back to article What we really think of IT architects

The feedback from last week’s article, What the heck is an IT Architect anyway?, has been a genuine pleasure to sift through (even the remark that suggested I should work in IT for a dozen years or so - thanks, Jake, I’ll keep that in mind). Zooming in on the software guys (but thanks, network guys, for your feedback), the …

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Didn't see the survey but...

... the comments you posted chime exactly with my view of an architect - having 20 years of development expertise, at least half as a technical lead and architect. Not that I've held that title as such, some companies don't recognise the need for architects with hard experience.

Part of the problem is that the senior people who were architects ten years ago were working with architectural models - and languages - that didn't change dramatically in decades. People who last cut code (if at all) with Cobol or Fortran. They don't get the OO world and the very rapid pace of change that has been around pretty much since the late 90's (the last time I touched a 3GL). My C, Cobol, Fortan etc programming skills are the same today as they were then (and just as applicable) whereas the Java I knew five years ago would be barely adequate for the work I do today and certainly wouldn't get me a job interview.

Powerpoint jockeys, the lot of them. I came across many such people in my time at EDS and sometimes you didn't know whether to laugh at their naiivety and poke fun at them, or cry in despair knowing they would be setting the budget and technical direction of your next project...

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Anonymous Coward

Architects are, in a word...

Can I just revive a Regism that appears to be already falling into disuse, largely down to hacks affording favouritism to other, lesser words.

Software architects are twatdangles.

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How about

You actually answer the damn question next time? 4 comments about what makes a good or bad "IT architect" does nothing to explain what an IT Architecht actually *is*

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with this type of question

The problem with asking this type of question is because architects get paid more you're bound to get all the trash at the bottom whose never made it to this level complaining that architectes are a waste of space simply because they don't understand what architects do and because they're jealous that they never made it there.

I don't disagree with some of the comments, there are crap architects out there for sure, but it's hard to get a real idea of how many do actually suck and how many are just getting slagged off through jealousy. Incompetent people are very often quick to shift the blame elsewhere and actually convince themselves that it's the other person that's the problem not them.

Of course, The Register isn't the best place to ask the question anyway with it's all too often Daily Mail-esque readership and hence it's greater than fair share of whining incompetent problem passers.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC Daily Mail

I think you're about to get slated for trying to claim that most of the readership of The Register are Daily Mail-esq readers.

I suspect you are probably quite wrong. Would be interesting for The Register to conduct a survey. My personal belief, that a substantial majority are likely to be readers of the broadsheets, and no doubt some that don't read newspapers preferring IT/tech mags.

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Anonymous Coward

experience

I've been in software development and electronic engineering for coming up close to 20 years, machine code programming in binary, hexadecimal, assembly language, from application design and implementation using high level languages to low level data comms in embedded applications.

I fully agree, that experience is key. To be able to design a good system you need to 'understand' and think like a computer. You need to understand how software works, you need to understand communications and graphics.

So yes, I do think that software developers, and good software developers at that can make good system designers. A software developer that codes only in HTML wouldn't be up to the job.

But then, of course, I have the edge, having a degree in electronic engineering and specialising in digital design...what don't I know?? :)

Ah..the arrogance of old age....

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Refuse Technician

Reminds me of the time when the words 'Engineer' and 'Technician' were slapped on the end of everyone's job title in an effort similar to one mentioned above - can't afford to give them a pay rise, so give them a fancy (and meaningless) title instead.

As the guy says, that's fine until these people start believing they really are engineers or architects.

Of course it then gives real engineers and architects a headache, trying to find a name plate large enough for their new job titles - Civil Engineer-No-Really-I-Actually-Have-An-Engineering-Degree-And-Over-10-Years-Experience-Designing-Bridges-I'm-Not-Some-Glorified-Personnel-Ponce-Who's-Only-Here-To-Teach-Our-Employees-Company-Etiquette.

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@Xander

Hold that thought - we're still working on it!

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Anonymous Coward

re: The problem with this type of question

Well, the problem with incompetent people is that they lack the competence to appreciate their own incompetence and therefore run around thinking they're great and that it's everybody else's problem (i.e. the people above them) that the project's screwed.

In my experience the people who complain the most generally turn out to be the village idiots once you actually get to see them work (which doesn't happen often given they're generally too busy complaining).

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@Jon

>thanks, Jake, I’ll keep that in mind <link to Jon's bio>

Yeah,yeah,yeah. But if you have to ask what an "architect" is with regard to IT systems engineering, why do you claim to be one?

The only people I consider architects are the folks who not only understand the big picture, but also know how to get ones and zeros under their fingernails.

From initial concept thru' design and purchasing, to physically installing hardware, pulling cable, and specking electricity, AC, water, and halon. They know the benefits of raised floors and suspended cable tracks, and which to spec when. These people carry tools, and know how to use them.

They know how to, and enjoy debugging the kernel (monitor, whatever) on new systems. They know how to debug hardware to component level. They smell of solder.

They are not strangers to past and current operating systems, protocols, drivers, file systems, applications, programming languages and whathaveyou. They have no religious opinion on hardware, software or operating systems, as they know all are merely tools (actually, there is no such thing as software ... "software" is merely the current state of the hardware ...).

These folks have read the RFCs, and can quote large portions of them. Most have contributed to at least several RFCs. They RTFM on new equipment. Most have semi-eidetic memories, and only need to RTFM once.

They are aware of the real-world costs involved, and know when to use Gannt charts appropriately. Many hold MBAs along with technical degrees. They hire and fire personnel with surgical precision. Most have a staff around them who can be trusted to "just get on with it" without being micro-managed.

IMO, calling them "architects" is demeaning. In a large corporation, they should be called "Sr. Member of the Technical Staff", and sit at the Board level.

People have been trying to call me architect for about fifteen years now. I resist it.

THAT said, I'm wondering if there is a bit of a trans-Atlantic language shift in the way people discuss things IT related? It would be interesting to crunch the various responses against IP address ... Not that IP address is proof of origin ... Still, might be some insight in there.

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@Jake

Hi Jake,

Amen to all that. And agreed on the transatlantic question - it would be interesting, indeed.

Meanwhile, though I have worked on IT architecture I don't think I would ever claim to be an architect - though I have worked with plenty of very good ones, and some not so good. The reason for the question was not to satisfy my personal curiosity but prompt a debate - which I think has been achieved! I think what we have here is a snapshot of understanding where organisations are at, which is fantastic grist to the mill.

Cheers, Jon

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Taking back the "H" word.

>I don't think I would ever claim to be an architect

Sorry Jon, I miss-read your bio. On a re-read, I see that you don't even imply that.

I've been thinking about this topic for a couple days now. I think I missed something in my original (see above, for those who haven't read it yet). Basically, what folks are trying to call an "architect" in the world of IT already has a name.

An "architect" is a Hacker. Yes. Hacker. Am I wrong? I don't think so.

It goes beyond this, though ... an "architect" in this sense is a hacker's hacker ... an UberHacker, if you will. This raises some interesting implications ...

The first one is that in the world of hackers (real ones, not sciddies), nobody proclaims themselves "hacker". Instead, that is bestowed on them by a more senior hacker. In my scenario, HR, management, and etc. can't create the so-called "architect" position. They don't have the capability, from many perspectives. It has to come from a technical leadership role within the corporation. The "architect" has to naturally rise to the position, almost voted in by their peers, in a way. Kind of an inverse Peter Principle.

Obviously, once said "architect" has proven his/her self, moving between companies (and probably fighting fires ...) becomes a no-brainer.

The second one is that while a good "architect" is a natural manager, s/he doesn't follow the management track, but rather the technical track. Which kind of explains why CTOs and their ilk, in general, haven't a clue about technical matters. They are management, not techs.

The third is that (given the highly technical nature of our modern society), for optimal use of personnel, traditional management should possibly consider allowing the technical side of the organization to manage itself. Anyone who is worthy of the "architect" label won't abide waste, and can probably trim the fat (in a technical sense) far faster than any manager.

Fourth, the "architect" name has GOT to go ... It just sounds wrong. Chief Technical Officer is already taken (see above). I kind of like "Senior Member of the Technical Staff" (I had that on my business card for a few years) ... but instead let's reclaim "Hacker"! Put it back where it belongs ... in the hands of folks who really understand how complete systems work ...

Senior Hacker? Chief Executive Hacker? Hacker In Charge? Something ... But let's take back the "H" word! It used to mean something ... It can again. If we try :-)

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