What is an Architect?I participated in two meetings in two weeks that addressed the question "What is an Architect?"
Mark Carroll and Darryl Chantry of Microsoft got the Wellington Microsoft Architects' forum thinking about what was needed to develop an architect. Horia Slusanschi led a lively discussion about Enterprise Architecture at the NZ Chapter meeting of Association of Enterprise Architects
A stumbling block for Microsoft's approach clearly was the lack of definition of what an architect was or should be. Although Darryl started with a view from the Greeks and history that architecture is about aesthetics, there seemed a split between a desire for certification of ability to construct solutions from Microsoft components; and capability to take on a wider vendor agnostic perspective.
Horia presented a choice for EA "Just technology, or the works?". Although some of those present with EA in their job title were clearly limited to the technology arena, there appeared to be a consensus for EA going well beyond technology application. The functions of EA are mainly strategic and addressing technology alone misses the point of why the technology matters at all.
When I started in IT 37 years ago we had the distinct jobs of Programmer and System Analyst. The programmer role was defined in some detail but the system analyst could best be described as "everything that the programmer did not do". Those may have been the bad old days but I think that a similar situation has arisen with the "architect" job. There are a myriad of specialist functions that are defined in some detail, generally around the arcana of some product or vendor strategy and there is the role that joins it up. As specialisations evolve (security, information, etc) there is a tendency to give the label of "architect" to the job or role that makes it all hang together.
There certainly is a wealth of information in the skyscrapr.net and msdn sites but it is lacking in structure and it is difficult from there to determine what a complete architecture would be (enterprise, solution, infrastructure or ...) made up of in Microsoft terms or vendor agnostic terms. Some consistency in terms would help ... Strategic Architecture or Enterprise Architecture?
I recommend a look at A Better Path to Enterprise Architectures by Roger Sessions (avoid the version in skyscrapr.net which has broken links).
Certification was a hot topic for Microsoft. At $10,000 a time, it must look like an interesting revenue stream. Until the role is specified in terms of what is included rather than the 'any other business' present situation there is dubious value in a certification.
It will be interesting to follow these initiatives.