The term “architect” comes from the Greek word architekton, which means chief creator or master builder. Traditionally, an architect is a person who plans, designs, and advises or guides the construction of homes, buildings, and other structures, but in this article, we’ll discuss how the term and role have now extended to other disciplines.
Let’s take a look at architects who design the business plans, processes, policies, and networks that increase efficiency and clarity across organizations.
How the title of architect has evolved
The adoption of “architect” and “architecture” to define roles outside of the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is not new. For example, in 1976, Richard Saul Wurman coined the term “information architecture” to describe how these types of information systems work as opposed to how they look. So the people who design and build these systems are the information system architects.
In the last two decades, the title “architect” has been connected to roles in other industries—especially in the IT industry. These “technical architects” are the people who plan, design, build, implement, and maintain network systems. They are responsible for the security, communications, hardware, and software that the company needs to deliver innovative products and reach long-term business goals.
In a 2010 Architect Magazine article titled “Everyone’s An Architect,” the author describes how members of the AEC feel that the IT industry has hijacked the architect title without earning it. But consider how the term “doctor” is often used outside of the medical profession—more broadly, architects are those who design and build, whether the end result is a skyscraper or application software.
What do IT architects do?
There are several different architect roles and responsibilities in any given company’s IT department. But this doesn’t mean that companies are handing out the architect title to anybody who wants one.
The title is generally reserved for senior-level IT technicians who are skilled in analytical thinking, problem-solving, data analysis, and verbal and written communication. They will also need to be organized and have experience managing time, people, and projects. Architects usually have a good grasp of the business side of the organization.
Many responsibilities will overlap from one architect's role to the next. Here are some of the tasks that an IT architect may be responsible for:
- Analyzing and testing existing network systems to see what meets the company’s needs and what gaps need to be filled
- Reviewing company goals, resources, and current processes to be able to recommend what is needed to support the company’s mission and goals
- Being the liaison between departmental stakeholders to get buy-in and to ensure corporate strategies align with the current IT structure
- Designing, modeling, and testing complex computer and networking systems
- Implementing security policies to ensure authorized access
- Managing and deploying software and hardware installations and upgrades
- Designing and modeling network scalability
- Constantly monitoring and managing systems and fixing problems when they happen
Take a look at some of the specific architect roles you might find in a large corporation or enterprise.
This person is responsible for designing, building, and managing a company’s entire infrastructure. The systems that they oversee should have all the resources needed by various teams and organizations, be easy to navigate, and be scalable. Enterprise architects are responsible for ensuring that systems adhere to regulations and company policies.
Depending on the system’s size and complexity, there may be several different architects assigned to specific parts of the network. But the enterprise architect is responsible for the whole thing.
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Analyzes and designs business models. These architects focus on business strategies, structures, processes, and capabilities. They use metrics to monitor and analyze how well the business model is working and look for ways to improve.
For example, business architects might model strategies for moving to a new corporate business model.
This role is responsible for managing a company’s technical vision. This includes designing, implementing, and maintaining the networks, security, communications, and hardware needed to reach long-term technical goals.
These architects are concerned with the high-level planning and design of software products. They work with development teams to determine the processes, technologies, and methods that will be used to code and produce software solutions that will meet customer needs and align with company goals.
This is one of the most customer-facing architect roles. They work with internal and external customers to determine their business needs. They also work with development teams to ensure that solutions are designed to meet current needs and can scale to meet future needs.
Solutions architects typically need to have a balanced understanding of the business and technical development sides of the company. They focus on a solution’s technical decisions to determine how those decisions might impact business outcomes.
People in this role design software projects that are used by other people. Their responsibilities may include creating new applications, updating released applications, building and demonstrating prototypes, designing and running testing plans, and documenting application development processes and procedures.
These are the people who design and maintain systems that provide services to applications, automation, data processing, and more.
For example, a systems architect might be responsible for a system that operates robots in a manufacturing plant.
Data architects design, build, and manage a company’s data systems. They define how data is stored and archived, the security levels needed to access the data, how it is retrieved and consumed, and how it integrates with different IT systems.
Data architects focus on the controls, standards, models, and interfaces that will let people access and use data securely and efficiently.
This role is responsible for making information attractive and readily accessible to its intended audience. An information architect organizes digital information with a focus on user experience, navigation, searchability, and ease of access to the information that people need.
While an information architect may be responsible for the look and flow of a website or a software interface, they are not typically responsible for the content of these interfaces.
In short, IT architects are the ones responsible for keeping the work running smoothly. They ensure that the architecture is designed and implemented for efficiency while adhering to local and company regulations—and whatever title you give them, the professionals fulfilling these responsibilities are essential to your company.
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