How to become an IT Architect – A 60sec quick guide to skills and steps

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There is and can be no general definition for personal and professional success, as each of us has to define that for themselves. However, there are a number of ways one can look at success.

Often do I get asked “What are the skills of an IT Architect?”, “I am a Server Engineer; to become an IT Architect what skills do I have to gain?”, “How do I become an IT Architect?” and I thought it might be helpful to try to summarise my views in this short blog.

As per [2,3 and 5] the IT Architect role is to drive change that creates business opportunity through technology innovation. He/she will shape and translate business and IT strategy needs into realizable, sustainable technology solutions whilst taking end-to-end solution delivery ownership from idea to benefits delivery.

To achieve this IT Architects will work across all 3 main delivery areas – from inception/elaboration and construction to transition –many different abstract levels as well as covering multiple areas – business, information, information systems and technical infrastructure.

“The ideal architect should be a man of letters, a mathematician, familiar with historical studies, a diligent of philosophy, acquainted with music, not ignorant of medicine, learned in the responses of jurisconsultis,  familiar with astronomy and astronomical calculations.”

– Vitruvius, circa 25 BC

As there are not many who are able to cover everything from inception to run, covering all abstraction levels and areas, different Architecture role types are typically focusing on particular subjects : Enterprise, Solution, Business, Technical, Security, etc. [1,2]

In the broadest sense an IT Architect (here I am referring to any role type) will focus on the following key objectives :

Drive innovation and change

  • Shape service offers, accelerators to create new opportunities
  • Monitor and communicate the latest technology trends to ensure our relevance and credibility
  • Actively engage with partner ecosystem to generate market presence and create opportunities
  • Shape business opportunities and offerings through application of new technologies for client delivery

Own the Solution(s)

  • Quality, Integrity and timely decision-making
  • Shape and own the end to end solution to ensure overall quality, integrity, and sustainability
  • Provide leadership and direction to the technical teams
  • Actively manage the solution scope and technology risks for the delivery

Jointly own the Delivery

  • Shared KPIs (key performance indicators) with Service Delivery / Engagement Manager
  • Be a partner to the Engagement Manager taking joint stewardship of the delivery
  • Establish and operate the Design Authority for delivery
  • Create the architectural deliverables and shape the delivery approach to realise, implement and operate the solution

He/she will do this by “knowing” what is right for the client; by constantly managing complexity to reduce risk and cost and ensuring that the solution will deliver value for money; today and tomorrow.

And to do that an IT Architect must have skills in 4 main areas:

IT Architect

  1. IT Knowledge : Having a solid understanding of IT related solutions is needed to understand what is technically possible, today as well as tomorrow
  2. Design Knowledge : Knowing how to designing complex solutions is needed to understand activities and duration of design activities
  3. Sector Knowledge : Understanding what the business sector requires, what the business-related objectives and challenges are is imperative when wanting to create value for money solutions
  4. Consulting Knowledge: To overcome the stakeholder challenges and to ensure that the “right” solution is being delivered, the Architect has to have very good / excellent consulting (soft) skills.

To be successful an IT Architect must cover all 4 skill areas – depending on your role some are more prevalent than others. As outlined in [2], Architects are central in today’s digital age and having solid sector/business knowledge is getting more important regardless of the role.

It is of course not straightforward to define what “success” means in a role context as it related to personal as well as professions preferences. There is and can be no general definition for personal and professional success, as each of us has to define that for themselves. However, there are a number of ways one can look at success.

For instance, success can be related to accomplishments; on having been able to make an impact or even a lasting impact. On seeing others valuing what you have created/delivered; seeing your material appearing in other materials or having delivered a solution that makes a real difference.

Success, accomplishments and skills go hand in glove together, and rather defining success, I will provide more guidance on the skills aspects. Focusing on a profession context, being a successful Architect can mean that he/she

  • Is a master in skills areas outlines above,
  • Has significant impact in / during inception, construction and/or delivery engagements,
  • Is seen internally and externally as a thought leader and
  • Has fun to enthuse and motivate others.

Being a bit more specific success comes from past delivery / impact and it is possible to provide some guidelines on what impacts are important (high level)

  1. Pre-Project / Inception : Number of new projects initiated, total value saved over a period,
  2. Project Delivery / Construction : Meeting milestones and budget, functional and non-functional compliance, client satisfaction score
  3. Service Delivery / Transition : SLA and KPI compliance, client satisfaction score and,
  4. Innovation : Number of POV issued, number of external papers, number of recognised innovations implemented, etc

So, with that, how do I become an IT Architect? There is no silver bullet that provides a complete, correct and comprehensive answer. As outlined above it depends on the personal perception of what success means to an individual that will drive the activities need to achieve success. However, as a general suggestion here is some ideas and suggestions that might help to devise a plan to achieve success.

1. Understand

  • Gain sector knowledge Gain technical knowledge
  • Ascertain stakeholder knowledge
  • Understand how you can drive value
  • Understand the value you provide

2. Develop

  • Continue to develop sector & technical knowledge
  • Develop your soft skills
  • Develop a unique selling point – something you are/can be famous for
  • Understand where you want to be in 2-3 years – what role would you like to execute
  • Develop a plan to get you there

3. Deliver

  • Deliver real impact
  • Work with the Community
  • Focus on quality and deliver against/above expectations
  • Identify a buddy / mentor / friend
  • Get certified
  • Use training to increase skills and impact
  • Keep up with developments in IT

Again, these are not complete nor should these steps seen as the final answer. If you want to ‘be more successful’ you must work with your reviewer, mentor and/or line manager to validate and agree on all necessary actions – including training etc. Do not attempt this on your own.

Thanks for Reading. 

About the Author: Gunnar Menzel has been an IT professional for over 25 years and is VP and Chief Architect Officer for Capgemini’s Cloud Infrastructure Business. According to Richtopia Gunnar is one of the Top 50 most influential Information Technology Officer. His main focus is business – enabling technology transformation & innovation.


[1] The different types of IT Architectures in 60sec
[2] The New Role of the Architect
[3] The Integrated Architecture Framework Explained, 2010, Springer (see link here)
[4] The Open Group Architecture Framework
[5] The Open Group Architecture Skills Framework

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