What Architects Are In Modern Day IT Organizations?
Crises in IT organizations resolve not by superheroes but "superglue" architects.
There is an opinion that Enterprise Architects, like wizards or superheroes, can
single-handedly launch companies into the modern digital age orbits directly from the stone age, solve just about any technical problem, and are always on top of any cutting-edge technology. These are challenging expectations to fulfill, so I’d caution you to think twice before taking advantage of this common misconception.
Architects: Who They Are?
Architects in corporate IT have a breathtaking but fraught with different challenging and ambiguous obstacles.
Some managers and lead technical staff consider architects as residents of Olympus who bestow their ideas upon the rest of the organization with an infinite stream of diagrams and presentations in their endless search for the holy grail. As a result, missed project timelines and resources were wasted senselessly.
On the flip side of this coin, when traditional enterprises look for professionals to transform their IT landscape to modern catting-edge and compete in the market, IT architects become the most sought-after experts.
So, besides the printed title on the business card, what makes a person an architect? To answer this question we have to come from the opposite direction because it's easier to describe what architects are not instead of trying to develop an exact definition of what they are.
What Architects Are Not
Architects are involved in the solving of various problems, from intermittent performance in the cloud environments to the introduction of the new enterprise culture and planning of organization development direction. This leads to pulling architects into multiple roles that miss the purpose of being an architect.
Despite this, the architects are not Senior Developers. Usually, developers plan to become an architect as the next step in their career growth pathline. However, superstar engineer and architect are two completely different paths to develop a career. Architects have broader scope, including management, organizational and strategic aspects, while engineers are focused on delivering running software. That's the reason why mature organizations differentiate these two career paths and offer as parallel pathways.
In many organizations is expected from architect to be able to troubleshoot and solve any critical issues based on a broad understanding of the system. Indeed, architecture should not ignore production problems and have to provide valuable feedback in case of possible weaknesses. Nevertheless, if an architect runs from one fire drill to the next, then no time will be left to think about architecture. So, architects are not firefighters.
Architects have to make different types of decisions, and many of them may affect on project timeline and resources. As a result, the top management frequently comes to rely on architects for project information. It's very valuable work, but it distracts from the primary duties of the architect.
Eventually, architects should have a sharp intellect and be able to analyze the information in a wide range of models and systems. In spite of that, they are not scientists. Scientists may publish complex papers where the information is presented in complex and hard-to-understand form, while the architects' job is the inverse of that. One of the main responsibilities of architects is to make complex topics easy to digest.
So, What Are Architects Do?
To make a step closer to the answer, we have to figure out initially that the architects are working in different levels of abstraction. In a wide range of levels. Just like in real estate work, city planners, and building and interior architecture, IT organizations can have many specializations, such as solutions architects, software architects, cloud architects, etc. No one architect's role is more important than others. Having a modern, designed with cutting-edge technologies application which is not solving the business problem is equally unacceptable as having an application whose environment costs a significant portion of the corporate revenue. Architects deal with nonrequirements like scalability, maintainability, availability, and so on. The problem is these abstractions are not required, they aren't even stated somewhere. The architects deal with information from different aspects of the organization's business daily. They have to make tactic assumptions that contain hidden dependencies and many other things which were never spelled out.
As a result of that, the architects become change agents for the organizations. They are the glue connecting different parts of the organization together as one entity. Like in old ships, an echo tube was installed between the captain's bridge and engine room for effective management of the ship; the architects act as a communication channel between different levels of the organization and speak on each level in the native language.
The architects collect, analyze and develop a plan to solve business problems like skippers trying to pass through the storm on a boat. Additionally, architects deliver the information from the "basement" to the "penthouse" of the organization by converting the data for each level of auditory. They connect the dots between pieces of information and see the trade-offs. Architects see both sides of the coin and balance trade-offs in line with
overarching goals and principles. By looking beyond the products, architects articulate strategy. Simplifying the complex challenges of the fast-changing world into the plan to move forward with mitigated risks.
It's hard to measure an Architect's value because of the complexity of their duties. The primary responsibility of the architect is to keep the IT system efficient with flexibility and extensibility. So, if the system is able to absorb high rates of change after many years of growth and development, then most probably, the project team includes a good architect.
Architects keep different parts of the organization and project connected and let them act as one organism, like dark matter in the universe keeps together and governs the galaxies.