demon for an audit trail” and more below.


John Timney – Managing Enterprise Architect, SharePoint MVP, Karate Instructor and father of two.

Follow John via:
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Twitter : @jtimney

Your Job title is ‘Managing Architect’ – but what do you actually do?

My official job title is ‘Managing Architect’, which really just means I am an experienced Enterprise Architect with lots of breadth and depth. I normally end up with specific job titles on different clients like “Enterprise Assurance and Strategy Lead Architect” to focus the role a bit.

I’m an IT Pro at heart, and as I’m focussed on Microsoft technology with a bit of a passion for SharePoint I tend to work across large scale SharePoint On-Premises or Hybrid programs.

How did you get this job?

I’ve been working with SharePoint since its first release, and when an opportunity came up to join Capgemini PLC working as a Senior Architect I applied and was successful. I had worked at British Telecom PLC for about fourteen years doing Solution and Enterprise Architecture type roles previously. My current role is a natural evolution from starting life as a developer working on Artificial Intelligence programming and then as VB and Java coder, to moving through the different project delivery roles of Solutions Architect, Design Authority and into the EA space as my experience grew.

How did you get skilled up? Did you go to college or university? If so, what did you study?

I studied for a MA in Information Management at the University of Nottingham in England following a BA Honours at the University of Lincoln. To be fair, a lot of my experience comes from real world project delivery but education certainly set the foundations for a career in IT.

So what’s your specialty?

Governance – I love it. I love the rigour that is required to do complete end to end governance across all facets of a program of work.I’m a stickler for process and best practices and a demon for an audit trail. This comes from many years working for Government clients where you are always faced with the potential for an ad-hoc audit. It does however teach you why this carries value when an auditor is breathing down your neck asking “why” you followed a specific approach. I love the way Governance is finally taking a real place in programs but it is remarkably late to the table and too few IT Pros currently understand it at the holistic level needed for large programs. “If the root be in confusion, nothing will be well-governed” is a quote from Confucius (551-479 BC). That makes me smirk often, as it’s the same problem occurring centuries later.

What’s the most useful tool you use, what do you use it for and why is it the best?

I think for any IT Pro, for any Enterprise Architect, for anyone working in IT the best tool you can have is a solid and experienced network of peers. Technology can augment that, a good Yammer network can count for a lot, a carefully chosen select user group can add to that, and polite use of social media can reinforce those networks and relationships. Nothing beats being able to reach out to individuals who are as passionate as you about technology to prop you up in areas you may not have as much depth in, and being available to them is equally as rewarding. It’s the foundation for the Social value chain and where you can see a real return on investment.

image         “I think for any IT Pro, for any Enterprise Architect, for anyone working in IT the best tool you can have is a solid and experienced network of peers”

We know there’s no such thing as an average working day, but could you run through an example day from the past couple of weeks?

There really should be no such thing as an average working day for a good IT pro, and they should always be seeking to challenge and evolve their skills at pace with the market. I’ve spent the past few weeks working on two things, a supportability GAP analysis of a large scale SharePoint platform to ensure a comprehensive support mandate exists for a globally dispersed client implementing a really exciting o365 and on-premises hybrid architecture for a few hundred thousand users, and a Governance Strategy for a new SharePoint Centre of Excellence (CoE) defining how governance will be applied to all the work the COE will perform.

I actually do a whole range of activities from Design Assurance, validating the architecture or solutions for the Solution Architects streams, Goal and Strategy Alignment and Roadmap Services planning with clients, through to Release Management and Business Change alignment. I also assist in recruitment, interviewing new potential recruits either for Capgemini or for our client projects.

My day can be really varied as I tend to move up and down the delivery stack, talking to the developers although I no longer write code) to help steer design thinking about custom work, dealing with the migration teams to validate and help align migration strategies, working with the other Enterprise Architects to align the services roadmap and talking to end users about business process reengineering to formalising BYOD strategies or accessibility compliance. It’s a real mixed bag and I can be leading on triage for a priority support incident one day to talking to different client about mobility strategies the next. It is really a demanding role but the reward is I get to work with people from the shop floor up to the CTO/Director level which keeps you well balanced.

As I’m well aligned to the Microsoft stack, I think it is a lot more fun but also of real value to be vendor focussed as it allows you to retain a deep understanding of different Microsoft platforms and the direction Microsoft might be taking it.

What project are you most proud of and why?

I was involved in an almost green field delivery of large scale SharePoint at the Department for Education in the UK as the Enterprise Assurance Lead Architect. This was a great opportunity to help reshape the technology organisation to drive change in the way process and technology was adopted across a whole government department, and a very important one. It was a very holistic programme, considering things like interface design, accessibility compliance, SAN consolidation as well as SharePoint and all the necessary wrap around services like geographical disaster recovery. As well as being a great team to work with they were very forward thinking and passionate about success, embracing entirely new concepts at the time like Virtualisation and utilising Microsoft technology to its best.

The program itself won the E-Government excellence award in the Leadership & Professionalism award category presented by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. So that tends to stand out as a pretty good programme of work fondly remembered.

What was your most embarrassing tech moment? How did you save face?

I’m really quite bad at remembering the names of people, and spent a whole day calling a Director of IT I had just met, entirely the wrong name. This went on all day through a whole set of workshops and meetings and no one corrected me. That was pretty embarrassing but I did go and apologise and he never seemed to mind. In the words of SharePoint I’m “working on it”.

image‘John’s Workstation Chaos’

What do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any!)?

I’m a SharePoint MVP, so spend a lot of my spare time supporting the SharePoint community. I do quite a lot of public speaking about IT Pro related subjects and organise the UK SharePoint User Group in the North of England. I also speak at International Conferences and events like SharePoint Saturday. The SharePoint Roadshow or SharePoint Connections when I get the opportunity.

l will be speaking at the European SharePoint Conference in Barcelona this year about “Why SharePoint Projects Fail” and covering the hot topic of “Bring your Own Disaster”, a twist on the challenge of BYOD. I’m also speaking at quite a few User group events this year and I’m just completing a speaking deck for a session on “The Value of Goal Alignment in Successful SharePoint Projects”.

When I have time, I spend a lot of it researching technology related to my area of expertise and have co-authored a few books in my time, and enjoy that when time is spare. I’m also a Karate instructor and love to spend time in the Dojo or in the gym which helps to keep me fit but also is an escape from IT and necessary to stay sane! However, with two young kids life can be a bit manic.

Finally, where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?

I think we’ll see such an aggressive pace of tech over the next five years it will be difficult to predict but I can’t see my role changing that much, the type of work I do will always be in demand regardless of the technology shifts that we face. Cloud, the mobile market and new ways of working will drive change, and with it the IT Pro will need to evolve their skills base and renew their place in what is a rapidly evolving market. If you are resilient you will embrace those changes and face off to them. I’ll still be working with Microsoft software, be it cloud enabled, on-premises or both through hybrid.


Got a question for John? Pop it in the comments bar below, or reach out to him via Twitter.

Have you been working on some cool projects? Perhaps you’ve got an interesting role or even a few funny experiences as an IT Pro you could share? If so, you’re an ideal candidate for our ‘Day in the Life’ series – why not get in touch?

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