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3 things IT architects wish you knew about what they do

What comes to mind when someone says they're an IT architect? For most of us, it's not an accurate picture. Here are the top three things these architects wish you knew.
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Do you know what an IT architect does?

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It's not possible to be an expert at everything in life. But when it comes to IT architecture, non-tech experts have much to gain from a better understanding of this important kind of work.

IT architects are what I'd like to call the unsung heroes of the organization. A good system is only as good as the experience of the end-user. When non-IT architect individuals, such as myself, educate themselves on the all too often unacknowledged ins and outs of the technological world, it can lead to a better experience - and a better symbiotic relationship between the architect and the people and the business they serve.

We asked IT architects what they wished everyone in the organization - non-technical people included - knew about the work they do on a daily basis. Here's what they had to say.

We don’t always have all the answers

Remember, we all have something to learn from one another. It takes an insane amount of intelligence to execute the tasks of an IT architect. It also takes a great deal of patience, as with any other job or skill.

"I always find it strange that people expect me to have clear answers for everything. There’s no certainty in this field of work. We don’t operate on 100% correct information. I always have to analyze and optimize for the best results. Users are always expecting a direct response, which is just not possible in most cases. Have some consideration for us, and don’t expect us to know everything. We are doing our best to build the ultimate experience for you." 

—Zohar Gilad, CEO and Co-Founder of InstantSearch

This sentiment also sheds some light on how the specific roles we all work hard to fulfill on a daily basis cause us to process information differently:

"The biggest thing non-architects don’t understand is the scope of the architect. The job of the IT architect is a lot like a building architect. Non-architects are like the craftsmen that work on the building—the plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. They each focus on their particular craft. The architect needs to see how they all work together and interact with each other. Often, non-architects will get frustrated with architects because they have a siloed view of the project." 

—Mark Varnas, Founder of Red9

One of the things I have found so impressive about IT architects is how each independent role, from abusiness- to developer-oriented, from operations to vendor-oriented, fits into a larger whole; like the individual pieces to a huge puzzle.

Imagine how much more efficient an enterprise would be if all the under-arching organizations piggybacked off each other’s expertise to improve their level of proficiency and productivity, like an enterprise architect working with a security architect to develop a more efficient and proactive security architecture would, for instance.

We know how to communicate visually and verbally

As an IT architect, you’re a person who wears many hats. The notion of depth and breadth is common in the world of IT architecture. You may work in one particular niche, but the process of curating a technical background and constantly having to develop upon it to meet evolving technological demands and trends requires much outside one’s set job description. You not only have to demonstrate your working knowledge through your daily tasks, but you’ve also got to know how to articulate what you’re working through, often to individuals of a non-technical background.

Take the enterprise architect, for example—they often act as the liaison between the architecture teams and executive level management, which takes an incredible amount of communicative responsibility.

"Enterprise architects may sometimes face incomprehension from others in terms of their responsibilities. The major ones encompass the design of the entire software architecture and proper functioning of its structural elements, ensuring the compatibility of the new software and already existing tools, and addressing most acute company’s technical concerns and their impact on business constituents." 

—Maxim Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Aimprosoft

While strategizing around system architecture is no surprise, the importance of a communication strategy falls onto the IT architect's shoulders as well.

"Apart from being excellent with organizing information, a data architect must also be an exceptional communicator. This position typically requires the architect to present the information and make recommendations based on findings to individuals in the organization. This information may be dense and hard to understand, so having patience, charisma, and the ability to clearly communicate are crucial."

—Rick Vasko, data architecture expert and Director of Service Delivery and Quality at Entrust Solutions

So, not only are IT architects technical artists, but they must also be ready to share their work with many different kinds of professionals.

We’re doing our best to build the ultimate experience for you

As an end-user, sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand, let alone appreciate, the amount of effort that goes into aligning a system to a business’ goals—designing and developing said systems, as well as ensuring functionality and providing expertise and guidance and implementation policies.

"It’s comprehensible for IT architects that people with no IT knowledge find it difficult to understand the entire process of developing functional and scalable systems. But sometimes, the demand that clients and customers, or basically anyone with no IT knowledge, makes is difficult to complete in a particular time frame."

—Guneet Sahau, CTO of Mercer-Mettl

The role of the IT architect is sometimes so misunderstood that I find it can easily (and lazily) be mistaken for some other business facet entirely. Take, for example, the following sentiments:

"I’m a niche technical professional and not a helpdesk guy. Constantly being asked to remove yourself from your own work to 'quickly come and take a look at somebody’s computer' isn’t anyone’s idea of an ideal workday."

—Jack Zmudzinski, senior associate at Future Processing

It could all be so simple. But when the time isn’t taken to understand what the people do around you, a lot can become lost in translation, with the role of the IT architect becoming severely under-recognized.

What I’ve learned as a non-technical end-user

"There are very few 'sudden realizations' in our line of work, and random advice from non-experts tends to annoy us. However, we really appreciate your feedback. We do know a lot about the systems we build, but hearing the experience of an end user can help us a lot. Don’t hold back on your feedback." 

—Akram Assaf, Co-Founder and CTO at Bayt.com

Nobody wants to be an amateur. But there's always going to be something new to learn, even if you're already an expert at something. How boring would life be if there was nothing to learn or teach? We'd all essentially be the same, and our individual contributions would be meaningless.

There’s much to be learned from one another. The more organizations make it their mission to encourage cross-functional collaboration and discovery, the more transformative ideas and talents can be shared, and the more we can all join forces to create more positive change in a world that so desperately needs it.

I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of your kind of architecture, and I want to know more about you. What are some of the more technical ideas and concepts that you’d want an end-user to know that would make your job as an IT architect easier?

 

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Marjorie Freeman

Marjorie is the Associate Editor for Enable Architect. More about me

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