In IT Architecture, IT architects do the work. However, an IT architect is not an IT architect and there are important differences when considering this role. This article presents the most important subcategories of IT architects and compares them to each other.
What is a General Description of an IT Architect?
An IT architect deals with the IT landscape of an organization. It´s job is to ensure that IT solutions are smoothly implemented into the overall IT landscape of an organization and that the overall architectural design is optimized. Just like an architect that constructs houses, the focus tools that the IT architect uses are frameworks, models, and guidelines. Those help him to simplify too complex situations or to provide particular views of the full picture. The goals is to identify particular aspects, such as interdependencies, data flows, or fulfilled capabilities and functionalities.
What Different IT Architect Roles Exist?
The above abstract might seem rather generic, however, going into details of the work of an IT architect requires to define what kind of architect one talks about. Generally, there can be quite some different kinds of architects, however, they usually can be placed on a matrix with the typical IT architecture layers on one axis and the level of depth that an IT architect looks at. The result is something like shown on the picture below:
What Does an Enterprise Architect Do?
The role of an Enterprise Architect is the role of a generalist. The architect needs to be able to understand topics from all different aspects within an IT landscape. However, he does not need to go into much detail for everything, as there are usually specialized IT architects that do that. Enterprise Architects are often focused a bit more on business architecture as they, together with the business architects, build the interface to the business. Typically, Enterprise Architects work even more with models and frameworks that help to abstract the real IT landscape to make the big picture visible and manageable. Often, Enterprise Architects are well performing architects of an organization with a lot of experience that want to take on more responsibilities. Take a look at this post if you want to learn more about the role of Enterprise Architects for the business.
What Does a Solution Architect Do?
A Solution Architect deals with much more detailed and specialized tasks compared to an Enterprise Architect. While not knowing the full IT landscape, he has a deep knowledge of a particular domain or capability. This is also why a Solution Architect is sometimes called Domain Architect. For a particular domain or capability, the Solution Architect is the expert. He can cover all IT architecture layers in terms of applications, technologies, interfaces, networks etc. This enables the Solution Architect to develop concrete solutions for a particular demand request ready for implementation. Similar to a Software or Application Architect, the Solution Architect is usually specialized in a small number of applications or vendors. They usually provide provide similar functionalities and can be potential solutions for a demand in a particular area. Examples for a Solution Architect are a SAP Architect or a Salesforce Architect.
What Does a Business Architect Do?
A business architect is the interface between the IT landscape and the business. His or her goal is to take care of everything that is part of the business architecture. Examples include managing business capability maps, user journeys, and business processes. Typical activities are to understand:
- what a business demand means for IT,
- what dependencies between business processes or business capabilities exist with the underlying IT landscape,
- and to make IT understandable for the business in general.
What Does a Software Architect or Application Architect Do?
A Software or Application Architect takes care of the architectural design of applications or microservices. He or she manages the usage of the right framework, program language, model, and interfaces. Complying to existing policies for software development is also done by the Application Architect.
What Does a Data Architect Do?
A Data Architect specializes in everything that has to do with data and data architecture. He or she designs and manages data flows, master data, and designs the architecture that is needed to provide the required data to the business. Typical activities include to make data flows transparent and compliant or to ensure a single source of truth for data.
What Does a Technology Architect Do?
A Technology Architect is specialized in a technology and helps to design and implement solutions with regards to this technology. He or she does so by creating methodological diagrams, defining detailed specifications, interfaces, functionalities, and by defining the implementation roadmap. An example would be architects for different cloud technologies, e.g. an AWS Cloud Architect or an Azure Cloud Architect.
What Does an Infrastructure Architect Do?
An Infrastructure Architect is specialized in helping to design and implement infrastructure solutions. He or she is an expert in topics that address infrastructures, such as servers, datacenters, computers, routers, switches, and other equipment. Examples could be a Network Architect or also a Cloud Architect. As you might recognize, the Infrastructure Architect role is similar to the Technology Architect role, especially in the cloud area.
What Does a Security Architect Do?
A Security Architect is specialized in the security of an architecture by designing and guiding the implementation of security policies, processes, and mechanisms. His or her main concerns are that the architecture design provides the highest possible security to minimize the threat from cyber attacks and to minimize the risk of users accidentally breaking the security lines of the organization. He is concerned with hardware and software aspects of the architecture and has a good understanding of the organization´s cybersecurity policies, threat detection, prevention, and security testing.
Although so many different architect roles exist, most companies do not have all of them specified. In practice, there are two most important roles, which is the Enterprise Architect and a more oprtational role. Enterprise Architect or business architect deals with high-level architectures of landscapes. They answer business questions and demands. The other role is an architect that might be called solution, technology, software, or infrastructure architect. He or she deals with detailed questions of how to exactly implement a solution. In addition to these two major clusters of architecture roles, there is the data architect and the security architect. However, I would consider both as additional roles, as their activities and responsibilities are quite different.