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Author's profile photo Matt Harding

What does it take to be an Architect? Or – Are you now a Doctor of Enterprise Software?


Firstly, please bare with me while I give a quick run down of my career titles and sorry this sounds a little like a CV…I am happy in my current job, but this is just to give my view point on what has happend with the term architect within the software industry over the last decade or so.

The History of My and other Architect’s Titles

I remember when I worked within the R&D department at a hardware/software company that made digital audio workstations (Fairlight).  My title was Software Engineer and no matter how experienced I would have became there, the most my title was ever going to change was to Senior Software Engineer. 

Coming out of an engineering degree, this suited me just fine but I definitely appreciated that there was a lot to live up to with the title Engineer.

A few years later, after I’d left that company and joined an SAP consulting house; the Engineer was stripped from my title and replaced with consultant styled titles (Consultant, Senior Consultant, Manager, etc).  Everyone had this title so although a little dull, it sufficed for this role.

Now forward a few years to around 2000, and my title was now Technical Architect.  At this point we started getting functional and technical architects within SAP (basis was still basis around the 4.6C days) so a technical architect was more from a development perspective.

Then NetWeaver came out, databases got more complex, SAN technologies and virtualisation were introduced, and Basis people needed to become architects just to design and maintain their landscape. They took the Technical Architect name, and for some reason, we never really introduced a development architect so that got confusing for me for a few years.

Then TOGAF and other enterprise frameworks started to get big so Enterprise Architects became all the rage.  Not to mention the confusion that SAP did when they introduced Business Process Expert which suprisingly didn’t have the term “Architect” in it (how refreshing). 

At this stage, I believe BPX and Business Process Owners has started to replace the Functional Architect title. 

It was about then and when SOA became big that the “development” architect evolved into the Solution Architect title – especially those who could grasp all the products that were hitting us at that point (does everyone remember all the xApps being talked about in 2005 or ESOA for that matter). 

So with that snippit of history in mind, where are we today with the term Architect?

So what is an Architect and does it seem to you that everyone is an Architect now?

(I won’t answer the second question of this section, but let’s describe what I believe is required to be an architect.)

Regardless of what type of Architect you are (excluding the more traditional kind), be it Solution, Enterprise, Business Process, Data, Technology, NetWeaver, Integration/SOA, Portal, CRM, BI. SRM, etc; there are certain characteristics that I believe you need; and a few more that are nice to have.

The mandated characteristics are:

  • Knowledgeable in your area of expertise with hands-on experience – no Sales people please;
  • You’re never too introverted to give an opinion;
  • If you don’t know the answer, you know how to get it; or know when you’re on your own to work it out;
  • A constant drive to keep up to speed on the latest developments, trends and best-practices;
  • Willingness to try these new things ensuring minimal risk, and even championing them into production when appropriate;
  • You have the ability to mentor in order for your designs to be achieved (I’m not saying you are patient when doing this, but it’s a requirement of the job).
The nice to haves:
  • You share information beyond your enterprise and realise the value of community;
  • The boundaries of your role description, don’t stop you wanting to learn more.

So why this Post?

Everywhere I look now, I come across “architects”. It’s the buzz word for senior consultants and if everyone had the above characteristics I would have no issue with this but this is not always the case. Hence, if we are to keep the term architect to reflect a senior capable and knowledgable role; I’d like to ask the following of all those that have been rewarded with the title Architect: 

  • Please review my mandated characteristics;
  • let me know if I’ve been too harsh, or if other characteristics are required;
  • If you are missing any mandatory requirements, please work on these and let’s keep the Architect title being a well respected title.

What’s the Alternative?

Well IT Architect’s are relatively new so we could use something different.  We have engineers still in many places but that doesn’t seem to work in the consulting world…We could start to abuse the term Doctor, and the “Enterprise Doctor” does have a certain ring to it (strangly enough, I did get the nickname “Doctor 9-pin” at Fairlight when it came to fixing issues with Sony’s 9-Pin protocol for controlling Video which was, like most standards, implemented differently by everyone)!

In my mind, this isn’t really an alternative. Apart from Solution Architect (it seems), we are starting to settle down on the definitions of the various types of Architects, so lets keep an eye out for architects that don’t architect and make sure we let the various vendors/managers know our expectations so they don’t make architect’s out of senior consultants too early.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Thanks for reminding me why I am qualified to be a Business Intelligence Architect.
      I think I miss on the patience part but that's what scrums are for right 🙁
      Kevin McManus
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      The term 'Architect' used to be held in high regard but it's steadily losing traction & credibility because of the individuals masquerading as Architects. There seems to be masses of people that have cottoned on to the notion that having 'Architect' in a title means a bigger pay cheque.

      I personally feel that an Architect needs to be someone that has earned their stripes in the Architecture stream that they serve in (e.g. Software, Enterprise, Integration, Data etc.). I've been offered several Architect positions but politely turned them down because I feel I lack in certain areas (although having extensive work experience in various IT disciplines). This doesn't seem to deter many pretenders & they seem to make it through the cracks. It's really painful sometimes to have to explain to a Data Architect how normalization works but that's the nature of the beast I guess...

      I also feel that at some stage you should have written a line of code irrespective of the Architecture stream you're in. It's a real eye opener for most!

      Having said that, it all boils down to educating people. HR Departments hiring Architects need to be acutely aware of:
      - The character traits of the person
      - the IT acumen of the person
      - Whether the person has earned their stripes with hands-on experience
      - The person should have have various architecture framework's (hand-on) experience
      - Have worked in various stream (e.g. DB Admin, Software Development, Consulting etc.)
      - Have worked with multiple Technologies (e.g. SAP, IBM, Oracle etc.)
      - Have exposure to both technical & functional (maybe even testing & training) aspects of technology
      - Have exposure to various programming languages (including legacy 3GL, 4GL, etc.).
      - Have been a part of at least one international IT project.
      - Have strong Business Process Acumen (meaing having worked in several Industry verticals).
      - Absolute must, have acute Integration/EAI/ESB knowledge.
      - Have a cool head...
      - And have a dog! Just kiddin'...But this list could go on for a while...

      SAP recently threw a curveball with the University Alliance program conducting EA courses. I'm personally really sceptical about this but I live & learn!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Since my thoughts on this have not changed since I wrote these, let me just paste the links here 🙂

      Author's profile photo Stefan Koehler
      Stefan Koehler
      Hello Matt,
      i think that topic is pretty funny and i am amused anytime i see a consultant with a title that is nearly as long as his business card.

      I always wonder why we can't describe "what we are" with that stuff we are doing.

      If you are a ABAP programer why not calling ABAP programer, if you are adminstrating SAN why not calling SAN administartor, if you are administrating a database why not calling as a database administrator.

      That junior/senior stuff is also pretty ridiculous i think. "You are what you do" - anything else came by itself.

      If you got a huge knowledge you don't really care about such titles, because you are judged on a different level in my opinion.


      Author's profile photo Matt Harding
      Matt Harding
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks Stefan, Vijay, Trevor and Kevin...

      Firstly to Vijay's references (longest response required)...
      Your two blogs closely relate to my blog so just to raise a few comments there:
      In terms of the BPX and Sol Architect discussion - I had a heated discussion with Marco ten Vaanholt a few years ago now, but it was very clear the role of BPX was a much different background than a Solution Architect in his mind (I'm happy to admit that in my opinion he was right and I was wrong). Basically Business Process Owners or Functional Architects are more aligned with the BPX role (with obviously a thirst for SAP Functional knowledge and specialty required).

      Now back to the Architect title discussion:
      It is interesting that you actually came across the gap I encountered with Development Architects. It was an obvious title when Basis moved to NetWeaver and took over the Technical Architect role, but I hadn't come across it.

      Another funny coincidence...I was once a "Global" Architect at BHP Billiton; but in this case, we did have "Local" Architects also hence in this situation, global made sense since the Local Architects reported into the Global Architects (Architecturally).

      Lastly, to the point of using the term Architect in a position title. What I can say is that if a resume comes across my desk with the title architect of "something"...they better be in a position to be extremely competent in that space with good design skills and opinionated enough to share this in your job otherwise the whole consulting company will need to work on giving me confidence in your company.  In terms of you Vijay - I obviously wouldn't care about your title or resume and just give you the job to fit you best (good people are everything)!

      Stefan - In terms of an ABAP Programmer being an ABAP Programmer; this works fine for a few years or if you want to contract as an ABAP Programmer for the rest of your life; but at some stage; you start to pick up more and more skills.  Maybe it's MDM, BI, JAVA, Workflow, PI, functional expertise, etc; and suddenly you find you have the ability to build comprehensive solutions across multiple applications and technologies.  At this stage, you are no longer an ABAP Programmer.  So you're right to a degree, but most good "Architects" I know aren't any specific skill set.  Hey - I still love developing in ABAP but it's rare that anyone lets me!

      Trevor - Hey it's a start 🙂  I came across a few lately that fit the description that Vijay has described (those who have been given the title) and they are expensive if you get them, and won't provide you the value you expect. The problem I will always face in my current position is that consulting companies bypass my HR department but agreed - when you hire an Architect - it's your job to get the right guy. 

      Kevin - Glad to see you fit the bill...I don't have a silver bullet for your patience issue, though getting the right people to begin with is an excellent start!


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hey now that you have said that in a public forum, if I ever need to find an SAP job - I will come knock on your doors first !

      I enjoyed the blog and your responses


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Nice article, thanks.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I am a sunior SAP consultant in a delhi based construction company.I would like to know meaning of

      internally processed activity and
      externally processedactivity
      cost activity

      in project system in detail..........
      i need ur support Mr matt as u r my idol

      Author's profile photo Matt Harding
      Matt Harding
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks for the feedback and hope I dont let you down with my answer for your question. In short, I'd probably guess it's best to engage a PS expert for getting a quicker understanding of Project Systems and all their quirky definitions.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I want to be super excellent SAP consultant ... so please tell me how should i start at this stage as i m at junior level.I want to specialise on PS,PP,MM,FICO,SD. so please tell me is it possible to do these all if yes then what is the time peiod to learn all of this excellently.And how much should i study and implemtn these things per day.
      Author's profile photo Matt Harding
      Matt Harding
      Blog Post Author
      "Shoot for the Stars, and at least you'll hit the moon" is the phrase I like to use as motivation.  Just make sure that you follow what your passionate about, don't accept things as they are if they're not what you are after and hopefully life leads you where you want to go.
      No secret sauce exists for this unfortunately.
      From my perspective, smaller consulting firms where you get larger cross-section of responsibilities are a better way to cross skill yourself for junior levels.
      Anything is possible though expect a good 3-4 big implementations before you get to be a super excellent SAP consultant (or a Business Process Expert from what you are describing)!
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      thank u very much for reply my idol Mr Matt............. may i ask u one more question what kinda project may be describes as big being in construction company how i be able to implement it in a good manner... I need some help about how to get oppurtunities to get good  place where i can utilise my knowledge.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I think Architecture Skills Framework from TOGAF is very much relevant here.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Thank you mr Corrax
      Author's profile photo Marlo Simon
      Marlo Simon
      Hi Matt,

      I must confess that I´ve been struggling to build the right word match to "? Architect" to describe my current career maturity.

      Back in 2006 when we worked together at BHP (ITS Remember?) I was holding to the developer skill set. Years, projects and certifications came along and now the prefix to Architect has changed a couple of times.

      I agree with you that the title it’s always misleading even to the entitled one.
      What really makes a difference is the way that we look at life and the way we treat each other.

      Thanks a lot for blog, very insightful,

      Marlo Simon.

      Author's profile photo Matt Harding
      Matt Harding
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks Marlo (or is it Simon as I always got the Brazil names the wrong way around)...

      And a very insightful comment from you too. 

      I should add that personally, titles don't need to mean anything if people know you, what you are capable of, and have a good fit with your ethics/values.

      Hope all is well and good luck with the World Cup,