As a Solution Architect, I often find myself in discussions with two kinds of audiences:
Here, I refer to those that wants to ‘see the matrix’ to a certain depth, (i.e. how the sausage is made somewhere between assembly language to GUI).
This is from the endearing term 'Executive Summary'.
Here, it is less about ‘the matrix’ but how they can leverage a certain resource to maximize a certain other resource (i.e. time, revenue, etc.)
Using abstraction as a framework for discussions
In both cases, thinking in terms of abstraction helps. First, identify your audience (also, some folks switch between both in a single session, so be aware of that!). Then:
Try to identify the level of abstraction that the audience is interested in and engage at that layer of abstraction.
To improve these kind of discussions, there are not many other ways than to actually work hard in strengthening those memory and knowledge muscles: i.e. immersing yourself in as many layers as possible by reading up and getting hands-on with the components of the architecture. This ensures you actually add value to the Engineers by giving them a human interface to the design of the architecture :)
Executives typically just want to understand enough for them to operate in the ‘here and now’ of the realm that they are executing in.
Here, for example, using a term like ‘realm’ may not be a good idea because you are veering too far off from the framework (which is a better term) that they are working in.
It is better to operate at the highest level of abstraction and match the discussion to their business framework.
The objective here is to keep them interested first at a higher layer of abstraction and unpeel those layers when they are actually comfortable and only down to the layer that will allow them to move on with their focused ‘here and now’.
This requires you to practice a different kind of skill: that of storytelling. It is best to always discuss the top layer of abstraction with a story in their familiar framework, preferably the business at hand.
If you’re interested to become a Solution Architect, check out Microsoft’s career page