Solutions Architects (SA) are the trusted advisors to GitLab prospects and customers during the presales motion, demonstrating how the GitLab application and GitLab Professional Services address common and unique business requirements. SA's add value to GitLab by providing subject matter expertise and industry experience throughout the sales process.
SA's identify and propose comprehensive solutions to complex business problems and workflow scenarios after compiling inputs from customer conversations. Desired inputs include pain points, role-based visibility concerns, opportunities for improved efficiencies, current technologies and tools, corporate initiatives, target outcomes and more. SA's also act as the technical liaison between the sales team and other groups within GitLab, engaging GitLab employees from other teams as needed in order meet the needs of the customer.
In addition to core responsibilities, Solutions Architects may assist in other client-facing activities aligned to Content Marketing or Product Marketing such as blogs, videos, webinars, presentations and industry trade show presence. Some examples are listed below:
Solutions Architects are occasionally called on at a moments notice to give a demo or join a call to show a prospect or customer specific GitLab functionality. A best practice for being prepared for these demo requests is to have a minimized browser window with various content preloaded into the browser tabs. Examples of common environments utilized are listed below. Note that accessing some of these links are only enabled for GitLab team-members.
The GitLab.org Group level clearly represents GitLab Epics, Roadmaps and cross-project issue views used for planning releases
A GitLab.com project driven by Auto DevOps which includes a populated issue board as well as an active Merge Request is highly useful for describing value of workflow utilizing GitLab Auto DevOps for build, test, security and review
A privately hosted project which utilizes a custom CI pipeline as well as more complex deploy environments and standard monitoring is useful for custom CI discussions and visualizing more complex environment requirements
The production Grafana instance showing GitLab Runner details is a great way to represent the art of the possible as it relates to monitoring and dashboards
The GitLab Direction page in the Handbook is often beneficial for future-looking product vision questions and discussions about upcoming features
A group of golden repositories can be leveraged to show prospects repositories and pipelines more relevant to their programming languages and deploy environments
Optional: Integrations may be loaded and ready to discuss by leveraging the standard demo environments
Suggested Tools for Customer-Facing Meetings
Solutions Architects frequently interact with customers for demos, presentations or Q&A. These calls should enable the customer to clearly experience the value of GitLab without distraction or interruption. The below list of tools was compiled by the GitLab SA team as commonly used solutions. Note, this list does not represent a requirement to use any of these products or an endorsement for these products.
Muzzle to mute all notifications prior to beginning a call
Enterprise Solutions Architects typically support two sales teams made up of Sales Development Representatives, Strategic Account Leaders and Technical Account Managers. Commercial Sales Solutions Architects support Mid-Market Account Executives and SMB Customer Advocates in a pooled model. When joining a sales team, establishing working agreements is critical to providing optimal service to the customers as well as the GitLab team. A sample template of working agreements is found below to help facilitate conversation and establish these agreements:
Customer response time for emails and meeting followups I will always do my best to provide same-day responses to customer inquiries and follow ups unless otherwise noted. I like to provide customers top-notch service, but interruptions can affect that target. I will use my out of office when traveling so customers can expect delayed responses during those times. Feel free to contact me if it's approaching the end of the day and you didn't see me address a customer request. Slack is the easiest way to find me most of the time.
Calendar Schedule things as necessary right on my calendar during working hours - I'll do my best to keep my calendar up to date. However, if you see only one empty slot for a day or if it looks like the meeting would be back to back with something else, please check with me before confirming dates and times with the customer. If you want me at my best for you, I will need time to prepare and followup. If we schedule back to back, I've found I'm often late to arrive due to the last meeting, flustered as I context shift, lacking answers for known questions, unprepared with demo environments that were altered in the last call, etc.
Regular communication A weekly strategy hour-long call with the SA, SAL, SDR and TAM is preferred. If more frequent synchronous communication is desirable or required, we should work together as a team to identify a viable cadence, required attendees, convenient time and agenda for those calls.
Elevated conversations The more we focus on value and stay away from very deep technical and troubleshooting conversations, the more I can help you achieve target sales. I'm happy to review and contribute to business plans so we remain in sync.
Professional Services I'm happy to recommend and propose services for prospects and customers. I will write the initial SOW and get approvals from the Professional Services team.
Travel While strategic enterprise sales absolutely require travel, each day on the road can increase the volume of work and calls on other days of the week as my dialogs with customers often require extensive time commitments to research and model specific customer solutions. Please plan strategically when looking at on-sites, considering that I support at least two sales teams. Additionally, please do what you can to avoid scheduling on-site visits less than one week out to help me be able to commit to family and local things.
Notes Unless otherwise directed, call notes will be linked to a Google document from Salesforce. Email communication with customers will also be bcc'd to Salesforce. If you prefer to record notes and actions differently, please let me know what that collaborative method is.
Continuous learning Things at GitLab move really fast, and I need time to keep up. I'll block a few hours on my calendar coincident with releases to absorb the latest GitLab feature set, but new technologies and competitive products also appear regularly. Please expect that I will need to allocate additional time to learning about those on a regular basis to sufficiently support our customers.
Engaging a Solutions Architect
What is the reason to engage the SA team?
Discovery after lead qualification is complete
GitLab technical deep dives
Customer GitLab days
Marketing event support
What is the opportunity?
Share any existing notes about the opportunity
Key players and personas
Other relevant information shaping an engagement
Is there a business plan or sales approach defined?
What’s in it for the client?
Why look at a new strategy for software development?
Solutions Architects need to be able to tailor conversations and demos to demonstrate value as well as how to address current problem areas.
What tools are currently in place?
What tools have potential to be replaced?
What processes or workflows have potential to change?
What problems/roadblocks have been uncovered?
What is the current release velocity?
What is the current planning process?
What visibility, traceability or efficiency concerns exist?
What collaboration or governance opportunities exist?
What security or compliance inefficiencies exist?
SA/TAM engagement overlap
The SA owns all pre-sales technical relationships and activities. The SA quarterbacks technical conversations prior to the sale. TAM involvement prior to the sale models the expectations for customer relationships after the sale. TAM involvement should supplement, not displace, SA pre-sales ownership of the account.
TAM engagement prior to the sale should occur in the following situations:
During POC kickoff or when appropriate in deep conversations on technology if no POC will occur
When a shared Slack channel is created for the customer
A shared customer issue tracking project has been created that will affect the account long-term
As requested by the SA if the TAM has a specific subject matter expertise relevant to the conversation
The TAM owns the account post-sale. SA's are to remain involved in the following situations:
Development of expansion plans with the SAL and TAM
A new POC or product evaluation begins for a single team or an enterprise-wide upgrade - anything affecting IACV may require SA involvement
Any product license expansions that require overviews, education and competitive insights prior to close
Transformative or dedicated services are being discussed
If a TAM is over-committed or unable to support a customer request, the SA may be requested to assist
Support of GitLab days or other on-site evangelism of GitLab at customer sites
When and How to Engage a Solutions Architect
The SA should either be included in a discovery call or provided with Outcome / Infrastructure / Challenges information uncovered by prior interactions with the account. Occasionally, SA's may support a combination call of discovery and technical demonstration/deep-dive on a single call, but this is suboptimal as the latter approach does not allow the SA time to prepare for and/or tailor the discussion.
The SA is also responsible for any pre-sales technical customer inquiry or audit from associated accounts, including RFI, RFP or security audits. For details on the audit process, proceed to the Security page.
As a general guideline, no more than 2 Solutions Architects should join any single client-facing call, whether it be assistive for the topic or for learning / shadowing.
U.S. Strategic Account Engagement Model
U.S. Enterprise SA's are aligned regionally with Strategic Account Leaders and aligned in their respective account activities. Each team collaborates according to their own Working Agreements.
When workload exceeds the SA's capacity or when there is a request from other departments such as staffing for a field marketing event, please submit the request for assistance on either of the enterprise triage boards based on region: US EAST Triage Board or US WEST Triage Board. The issue creation and triage processes are described in detail below.
EMEA Account Engagement Model
SA engagement for customer interactions, RFP's, audits and more can be requested by any EMEA-based sales executive or other GitLab team-member using the appropriate GitLab issue board. The EMEA Triage Board is leveraged by the team in order to ensure coverage for all sales activity. The issue creation and triage processes are described in detail below.
Commercial Engagement Model
SA engagement for customer interactions, RFP's, audits and more can be requested by an SMB or Mid-Market Account Executive or other GitLab team-member using the appropriate GitLab issue board. The Commercial Triage Board is leveraged by the team in order to ensure coverage for all sales activity. The issue creation and triage processes are described in detail below.
Issue Creation Details
1) Navigate to the correct board for your region. NOTE: All triage boards are located in the SA Triage Boards group in projects broken out by region or engagement model.
2) Create a new issue.
3) Use one of the available templates:
New activity: use the "SA Activity" template to ensure the proper data is collected and available
Follow up activity: use the "Follow Up" template
Security audit: use the "Vendor Security Assessment" template
Marketing event: use the "Event Participation Request" template
4) To help the SA group ensure success for the client, the following information should be made available prior to SA engagement
Customer Information: Customer name, opportunity size, SFDC link
Preferred Date Options: When would the customer want to have the call (including time zone information)
Opportunity Details: What is the size of the opportunity? What is the timeframe for purchase?
Outcome: What's in it for the customer?
Challenges: What roadblocks are the customer facing?
Infrastructure: What tools does the customer currently use?
SA Tasks: What do you need from the SA's (demo/technical assist/services evaluation/etc.)
5) Add one or more of the following labels as needed (labels listed below).
Board Label Descriptions
Open/no label: Newly submitted issues
Current Quarter: This helps SA's prioritize work when a request pertains to a prospective sale set to close this quarter
Demo Ready: Prep has been completed for a customer interaction and further scheduling or conversations can now occur
Expedite: This label is only to be used for ownership required for activity less than 48 hours from the request date
Marketing Event: Newly submitted issues
Security Audit: This request requires security team involvement, typically upon receiving a customer security questionnaire
Services Request: If this opportunity focuses on services, use this label to indicate that
Triaged: Once the request has been vetted by the Customer Success team, approved, and SA Ownership is assigned, this label is applied
Doing: Once an SA signals they are actively working the issue, the issue is moved to 'Doing'. The issue will stay in this status until the SA, customer and sales team agree the issue has been completed
Followup: Followup work is required by the SA for this particular request (example: questions needing research after a call ends)
SA Waiting: This label indicates that an SA is waiting on the requestor for more information before advancing this issue
Waiting on Customer: This label indicates that an SA is waiting on the customer for more input before advancing this issue
Triage of Issues
The SA team associated with each region will monitor the triage board and/or an associated Slack channel for incoming work and will contact the appropriate Customer Success team members via Slack, email or phone depending on required skills, schedules and availability. SLA for activity is 48 hours unless the issue is marked with an 'Expedite' label.