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).
- 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.