Building Bridges

What is an architect? That's easy. It's someone who builds bridges. My 10 year old can tell you that.

When it comes to software architecture, the industry has had a hard time nailing down a definition of the role. But even in software, it amounts to the same thing. An architect is someone who bridges the gap between business needs and technological solutions.

Some of my friends at Radiant considered an architect to be a lot like a conductor of an orchestra. He's the guy who stands at the front of the room with the baton (or dry-erase marker), waiving his arms, and not actually producing any music (or code). Then, when the performance (project) is done, he's the guy who turns to the audience and takes a bow.

Being a good architect, I would occasionally oblige them by waiving my arms in big circles as I made some grand pronouncement about how our systems should be continuously-integrated, service-oriented, test-driven masterpieces. But all the while I believe that we all understood the role that I played as architect.

As an architect, I was principally responsible to the business for technological decisions, even those I did not make myself. It was my duty to ensure that the business needs were met while preserving the integrity of the solution. I was tasked with weighing the cost of a technology with the benefits of its solution. At the end of the day, it was my assessment that helped the business analysts to decide the best course.

My responsability was also to the engineers. I had to recommend the patterns, practices, and tools that were suitable to the task that the development engineers had to perform. I had to ensure that operations had the visibility and control that they needed to run the system. I had to oversee a smooth transition of a product from development through production and into maintenance.

So my definition of a software architect is someone who builds bridges. Between business and technology. Between analysis and implementation. Between development and operations. You have to waive your arms pretty wide to reach all those places at once.

One Response to “Building Bridges”

  1. earwicker Says:

    Please wave those arms again, MallardMan! It's been so long I'm starting to forget what it looked like.

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