Monday, June 12, 2023

Different Types of IT Architects

There is a lot of ambiguity and even misinformation regarding the role of an IT Architect in a software project. Let's understand the differences between them.

Photo by Medienst├╝rmer on Unsplash

There is a lot of ambiguity and even misinformation regarding the role of an IT Architect with regards to their participation in software projects.

Since the responsibilities of an IT Architect differ between organizations, I prepared this article to explain the particularities of different architecture roles, and bring clarity to those looking to work as professional IT Architects.

How Architecture varies per organization 

Due to differences in scale, complexity and organizational structure, Software Architecture varies significantly between small and large organizations.

Usually, large Enterprises have a more structured model for Architecture, and it's common to have a clear distinction between the different roles. In those organizations, it’s common to have different individuals performing different (and more specific) roles, with their titles aligning to their duties. Most of them, you will see in this article.

In smaller organizations though, very commonly Architects end up performing a combination of all of these roles (if not all at the same time for a given project). The name of the roles varies per organization, with the most popular being Solution, Cloud, Technical or Software Architects.

However, regardless of the size of the organization, architects are expected to do much more that just performing the tasks described in the job descriptions.

Which is why architects should broaden their skills as much as possible in different domains. Tough task, but will get you prepared to anything your employer (and clients) request from you. Make this a marathon, not a sprint.

With that said, let’s review the differences between the main types of architects as it relates to projects in technology.

Different types of Architects

Let's jump directly to the most common roles in architecture. Currently in the marketplace, they are:

  • Enterprise architect
  • Solution architect
  • Software/Application architect
  • Data/Information architect
  • Security architect
  • Cloud architect
  • Technical Architect
  • Principal Architect

So let’s review them.

Enterprise Architect

Enterprise architects are responsible for the technical solutions and strategic direction of an organization. They must work with a variety of stakeholders to understand an organization's market, customers, products, business domain, requirements, and technology.

From a broad perspective, enterprise architects are the most business oriented, and consequently, less technical in nature.

Solution Architect

A solution architect converts business/technical requirements into a solution architecture. They work closely with business analysts, product owners and technical people to understand the requirements in depth, so that they can design a solution that satisfies those requirements.

Solution Architects are the most hybrid role in this list. Solution architects are required to have great technical and business skill, making them a perfect fit for any project in technology.

Software (Application) Architect

Software/Application Architects focus mainly on the software architecture. They ensure that the requirements for their application are satisfied by the design of that application and serve as a liaison between the technical and non-technical staff working on an application.

Application Architects are involved in all the steps in the software development process.

Software/Application Architects architect and recommend solutions for new/existing/legacy technologies, as well as evaluating alternative approaches to problems and proposing solutions to existing problems.

Data (Information) Architect

Data Architects are responsible for designing, deploying, and managing an organization's data architecture.

Data Architects usually focus on data management systems, and their goal is to ensure that the appropriate consumers of an organization's data have access to the data in the right place at the right time.

Lastly, Data Architects are responsible for all of an organization's data sources, both internal and external. They ensure that an organization's strategic data requirements are met.

Infrastructure Architect

Infrastructure Architects focus on the design and implementation of an organization's enterprise infrastructure. This type of Architect is responsible for the infrastructure environment meeting the organization's business goals, and provide hardware, networking, operating system, and software solutions to satisfy them.

Security Architect

A Security Architect is responsible for an organization's computer and network security. They build, oversee, and maintain an organization's security implementations.

Security Architects must have a full understanding of an organization's systems and infrastructure so that they can design secure systems.

Cloud Architect

A Cloud Architect is someone who is responsible for an organization's cloud computing strategy and initiatives. They are responsible for the cloud architecture used for the deployment of software systems. An organization that has someone who is focused on cloud architecture leads to increased levels of success with cloud adoption.

The responsibilities of cloud architects include selecting a cloud provider and selecting the model (for example, SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS) that is most appropriate for the organization's needs.

Cloud Architects create cloud migration plans for existing applications not already in the cloud, including the coordination of the adoption process. They may also be involved in designing new cloud-native applications that are built from the ground up for the cloud.

Technical Architect

Technical Architects are another very technical role in Architecture. They develop the technical strategy for a project, making sure that the technical solutions meet the requirements of the customer and the business.

Technical Architects are also responsible for the long-term technical vision of a software solution. They evaluate new technologies and architectures to ensure the system meets the customer’s needs and is cost effective. Additionally, they are responsible for the development and implementation of standards and procedures to ensure the quality of the solutions.

Technical architects are very similar to Application/Software architects. Most likely, most people wouldn’t be able to differentiate them.

Principal Architect

Finally, Principal (or Lead) Architect. This role is usually more related to the leadership performed by the person (in this case, an Architect), than to specific tasks. However, it's expected that the Principal (or Lead) Architect usually possesses the widest knowledge within the team including Solution, Enterprise, Software and Cloud architecture.

Principal Architects frequently oversee and lead the design and development of projects from both a technical and managerial standpoint. Common tasks attributed to them include project leadership, design, planning, governance, team and client engagement.

Finally, principal Architects are expected to have exceptional technical, inter-personal, management, executive and sales skills. After all, they usually interact with a high level audience, including C-level executives.

Conclusion

On this article we presented a quick overview of the different types of IT Architects. Due to differences in scale, complexity, organizational structure and even how roles are defined, Architecture in the context of technology can (and will) vary significantly between organizations.

However, regardless of the role you execute in your organization, keep your skills sharpened by broadening your knowledge as much as you can in different domains. Tough task, but will get you prepared to anything your employer (and/or clients) request from you.

See Also

About the Author

Bruno Hildenbrand      
Principal Architect, HildenCo Solutions.