Mind the architect gap

I’m fortunate to know and work with a great many really influential architects both within my organisation and outside through my work as UK chair of the International Association of Software Architects (IASA). However, it has become increasingly apparent that for some the role of architects/architecture is clear while for others it is not. For me this begs the question that as organisations wake up, could there be and increasing gap between supply and demand of capable architects.

Back last year I commissioned some research with Freeform Dynamics to look at the difference between “progressive” IT organisations and followers. This clearly demonstrated a significant correlation between Architecture, integration and progressive IT. A more recent Forrester study shows the key role of Enterprise Architects in purchasing where “just fewer than 90% of IT execs said it was important, very important, or mandatory for EAs to approve technology purchases”. And back with the IASA, we ran a study with MWD Advisors that demonstrated the value of architects in design and implementation of BPM projects.

While these studies provide empirical evidence of the key role architects play in delivering business value do they also indicate and emerging gap between supply and demand of good architects? As more and more businesses seek architectural guidance will there be enough qualified architects to go round? Indeed this leads us on to what does a qualified architect look like and how do you spot one? Currently, this is measured by “time in service” or “battle scars” (I saw that on a job spec recently) but with corporate governance once again coming under the spotlight is this rule of thumb approach enough? can you trust mission critical systems to a guy with “battle scars”?

I know I’ve said this before, but is it time to we started to define the profession more accurately and perhaps more importantly, start to define the route(s) to becoming a professional? The millennials are rapidly taking over the asylum and out numbering the genXs (I’m one) and worse, the babyboomers are disappearing to the south of France and taking their “battle scars” with them. In many ways you can look at the future of technology in many ways looks similar to phases in the past but is anyone learning from their mistakes? Is anyone interested – you can bet that the milennials aren’t – how many of them have heard of “the mythical man-month” for example?


Comments (2)

  1. Oliver Sims says:

    It occurs to me – maybe we need to introduce the notion of peer review. Thus when I consider a new mission-critical system, wouldn’t it be nice if I could call on a couple of colleagues working for different companies (but IASA nmembers of course!) to review my thoughts for a half day or so – and later review my initial concepts for a day – and later (and finally) my overall design for say 2-5 days.  

    Put aside the question of who pays for such peer review – just consider whether it would be a good idea. If so, I’m sure the financials can be sorted out within the profession in some way (I won’t waste time on my initial thoughts on funding now).

  2. David Howard says:

    Although Professional Certification is valuable, do we really need a separate profession just for Architects? The British Computer Society, and other bodies, provide mechanisms for professional IT certification. The BCS have a set of role and level definitions, along with all the necessary group forum mechanisms needed to support our profession. These would be sufficient if they were correctly applied, and would not lead to the risk of fragmentation of IT professionalism.