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Delivering Value – Essential skills of an Architect

This is an article contributed by guest author, Anirban Banerjee, Enterprise Data Architect (16+ years of IT experience), TOGAF 9 Certified

Introduction

Enterprise Architecture is a widely discussed topic in all kinds of organizations providing services and products to their customers. The goal of Enterprise Architecture is to identify commonality in processes, information, standards and infrastructure and then create generic frameworks to be able to apply to specific business and technology goals. This should reduce and manage the complexity in the changing business and application environment. To enable the above – architects must be able to create and deliver value – potentially in terms of savings on project costs, if not on the short term, then definitely on the long term.

Here are some of the top skills required of an architect to be able to deliver value to projects, applications and the enterprise.

Requirements gathering & analysis, defining scope: To do this, architects need to inquire, integrate and analyze. Inquiry is done on the specific problem area, assumptions are validated, and the solution is integrated from project specific goal(s) into the enterprise wide directives. The data elements and their inter-relationships are analyzed to be able to provide value not only to the immediate project but higher up in the scale of the business domain or the enterprise. A careful balance needs to be maintained on the scope – of the project, of the architecture engagement. Often these are iterative processes.

Solution and technical specification design: The architect should be able to conceptualize the overall solution to the business problem. The conceptual vision may be in the form of a conceptual architecture diagram with major logical components and interactions within them. This should broadly define the scope of the business problem. Then, the skill of abstraction is required to suppress irrelevant details and focus on the essentials. Different architectural viewpoints may be used for showcasing the relevant information to various groups (business, information, application, technology, etc). The viewpoints flow from the conceptual -> logical -> physical levels, flowing from the business, application and technology perspectives. An architect must be able to visualize and create visual artifacts of the different viewpoints and abstractions through catalogs, matrices and diagrams. These artifacts should be technology independent and should be able to relate from the immediate project level to the enterprise level requirements of distribution, scalability, technology independence, etc.

Responsibility of influencing the outcome: Though architects do not normally have the direct responsibility of implementing the solution, they are still involved in the relevant project till implementation, ensuring the design standards are met, providing architectural guidance for proper implementation. Communications skills are vital, as is the ability to manage the various stakeholder concerns.

Conclusion: At the end, the success or failure of architecture would be judged by its adoption rate. Most importantly, the extent to which architects enable the target audience to easily use the architecture largely influences the achievement of architecture’s goal of influencing IT projects and enterprise IT systems.

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