If there's an utterance I hate more than "going forward", it's "architected". Do people mean "designed" by any chance? I suspect that this usage, along with IT Architect, is flannel to embiggen the ego.
According to the dictionary on my computer, the origin of the word ‘architect’ is from the Greek: specifically, from arkhi, which means ‘chief’ and tektōn, which means ‘builder’. That sounds like a pretty good start for understanding the role of the architect in IT; the trouble is, in practice things appear to unravel pretty …
I was once offered to be promoted to the role of software architect. The strange thing is that it would have made no difference to my role, except in name only. I told them not to be silly and to leave my title as Senior Developer (despite my Soft Eng degree - no one respects the 'Engineer' designation in the software world).
My role was simply as a team leader - but I alone in the company used to indulge in any design for our products. This resulted in our team producing far more robust and flexible products (through the normal methods of tiered architectures, half decent OO design and modular components).
This was eventually noticed and they wanted to give me a fancy title to describe what was essentially good (I wish I could honestly say 'best') practice design methodology.
In 8 years of professional development I have only ever met one other developer who paid any attention to design at all (apart from those unfortunate enough to have me as their boss).
Despite all the emphasis on trying to apply methodical approaches to application development over the last 2 or 3 decades, it seems very little of the academic work ever filters through to the commercial development world.
I still end up working for companies whose project plan consists of a day for design, 3 months for implementation and 1 week at the end for testing before the release date. I have so far always managed to ignore such plans and take 2-4 weeks for design, continually test during implementation (using automated tools) and shorten the coding time respectively. Leaving hopefuly 3-4 weeks after implementation for yet more testing and any bug fixing.
It is for this reason people keep wanting to call me an architect.
I'd be happier if my Engineering degree was respected personally, but there are so many developers out there calling themselves software engineers without an appropriate degree it makes the title worthless.
From a Microsoft newsletter that just arrived today in my inbox...
Signed off "Infrastructure Architect Evangelist"
Found this on a MSDN Blog
The Architect Evangelist is a member of the successful Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team for the Western Region whose overall mission is to secure platform adoption and revenue growth through evangelism, community engagement, relationship marketing and a vibrant solutions ecosystem.
I care even less now.
We've just been through a round of redundancies here and its intersting that all the hands on IT bodies survived and pretty much everyone else got the noose. We've all got job descriptions like Systems Developer, they all had Proigramme Manager, Architect, Designer in their titles.
We had a big discussion here about architecture earlier in the year with lots of tail chasing about how to replace our existing systems with a really big and clever EIA SOA solution that to be honest we just didn't need.
We don't describe ourselves as architects, more jobbing bulders, our solutions have a 2 year planned life span as technology changes and the moving target of the business requirement mean after 2 years its needs overhauling anyway. We don't spend forever building them just get them done, in a reasonable amount of time, at reasonable cost in a tidy fashion and try to keep the ongoing support noise down.
Seems to be working for us.
The whole ivory tower architecture thing just leaves us cold. If you develop and you're any good you architect anyway.
I've been an architect for 5 years (having been a SysAdmin and DBA for the 10 years before that) and I don't think I could define it either. One of the things that goes to make up a good architect, IMHO, is experience. It's all about taking what you've done before and applying it to new and different situations. I've come across people who went straight from a particular company's graduate recruitment programme into their architecture practice with no 'practical' experience in between, and they were perfectly fine architects.
But all the best architects have a number of years of experience under their (almost entirely male) belts and can look at new technology and see how it will fit into existing infrastructures to "add value" (ugh). I guess that's the key, isn't it? As long as new stuff keeps getting pushed out there by the vendors, we will always need architects to do something with it.
Hey! It's all Microsoft's fault! I knew I could work the argument round to that somehow...
There is a role for an overseeing "technical concience" which checks things are going in the right direction, and agreeing a roadmap for systems which will meet the business' eventual needs.
The problems occur when "doing the right thing" starts to block the business from making money, or the enterprise architects freeze projects whilst they ponder the response to a minor point of order.
And another pet hate are people who try to separate themselves away from detailed design, build, implementation, and support and maintenance. If their vision, architecture, or advice doesn't work or or flow end-to-end, its up to them to stay in the game and help resolve it. Walking away saying "its an implementation detail" is really weak and annoying.
I've had the word "architect" in my job title for over 10 years, but with the word "network" in front of it. Now that you've mentioned just about all the other types of IT architects except the network type, I'm feeling a bit left out -- even more so since the great Wikipedia remains blissfully ignorant about network architects.
Seriously, though, my network architect roles have varied greatly, from high-level with zero hands-on to others that include everything down to testing/writing configs and even 2nd/3rd line support. It really depends on the organisation one's working in -- every one of them does things slightly differently. I'm guessing this the the case for all the other architect types as well.
Maybe this lack of a common/agreed definition is one of those things that makes life a bit more interesting -- that when you start a new role you never really know what to expect?
Its at the top of my job description. But mostly I just wander around chatting to people and placate various groups who are wedded to ancient technoligies.
BTW; Has anyone managed to get past chapter 2 in hte TOGAF book? I fall asleep after two pages so its taken me two years to get there.
As a former IT architect, and writer about the software/IT architects(www.ivencia.com/softwarearchitect), I am bound to claim that an architect is as necessary in IT as in building. I have worked on many IT systems for many companies, and those hurling together software without any oversight from an architect are creating incomprehensible messes.
However, as pointed out in this article, we are still in the beginnings of understanding software creation, and being an architect is a challenge I have now given up, to focus on my own software products while contracting to support this endeavour. I move ever backward to the view expounded and ignored 30 years ago by Fred Brooks that the mind which creates should be the centre of its own universe.
"The first and most important perhaps, is that nobody appears to be absolutely sure what is meant by architecture, in the context of IT."
No? Ok. If you say so it must be right. I read it in teh intratubes.
"Let me rephrase: there are plenty of individuals who appear confident about their own definitions; the trouble is that there is a plethora of highly overlapping and contradictory definitions. Take for example the wealth of difference between systems architects, software architects and enterprise architects at that consensus clearing house Wikipedia."
Firstly, there are plenty of induhviduals spouting about IT, computers, and networking. Most of them are pretty much clueless about working systems.
Secondly, people giving themselves titles is meaningless. Running code rules all.
Thirdly, Wikipedia is hardly the best place to reference a philosophical issue.
Suggestion, Jon ... Get an IT job in the real world. After you've worked it for a dozen years or so, come back and try to contribute. You might have a clue by then.
Pardon me while I continue designing an upgrade for a RealWorld(tm) corporate network ... one I first designed ("architected?" ::shudders::) about 15 years ago ...
Please - When you know the answer to this, will you tell the recruiting industry.
I loosely call myself a "Broadcast TV Technology Architect" - I've been building and equiping TV Studios and TV Transmission systems since before the modern IT era had even started.
Now, as a freelance contractor, my CV is widely distributed, but most recruiters see "technology" and "architect" in my CV and immediately assume I'm an IT or software architect (& I've no idea what a software architect does) & I spend a lot of time attempting to explain the differences to those who call me up. This isn't helped by the fact that the technological aspects of the (significantly large) TV industry has never had its own "job category" (including here on the Register's web site) and so people like myself continually have to register as belonging to all three of the IT, Telecommunications and Media Sectors.
I graduated as a Systems Analyst, then about three years ago I saw some spotty youth on a TV show being asked what he did for a living, he said he was a Systems Analyst. Then he was asked what that involved and he replied that he answered the phone and once he could determine what the nature of the call was he connected the client with the appropriate extension.
So where am I meant to go, on that basis I'd have to be some kind of Grand Wizard High Mage Deity of IT just so it seems I'm not in charge of paperclips and ink cartridges. I blame the fucking recruiting agents although they're probably calling themselves career enhancement conultants nowadays the rat bastards.
I think before you can define an "I.T. Architect" you need to have a definition of "I.T." that is agreed upon.
Even though it's a concept that has been around for longer I have yet to find any two companies that see it identically, occupying the same role and functions.
That said even though I have my own solid definition of "I.T." I haven't the slightest idea what an I.T. Architect would be and/or do. It sounds like a buzzword to me.
..is senior solution architect.
But at heart I'm just a techy coder that has been doing it for 20+ years and I need a proper title to make me feel important.
I help out where I can which means:
coming up with the initial technical solution
being the customer facing techy
matching busines requirements to technical requirements
getting that over to the boys in the engine room
picking up development sticking points and finding ways to keep development moving
negotiating technical workarounds with the customer
CR impact analysis and estimating
translating progress reports to customer talk for the project manager
picking up the crap bits of coding that no one else wants to do and either doing them or
making doing them a bit less painful
provide a sympathetic ear to everyone who wants to have a bit of a moan about the project on
all technical aspects
communicate progress to the project manager
deal with the technical people at the suppliers
get the beers in on a Friday lunchtime at the 'progress meeting'
So I guess the 'chief builder' moniker fits. To continue the metaphore I've been there done that and taken the pain. Whether it's a tricky bit of bricklaying or a putting in a new window frame I'm expected to know (or to be able to find out) how to do it.
I do work with architects who are 'not technical' and I wonder how they survive. They usually end up as another layer of project management. Cheif builders who have never laid a brick...
If you consider the fact that the ordinary architect designs buildings, yet has no basic understanding of physics, functionality or engineering. Then an IT Architect would have to be the guy that designs an IT system without any real knowledge about what purpose the system should meet, what is possible and how to make it work.
If this is so then yes, I would hide when I see one coming down the hall. Trouble is that they can be hard to spot.
The problem is that even though I am joking here, I have this nagging fear that it may not be far from the truth.
Another commenter asked me to unplug my computer a few days ago when I voiced my opinion about IT. Mine is the thick warm one, it is cold outside.
I am going, I am going...jeez
In my experience, architects are internal consultants who - at best - try to keep a high level overview of what's happening in the company and ensure that there is as little overlap and waste (of resources and cash) as possible.
At worst, they're the twits that can't do a real job and are paid to read whitepapers because it's too hard to fire them.
To be fair - I know a couple who fit into the 'at best' definition and do really bring a lot of benefit.
AC, 'cause there's a twit in my steering board
A commercial director speaks...
"Well I enjoy driving my Porsche across Windsor great park, or down the M3, and these IT bod just seem to take the piss out of my lack of people skills. To be frank, I don't know whether they're laughing at me, or with me, so it's good to have someone who isn't really technical, so I don't have to invite any of the workers up onto the third floor."
A recruitment consultant speaks...
"Enterprise architect, yes, this a better person than an ordinary architect who is a better person than a programmer, for a job. Actually, off the record, only about 2% of us actually have a clue about the industry, so these job descriptions are everything. How else are we going to know how good a person is, unless they tell us? It's a way of matching the role to the candidate, J2EE, Tapestry, 4 good size bedrooms, UML, good links to local transport that kind of thing."
An enterprise architect speaks...
"It is important to leverage the kpis and document the business processes, that we might meet the structural onload quality demand required by the key players to solve their service needs in a strategic, holistic and compliant way."
A completer finisher speaks...
"It's someone who wasn't bad, but was never really that good, and worked towards management because he couldn't compete. It's so much easier saying "We'll go J2EE than actually doing it." Women become "business analysts", Men become "Technical Architects". Neither have ever finished anything.
There are so many people calling themselves architect these days. It's all toss. The key to whether anyone's any good is whether
a. They're experienced.
b. They're self motivated.
c. They're really really clever.
and not what they call themselves, or worse still, what a load of IT illiterate business people call them. Everyone knows who the good people are, and they've got referees from everywhere they've ever worked. All the rest is just guff.
Most of the "Architects" that I've come across have been charlatans, hiding their total lack of technical knowledge behind a smokescreen of bullshit and Powerpoint slides.
Or maybe I've just not had the good fortune of working aside an IT Architect who actually knows what they are talking about?
It's surely a responsibility rather than a role. And I don't think architect does it justice either - architects design systems, stand back and watch as everyone builds them then move onto the next system. That's not how it should work. The architect is more like the chief navigator in my mind. They plot a course from A-B and manage the transition as both points move - which as you rightly note is caused by the speed of developments and theories in technology. So they don't provide a fixed plan but rather a fluid routing through all of the operational areas of the business and the technology minefield. It's a never ending task and they need to be deeply involved with the system every step of the way, to navigate the sand banks and the other threats in the technology ocean. So, it's not a role, it's a way of life.
My experience of building architects is that they are obsessed by regulations (and white, flat walls), but seem to lack any sense of pragmatism. The (small) building projects I've been involved in have usually been made more difficult and impractical by the architect, and 'architect' is perceived as something of a 4 four-letter word. As for IT architects, they have no regulations to fall back on or guide their design (though this is slowly changing), there is no defined role for them (which may be slowly changing), and they generally lack pragmatism and the 'architect' perceived as something of a 4 four-letter word by the people that actually do the work. Good architects exist, but that's down to an individual's experience/attitude, not CPD or anything structured. Maybe this will change once we mature as an industry, but it's not a job title I would like to have ever(though it probably pays better).
I'd like to be an architect, but I change direction when I see one. Much like the IT management is made of people not competent enough to program, architecture is filled with people not good enough to actually design an application. Not to mention that the "architecture" word is currently spread among many different fields. We have network architects, application architects, storage architects....
There are, however, truly exceptional architects. But they usually don't have that role formally. They are too valuable to waste them watching technology powerpoints and reading the web, as they are needed to actually make things that work today and tomorrow.
Along with "consultant", "manager", "designer", "specialist" and pretty much every other job title used in the IT industry. Usually these words are given to people instead of pay-rises, in the mistaken belief that they will give an individual prestige and respect - in the same way that third-world despots embellish their dictatorships and try to convey some respectability by awarding themselves other gratuitous titles and honours. The problems only arise when the recipients of these bogus titles start to take themselves and their honorifics, seriously.
In reality getting to be a proper architect is a 7-year training programme, just to get into the profession. Obtaining an honours a degree (which is a high-stress, demanding course, with a high dropout rate) is merely the first step in the process. You also have to enter a professional body and maintain their rigorous standards. As we can see, any similarity with the standards required for a software "architecture" job are purely imaginary.
Between an architect and an engineer, about ten grand normally. Add a meaningless acronym (MVP, MBE, STD etc....), an overbearing self confidence verging on arrogance, an inate inability to resolve the simpliest of problems and the sixth sense to get out before the whole shebang blows up. Slippery enough to crawl under a snake's belly wearing a top hat, I've cleaned up the mess that self titled 'architects' have created more than once.
Adopt an overbearing attitude, talk in meaningless techno babble to directors who are impressed by such nonsense, charge a fortune and blame any issues on configuration 'changes' made after you've left and you're set to torpedo any projects you choose to 'architect'.
Of course there might be some good 'architects' out there......... :-)
I have worked in IT for a number of years and been called a few things - not always by the users either! I have always felt that regardless of your title, you end up doing a variety of things.
I ended up as a DBA whilst having the title Sys. Admin, along with stripping PC's, changing toner carts. and configuring firewalls.
As a Systems Analyst, I ended up as Web Developer and Project Manager on an e-Commerce project.
Now, as a Systems Architect, I am an auditor, consultant, developer and desktop support type person.
You don't have a cut and dry role in IT, you have a knowledge that (hopefully) gets used and expanded upon. One of the reasons I always say that I get paid for my hobby is that I love what I do. I love the variety and the fact that you can fairly easily shape your own career path. Don't let's get pigeon holed!!!
I'm a principle storage architect for a big company.
I post anonymously as otherwise I would get in big trouble with the management.
Basically it ends up with the authority to say NO and stop people doing something, however don't think anyone will take any notice if you try to tell them what to do.
So it is a veto and an attempt to suggest direction.
ITAs (1) are the expert system engineers, that coexist in so many ICT companies with an insanely high number of losers that "design" systems on paper.
As a side note, ITAs (1) usually refer to the losers calling them "ignorant technical a**holes" or ITAs (2), and this leads to confusion.
The damage is compounded by the fact that an ITA (1) can easily spot an ITA (2) in five minutes, but bosses tend to mix them up.
Bosses and non techies may use the following theorem: ITAs (1) are the ones summoned up when the ITAs (2) run away (nothing works, customer gets suspicious, phone rings).
- the engineer who has to sit in endless meetings with PHBs and customers. And the last resort when a critical bug is threatening to destroy the product.
The ones I've worked with have been nothing short of wizards in tech terms, but always a bit frayed from the pressure and maddening non-tech aspects of the job. I tip my hat to them but would not want the role.
I thought the word "architect" came from the word "arch", not "chief". As in, someone who understands the once arcane and guild-restricted knowledge of the arch. The arch allows us to build vast buildings using a fraction of the amount of stone required without arches. It was held a secret within societies of masons for centuries.
The idea from this is that architects must know all about "best practices" and have the widest range of techniques available. You will rarely make a graduate programmer be the system architect.
Architects sit logically above everyone else, and they direct their work, but not in a management way - in a regulatory way. The *plans* they produce direct the work, but the architect need not spend much time on the building site, micromanaging people. Architects are policy setters.
Policy *must* be set in IT because it is embodied in the infrastructure (networks and machines, or classes and libraries). Every time a programmer chooses STL or a network manager chooses 1000BaseT, an architecture decision has been made, and cannot easily be reversed. If we are indeed in the middle of a technological revolution then mitigating factors can be introduced. That's still architecture. You don't stop making decisions now just because things might change in 5 years.
So of course we need people to make these decisions, and they must be made well. What is not clear is whether or not that is a full role requiring a whole person, or whether it is done by the "workers" wearing different hats on occasion. This is the political aspect to architecture, the part that means people may walk the other way when they see "the architect" approaching.
So "do we need architecture?" is a stupid question. Yes we do. And the people responsible should *know* they are doing architecture when they are doing it.
"Do we need architects?" is a political question, similar in kind to "do we need mailboys?". There is no single right answer for every situation. It depends how much mail there is to deliver.
This is a classic case of the self appointed.
Zachmann and all the others == Who, what, why, when.
If only they'd included "What if" then I'd consider them brilliant. Unfortunately they haven't so they're little more to me than the money spinning book writers such as, well everyone knows who they are but I'll give a few examples.
Design Patterns - decorator (problem : you need to add a variable to a class you can't change : solution : subclass it and add the variable there. Buy our books!) Singleton : (problem : you wish to store one instance of variables in code that doesn't scale or work across process boundaries, solution : ignore the history of global variable misuse and do it anyway. Buy our book.)
Datawarehousing : (A datawarehouse should be good, liked, accurate, flexible, easy to use and secure. Oh! and you should work towards domain key normalisation! Buy my book. )
I spend my life watching porjects fail, looking for a book that tells the stupid what not to do, rather than what to do.
In the UK, Architect is actually a protected title, protected by law under the Architects Act 1997 so anyone who uses this title without the requisite qualifications is open to legal process and possible record.
A blind eye has effectively been turned on the IT world as there are enough cowboys in the building trade claiming to be architects but I would expect the situation to change in the future as the term is used with abandon.
Most professional IT companies now avoid using the term for fear of litigation.
IT is NOT building, it is more like a city.
We tend to think about IT architect in terms of cathedral planner, while in fact Michelangelo was only the¿greatest? of a series.
A big company´s IT is a city, with a Gothic cathedral with Romanic altar, Roman crypt, Greek temple foundations and neolithic burials underneath.
But what about the merchant´s house? and the king´s palace? and the old quarter ?
Not to mention the enbankment, the Wharf, the City, etc.
So there is not A Chief IT architect, but a lot of them , each with his small building, depending on the Council Planners for Infrastructure.
Have a look around where you live.
THAT is the problem.
You've got techies in each team, but they haven't got the end to end view of a design, and the PM's etc are out of their depth here, so who else is going to provide the high-level technical view? I produce infrastructure architecture designs and it's interesting stuff - the key is not to fall into the pointy-haired boss trap and assume that the real technical stuff is easy - yes the technology is the easier bit, with commercial and political stuff being much trickier, but the minute you ignore what the techies actually have to achieve to pull your designs together is the moment when you turn into a useless powerpoint jockey with your head in the clouds.
good question. one of the organisations that my company 'builds' for (20,000+ users) has an entire section (30+ individuals) dedicated to 'architecure'. in truth, however, they - the 'architects' - seek guidance from the 'builders'. '...what are you guys working on? what capability do you think we need? where do you see this / that trend heading? what applications would you like to see on our road-map?' perhaps what i'm seeing is unique, but i now have to hide a smile when someone introduces themself as an architect because they often just want to know the cutting-edge stuff the 'builders' are working on. i do, however, like 'chief builder' as a title ;-)
As a network architect for a major IT corporation, I can certainly agree that there's a lack of understanding around what architecture is and what architects should do. My personal definition includes an aspect where the architect needs to be a great engineer before becoming a good architect. If there's not a practical aspect, then it might as well be finger-painting to impress executives. Architecture should provide the standards used to engineer solutions, much like building architects draw up blueprints for how to build a house, but engineers execute the actual buiding to the blueprint. If the architect has no concept of what's practical, the blueprints are worthless and have to be readjusted. It's exactly the same with IT, only it happens that way on a much more frequent basis in IT.
" It is this lack of consistency, from theory to practice, which distinguishes IT architects most fundamentally from their namesakes in the building industry "
From this, I guess not! I have, for 20 years. So -
"There is just the possibility that architects in IT really are over-hyped, over-philosophical and out of touch with the real world "
- delete "in IT".
like any other IT terminology that encompasses in one of it's defining words any aspect of computers, software, information, security, databases, data, network (as opposed to networking which is far less wholesome); or one of a growing list of following catch all titles like analyst, enabler, administrator, programmer, tester, systems (anything), (anything) technician blahdeblah.... what it really means is, "our office is full of useless idiots who think that the word password is a good idea for keeping their data safe, install file sharing software on their desk computers, spend most of the day typing when 15 seconds of ctrl-c ctrl-v would be just as effective, believe the spell checker when it corrects their grammar and we desperately need ANYONE with a nodule of common sense and perhaps a bit of competence with a computer so that we can make them do all the work".
that's what architect means. architecture, consequentially, is the plan of <....repeat...>
nobody objects against having a plan, usually.
as for architects, there's good ones. there's bad ones.
like bakers, farmers, and yes, IT techo's.
I was one before it was fashionable , and I still am. Name-change, no other changes.
The difference is usually wether you are or you are not allowed to do your work by the twits.
wether you listen when people talk to you. and vice versa.
The twits can be found at the shopfloor and in the company's board. Stupidity, ignorance, laziness, enthusiasm, intelligence, it can be found everywhere. very democratic, as a matter of fact.
My coat's the one I have on, wasn't gonna stay that long ;)
I coded in the late 70's - mid 80's, did networking and systems support in the late 80's, and moved to system (infrastructure) engineering in the early 90's. I've played with TRS80s, C64, PC Jr.s, S/360s, VMS, SunOS, HP-UX, AIX, every flavor of Windows, and played with Linux since 1995. I've designed LAN, CAN, MAN, and WAN solutions, including firewalls, VPNs, and PKI solutions.
I'm currently the Chief Architect. My role is to guide and coordinate the technology plan, and develop solutions to fill customer need, with the support of four engineering teams. A good architect, of which I hope I'm one, oversees the 'big picture'. Coordinating the efforts of the entire IT staff to a focused result.
That said, IT titles are so abused and misconstrued it can take months to find a real "systems engineer".
Mine the slick, lacquered one, nothing to get hung up on.
i initially trained as a "real" (built environment) architect, but like many who start down that path didn't continue in that industry, as i actually wanted to earn a living wage before i turned 40 :P
there are definitely parallel roles in built architecture and IT architecture (of all kinds): you have to understand requirements, design a solution, document the details, draw up a plan of deployment, oversee the development, and arbitrate variances that crop up during the build process.
the problem in the IT world is exactly the problem that the british Architects Act tries to resolve - lots of people are calling themselves (or are labelled by employers & trainers) "architect" when they are not qualified to be so named - so we end up treating the title with suspicion. for example, in one organisation i know, the business analysts decided they didn't want to be "BA's" anymore & so started calling themselves "solution architects", even though they never actually produced a solution or any architecture... they just thought it sounded cooler :P
having said that, it doesn't mean that there aren't people in the IT industry who are worthy of the title (or at least worthy of the role the title implies), just as there were plenty of worthy built-environment architects before the various institutes of architects appeared on the scene (i think Inigo Jones got on quite well, for example)
for now i just call myself "consultant" - that's a weaselly enough word, but it's also bland enough to avoid being *too* pretentious...
Some insightful comments here but some real drivel from people who call themselves professionals - but then "cowboy" was a profession some time ago as well..
No wonder we have such woeful project histories and the whole show is moving to India :-)