Inside the toolbox of icon’s solution architects

How do you design your products so that it works in the unknown future? What do you do to ensure a set of easy-to-use APIs? I am always asked questions like these. My answer is always that it can be done with our toolbox, which is constantly expanding and evolving. Let me give you a sneak peek of what’s inside my toolbox, as a solution architects at icon.

Boxes and arrows

Let’s face it, cloud based mobility ecosystem is complex. An honest question such as “how does an app work” is begging a 20-minute long conversation. I make it easier. I show you our diagrams. After a brief explanation of the boxes and arrows in my diagrams, you walk away with better clarity.

These basic shapes seem so simple, yet they have become my friends. I put them together thoughtfully. They help me organize thoughts. I come back and revisit them. They document my design process and decisions. I open them up to present to team members. They visualize complex code logic.

You will find them handy too. If you want to understand the overview of the entire mobility ecosystem, then the component diagrams and service inventory diagrams are sure to provide guidance. If you are interested in business logic, you could refer to the flow charts and sequence diagrams. When you have questions about data fields in our API responses, you will find our use cases and entity relationship diagrams useful.

Good questions

Working on a cloud based mobility platform is very exciting. We are experts who work with cutting-edge solutions day to day, however we do not expect all clients and partners to have full understanding of the subject matter. We make sure we have methods and processes in place to communicate smoothly.

We find the right questions to ask. I ask the right questions to the clients to reveal the hidden requirements and wishes. I ask the right questions to our partners to identify gaps, risks and discover potential opportunities. I ask the right questions to our team members to validate results, and constantly streamline our process.

Good questions with follow-ups and customized solutions provide our team great efficiency. They help lower cost by defining the goals early and staying on track. I am curious, what is the top item on your priority list?

Keeping a standard but staying flexible

Setting up a global mobility ecosystem requires us to work with a wide range of mobility partners. I have personally worked with mobility partners from Beijing, Paris, Berlin, and both coasts of the US, to name a few. How do we design our API so it is unified and easy to understand across all regions?

We take a top down, then bottom up approach.

My colleagues and I set up standard for new types of programs, after careful evaluation of partner data and intended user experience. Then we review the standard to accommodate for foreseeable changes. Even before development starts, we work with the testing team to review the intended delivery in context. If anything is found, there is still room to make adjustment. When it is time to implement, we constantly check back to make sure the results make sense for the intended usage. By applying this agile design approach, we avoid drastic changes in later stages and save valuable resources.

Being a solution architects at icon requires lots of hard work, but we wholeheartedly enjoy the daily challenges. They constantly shape our design process and help us expand our toolbox. I am sure to share more tools with you when you are in our office next time.