The IT Architect – Coming of Age

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The role of an (IT) Architect has fundamentally changed. Gone are the days where we have been confined to “talking technology only”; our business nowadays is value for money. However with this changes comes challenges and in this short post I will focus outlining my view on the Architect of the Future. Before we talk future lets […]

The role of an (IT) Architect has fundamentally changed. Gone are the days where we have been confined to “talking technology only”; our business nowadays is value for money. However with this changes comes challenges and in this short post I will focus outlining my view on the Architect of the Future.

Before we talk future lets have a quick look back using Outsourcing as an example. Back in 1989 Kodak decided to outsource part of their Mainframe system and key Business Applications to IBM, DEC and BusinessLand. The then Kodak CIO Katherine Hudson was amongst the first IT executives to identify the opportunities an outsourcing arrangement could bring to an organisation – focusing on core competencies and reducing costs.
Yet the Business Model of an outsourced arrangement has only slightly changed between 1990 and 2000 – IT outsource contracts were usually long term arrangements that deliver a set of services in a defined manner and with strict SLA’s (service level agreements) and KPI’s (key performance indicators). This is in stark contrast to the changes the IT industry has seen over the past 5 years. Services that were not even thinkable 5 years ago are now standard practice. Open Source, ASP, virtual services like servers and desktops as well as storage on tap are only a small number of examples. Apple’s ipod/ipad, tablets, smartphones as well as facebook, twitter, yammer and enterprise enabled online business applications that can easily be meshed with other content providers, using on premise private cloud, off premise public or something in the middle, and so have led to a new area of computing. 

This has also led to an evolution in the IT Outsourcing sector – IT Vendors that focus on Outsourcing also started to invest heavier in innovation, trying to understand the business models and services of their customers and many IT enabled Business transformation programmes are led by IT Outsourcing Teams – Outsourcing is moving away from being static, slow moving and inflexible becoming agile, fast and flexible.

Alongside this development we have seen the IT sourcing model developing and changing over the years – from the once monolithic to the hybrid and cloud everywhere model. To respond to this development we have developed the idea of Service Orchestration and looking forward the landscape we will find will not reduce in complexity – it will increase due to the sheer choices and options out there.

The shift from a tower based to a hybrid and orchestrated model (some refer to Generation 3 or 4) will deliver a significant amount of value to our clients but also will increase complexity due to the sheer volume of options available.

Next to this shift comes a fundamental change in the way our clients see IT. With Generation 1 or 2 IT was a BackOffice capability, usually reporting to the CFO of an organisation and being seen as a cost. With the advent of Generation 3 and 4 this is changing; IT is now the Business. It is seen as a vital part to almost any organisation; helping to drive real business outcomes.

And this is where “An Architect” can add real value. Deployed correctly, architects have the ability to respond to client demands for better value for money, faster change cycles and improved productivity whilst managing risks and reducing overall cost.

In particular the Architect of the Future (read “Architect” as a Profession and not just any Architect role) will have to:

  • Face off to the client / business
  • Manage disruptive technologies
  • Drive innovation
  • Understand a Business Sector
  • Lead plan, design, build, test, implement and run
  • Has IT domain expertise
  • Focuses on Value for money and
  • Mitigates Risk + reduces complexity

One of the key functions of an architect is to provide solution and architecture leadership. At its simplest this is about setting the vision, enthusing and motivating others to achieve that vision. As one of the definitions of leadership points out “… setting an example for others and leading from the front”.

This capability is underpinned by personal characteristics, right skills, belief, perseverance, attitude and behaviours to deal with complexity and volatility mixed in a balanced way in the core team.

Based on the TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) see [1] :

  • “The architect has a responsibility for ensuring the completeness (fitness-for-purpose) of the architecture, in terms of adequately addressing all the pertinent concerns of its stakeholders; and the integrity of the architecture, in terms of connecting all the various views to each other, satisfactorily reconciling the conflicting concerns of different stakeholders, and showing the trade-offs made in so doing (as between security and performance, for example).

Further it – see [1] – outlines :  

  • “The choice of which particular architecture views to develop is one of the key decisions that the enterprise architect has to make. The choice has to be constrained by considerations of practicality, and by the principle of fitness-for-purpose (i.e., the architecture should be developed only to the point at which it is fit-for-purpose, and not reiterated ad infinitum as an academic exercise).”

Using an Infrastructure context this means that an Infrastructure Architects is not the same as a senior Engineer. The career path to becoming an Infrastructure Architects might start with being a Server or Network Engineer; however this does not mean that  an Infrastructure Architect still has / or had detailed and low level infrastructure engineering knowledge (like how to use sed on ksh; how to configure a Raid 5 controller etc). However, it does help having content knowledge. 

Thanks for reading

[1] The Open Group Architecture Skills Framework :

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