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Hiring enterprise architects: How to find great candidates for healthcare companies

How can a behavioral-based interview help determine the right enterprise architect for this dental company?
Two men sitting face to face in an interview-type situation

In a behavioral-based interview, a candidate for an enterprise architecture position is presented with a predefined scenario and asked to create an architecture that satisfies its needs and conditions. The goal of the exercise is to get direct, real-time experience with how the candidate performs.

Any scenario can lend itself to a wide variety of solutions. Thus, evaluating the response is not about seeing if the candidate provided the "right" answer. Rather the goal is to see if the candidate can create a solution that makes sense both technically and in terms of business drivers.

In the first article in this series, I described behavioral-based interviews, and in the second article, I presented a scenario for hiring enterprise architects for manufacturing companies. This article provides a scenario intended for enterprise architects in the medical/dental sector. The scenario is followed by some commentary about how to evaluate the candidate's response. Remember, this is not about getting the right or wrong answer. It's about gaining insight into the candidate's skills as well as their creative and thinking processes.

The interview scenario: Medical/dental

A dental products supplier named DentProd is planning to release a mobile app to help it sell more teeth-whitening products. The app allows an end user to use a smartphone to take a photo of their smile. Then the image is submitted to DentProd under the auspices of a dentist in the DentProd network.

DentProd intends to use the submitted photo to determine a baseline by which to establish a teeth-whitening plan for the end user. Once the whitening plan is determined, DentProd will send the whitening plan and a whitening product to the end user on behalf of the dentist in DentProd's network. DentProd estimates that about 1 million people will take advantage of the service.

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DentProd plans to use the services of SmartMouth to help create the whitening plan. SmartMouth provides a service that can analyze a hi-res photo of a smile and return a baseline color analysis of the teeth in the smile. DentProd will use this color analysis when it creates the whitening plan for the given end user.

DentProd flow chart and use case
DentProd application's use case (Bob Reselman, CC BY-SA 4.0)

DentProd has hired you to design the architecture for the whitening plan application. Your architecture needs to do the following:

  • Ensure that the end user is a patient of a dentist is the DentProd network
  • Collect a photo from the end user in a secure manner
  • Integrate with the SmartMouth service in a secure manner
  • Create the whitening plan and store all data relevant to the plan
  • Coordinate shipping and tracking of the whitening products sent to the end user
  • Provide 24/7 verification that the app and the whitening plan program are HIPAA compliant

In addition to providing a technical architecture, you need to give a cost estimate and an implementation timeline.

Evaluating the candidate's response

The interesting thing about the DentProd scenario is that its architecture needs to support a variety of very different services. There's image analysis, data analysis, group membership management, content management, and supply chain management. And all of them need to comply with the edicts of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

If such services exist as a third-party offering, they need to be identified and integrated into the system overall. If a required service does not exist, it needs to be created. This is no small undertaking. The approach the candidate takes will be key.

Services will need to be separated and encapsulated. Spending time down in the details of a service implementation is something that can be done at the developer level. However, defining the context boundaries of each service is something that can and should be done at the architectural level.

Regardless of which services are built or bought, they will all need to be tied together under some sort of management mechanism. How the prospective architect unifies the system will be another key point of interest. What will be interesting to note is how the candidate makes HIPAA compliance part of the unification architecture.

Finally, a clear articulation of the financial resources required needs to be part of the architectural plan.

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Putting it all together

The DentProd scenario provides a good way to evaluate an enterprise architect's skills in designing systems in an environment that is complex and highly regulated. In addition to assessing a candidate's ability to create an enterprise architecture that satisfies the general principles of system design, the DentProd scenario provides an opportunity to evaluate a candidate's ability to research a business sector that previously might have been unfamiliar.

While not every enterprise architect has the breadth of experience required to do medical systems, every architect should have the ability to research a business thoroughly to create an architecture that meets the business' needs. After all, enterprise architecture is as much about understanding a company and its drivers as it is about understanding technology. This scenario brings demonstrating an understanding of business drivers to the forefront.

The DentProd scenario allows candidates to demonstrate their architectural competence in terms of business analysis, regulatory awareness, and architectural design for systems that need to support a wide variety of services.

The next article in this series will present scenarios for enterprise architects in the telco industry. If you have expertise in another industry to share with our readers, please consider writing an article about it for Enable Architect.

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Bob Reselman

Bob Reselman is a nationally known software developer, system architect, industry analyst, and technical writer/journalist. More about me

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