According to Wikipedia the role of a Software Architect is defined as
“Architects make high-level design choices based on their programming experience. An architect has thought through all the aspects of a software, just like an architect that builds a house. A construction architect knows where the ducts will be, where the electric connections will be and where the wall outlets will be. A design that a common person sees is just the walls and windows but a detailed design that is abstracted from the outsider are also present with the architect. In addition, the architect may sometimes propose technical standards, including coding standards, tools, or platforms.”
However, according to my experience and according to actual software architects out there who have shared their experience; this is just a small portion of what goes into being a Software Architect. A better analogy for me would be
“An architect is a person who works with a diverse set of people both technical and non technical to guide a project / product or an organization to it’s business success using technology , engineering, collaboration, leadership, project management, standards, and governance.”
According to above an architect plays a role of technical visionary, leader as well as people and process champion to ensure a project is successfully completed.
However when we look at the content that is out there, we mostly see the technical aspects as designing, modeling, deep technology knowledge , engineering principles etc… but if we look at above list, we are looking at more non technical then technical aspects.
To understand this, let’s understand the typical types of software architects that we can find in the industry. Though there are many, I can see three clear distinct types or architects,
• Enterprise Architect– A strategic architect who looks at the overall organization’s business processes, people, information flow, and business & technical strategies. The main goal is to align an organization’s IT with business goals. An enterprise architect looks at the long term initiatives.
• Solutions Architect– A tactical architect who looks at cross domain and cross functional system interactions such as frameworks, infrastructure, road maps, guidance, cross cutting process & governance, reuse and strategic solutions. The main goal is to look at an organizations product or services suite and help to implement strategic solutions across the board.
• Application Architect– An operational architect who is a subject matter expert and will focus on single application stack. Integration Architect, Cloud Architect, Data Architect, Mobile Architect etc… An Application Architect would focus on components, maintainability, modules, classes, libraries, languages etc…
Most of the content available mainly details application architects, which is about the operational implementation and remaining highly technical. But the different between a senior engineer and an architect are those non technical skills, which I would coin as the essential skills needed for an architect to be successful.
So to be an effective software architect, we need to understand the role of an architect and the key role non technical essential skills play in the role.
So to answer the question “What is the role of a software architect” ? the best answer that I can put out is , a person who guides a project or product from inception to closure with a diverse set of teams by using leadership, management and broad set of technical skills.
In my next article I will dive deeper into understanding what are the technical and non-technical duties of a software architect.
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