Architects are a key asset to achieving digital success. If you are planning to take your enterprise on a digital journey, make sure you have an architect, or even better, a team of architects on board.

In my 25 years of working in the IT industry, technology is not the only thing that has developed. The role of the architect working in IT has changed dramatically. Gone are the days when architects were confined to talking just hardware and software; today, architects talk business. They ensure value for money, shape strategies to pave the way to digital excellence, drive innovation and deliver IT solutions. They do all this while minimizing impact on the business and without introducing risk.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) planning or executing a digital transformation journey must understand the value of the architect to ensure that their investments achieve the desired outcomes. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of large architecture assignments where we enable all executives of all industries to view their businesses through a different lens and create strategies and solutions that are able to perform to their maximum potential.

The Role of an Architect

The architect’s role is like no other – combining technology, market sector and consulting knowledge.

In the broadest sense, an architect will:

  • Drive innovation and change
  • Own the solution
  • Jointly own the delivery

One of the key functions of an architect is to provide architecture and solution leadership. This is about setting the vision, creating a plan to achieve that vision, and then enthusing and motivating others to achieve that vision. This is done by working effectively with others while being confident and possessing the necessarily skills, both soft and technical, as well as experience to make those critical decisions.

 There is a common misconception today that an architect is an engineer or a software developer. In fact, an architect does not necessarily need to be technical or hands-on, although having some content knowledge will always be an advantage.

As there are an increasing number of architectural roles in the world today, there is no set career path. An architect could start their career as a server or network engineer, or a software developer, but could also start as a business analyst or project manager. Many architects spend an engagement mapping out the current business functions and services, working to understand and identify how they interact and are supported by IT.  These types of architects would not reach down to the lower technical levels of applications and hardware. The role of the architect is varied; depending on the need and the scope of the engagement, different types of architect are required, and there is no one architect that will suit all needs.

As architecture does not directly increase revenue or cut costs, it is often difficult to show its value. A recent study (The Value of Solution Architecture, Raymond Slot, Guido Dedene, and Rik Maes, 2009,) tried to tackle this difficulty and provide answers in terms of business value against success factors such as project cost, delivery time and customer satisfaction.

 The Value of an Architect 

The study compared the results achieved by those using architecture, against those that did not. There were 49 projects, with an average size of €700,000 .

The results and conclusions translate to an average saving, through the use of architecture, of €140,000. Typical organizations have a dozen to several hundred IT projects running, and based on the average project portfolio, architecture could save millions of euros annually.

There is, of course, a cost associated with building up and maintaining an architecture process and capability. These costs need to be balanced and incorporated with the savings. Having said that, cost is only one aspect to consider when looking to adopt an architecture function.

 Next to the commercial value of an architect there are other factors that are also positively influenced by having an architect, such as best overall technical fit, the timely delivery of projects, delivering better enterprise level value and ensuring best strategic fit.

Architects understand what is “right” for the business. They ensure value for money, shape strategies to pave the way to digital excellence, drive innovation and deliver IT solutions.  They do all this while minimizing impact on the business and without introducing risk.

Want to know more – see here the paper issued in March.

Thanks for Reading

About the Author: Gunnar Menzel has been an IT professional for over 25 years and is the VP and Chief Architect Officer for Capgemini’s Infrastructure Business. Gunnar is also currently the Chairman & President for the Open Data Centre Alliance. His main focus is business- enabling technology innovation