Say what you will about Google and its adsense, it does throw up more than the average number of ‘interesting’ links at the top of Google Mail. I stumbled across a link that looked incredibly interesting, but as a means to prevent me from being sued for libel I will refrain from publishing it. My recent post on Redefining IT Architecture shows that I am completely unsure whether I do any real architecture work- most of my work is in the design world- but from time to time I do define the rules that a solution (and very occasionally an enterprise) uses to implement a system so I think that I can call myself an architect.
But after an hour of so of clicking and following links in the IT Architect blogosphere I am confused, depressed and not a little angry at the content that supposed architects are publishing. Now I admit that most of my professional life has been in the data sphere, but I also spend a significant amount of time in the ‘business’ world- talking about governance, processes and skills and resources. In my entire experience I have never had cause to wonder about the details of language used to implement a system, the development methodology or any other deep technical issue.
Now this may simply be a case of the same word being used in multiple situations- after all, we as the IT profession stole the word from the construction industry, so we can’t really complain- but surely there is a difference in the technical skills, the soft skills and the background and experience between someone attempting to define how an multi billion dollar company sets up its governance structure for Information Management and someone implementing an (admittedly possibly large scale) application using the latest technology.
And furthermore (yes I am fully in rant mode now) I also recognise that there are significant skills required to build these systems, but according to the scale of systems complexity (I’ll insert the link to that later) an organisation is one of the most complex systems it is possible to consider; far, far more complex than any engineering design, simply because it has to deal with that most unpredictable of things- a human being. So, is the work that a technical architect does less valuable than an enterprise architect? No, because like all good constructions you need the foundations to be sound, but honestly, none of the major challenges that I face are in the traditional technical domains (application, data or infrastructure). Far, far more complex to understand is the activity associated with working out what users really want, how we ensure that they use the systems that we build for them correctly and getting buy-in and belief from non-IT people who just see us getting in the way.
As the MD of one of my former employers would frequently say: “Guys, this is not a technical problem”. Unfortunately for that company the tech heads ruled and it finished up going bust (after, I hasten to add, I had got the heck out of Dodge as I could see the writing on the wall). OK, IT Architecture is not going to go bust, but we risk losing a lot of credibility by solving the wrong problem.
And now I need to shut up before I offend more people than normal.