Addressing Design Changes In Your VCDX Defense


There was a conversation on Twitter that came up today regarding your VCDX submission, and changes to the design between submission and defense.  I have some personal opinions on this I wanted to write down instead of dealing with it on Twitter.  Alexander Thoma had a spot on point about this.

Your VCDX Design Submission

The first thing to remember is that your design was accepted for defense based on the submission you provided.  That being said the first thing to remember is that what you submitted was already deemed to have merit for a defense.  That’s a GOOD thing!  It’s been reviewed by multiple people over a great many hours.  They are familiar with what you have submitted and have prepared their questions based on what they have read.  Therefore, changes will cause time to explain, but that might be okay if you handle them right.

Tweaks in your VCDX Design vs Major Changes

One thing you absolutely cannot do is show up to defend on a completely different or drastically different design than what was submitted.  This would be like two sides of a court case where one submitted new evidence without allowing the other time to review it.  It will result in some very unpleasant conversations and most likely a wasted trip on your part.  That being said I have some personal ideas on how you should handle MINOR tweaks you may have found during preparation.  Remember, your design WAS accepted based on the merit of what was submitted.

One idea I would suggest is to highlight the changes and areas in your slide deck presentation.  be transparent about where you identified areas that you felt were incorrect, or you wanted to address.  Be PROACTIVE about the tweaks you felt you needed to make and explain why.  They may or may not even be relevant to the questions the panel has already prepared.  The worst thing to do is do just roll along and when a question comes up simply say “Oh I changed that in the design”.  No you did not as far as the panel is concerned, remember what they are looking at is what you submitted.  You cannot hand them updated documents on defense day.

Simply put, just be smart about it, be transparent and proactive if you think the changes are noteworthy.  My design was two years old be the time I defended it and you can bet I walked in on the offensive already talking about areas I would discuss that would have been done differently “today”.  That did not however change the fact they were done that way based on customer requirements, and the technology available at the time.

Thoughts or other ideas?  Does this make sense?  Just keep it simple.

About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.


  1. Quoting myself from an article I wrote sometime back around my VCDX experience.

    Here is the link –

    “The principle of “Only thing being constant is CHANGE” cannot fit more appropriately than in a VCDX Preparation. Even after you spend months in creating your design & presentation, you would continue to make changes on the basis of feedback, mocks, self-study and experiences. Once you have submitted your design, there is every possibility of finding a mistake in the submitted design. If this happens with you and I am sure it will, the first thing you do is NOT to PANIC. I am saying this from my 1st hand experience and trust me it is not a good situation to be in. Having said that, there are multiple ways to rectify your mistakes. Please notice my words when I say RECTIFY… Remember, I do not say cover up. A cover up would be the last thing on this earth you could do as it is next to impossible to escape from the sharp eyes and minds of the VCDX panelists. One should use the VCDX presentation as a tool to rectify the mistakes by giving a proper justification as to why a certain design decision was taken in the first place and why you decided to change it now. Sugar coating won’t work here and honesty is the only option. I represented these mistakes by using an “ADJUSTMENTS” slide in my presentation deck. Having said all this, you should avoid any drastic design changes as the panel would not like to see an architecture completely different from what has been submitted for a review.”

    • I think we are in agreement on the fact things can have some updates, but they should be made clear. That being said…we have also had some instances in the complete other direction where the design defended was not even close to the original submission…..that’s a huge problem.

      Your defense is ALWAYS based on what you submitted and cannot get changed so much it no longer even looks like the same design, and my point is it should not have to be so greatly altered if it was already accepted to defend.

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