Sunday, September 30, 2007

Software Architecture: Profession and Skills

Paul Preiss, president of the International Association of Software Architects (IASA) spoke on "Software Architecture: Profession and Skills" at the SDForum SAM SIG September meeting. Paul founded the IASA as a professional association for Information Technology (IT) Architects 4 years ago and since then it has grown to almost 7000 members in 50 countries.

Paul started off by talking about his career and how through a series of jobs at different companies he came to understand that the role of IT Architect is often unacknowledged and unappreciated. Also came the realization that IT Architect is an emerging profession and that the profession needs a professional body. One pressing reason for having a professional body is that he believes that the profession will be regulated within the next 5 years and that practitioners should have a say in writing the legislation.

The kernel of talk was about defining what an IT Architect is and does. We all understand the profession of being a Lawyer or Doctor or Accountant, thus we need a similar simple understanding of IT Architect. Paul attacked the problem from several different directions, eventually coming up with two words: Technology Strategy. Just as the Chief Financial Officer is in charge of directing the financial strategy of a business, the Chief Architect is in charge of directing the Technology Strategy. In particular, the role of the architect it to deploy just enough software to enable a competitive advantage for the business. I have been rolling this around in my mind for a couple of days and it seems to make sense.

The IT Architect has to at least understand a business problem and know the technologies that are available to solve it. The choice of the right technologies is not always easy. Technologies are changing fast, resources are limited and implementations do not always succeed. Moreover, other players may have their own agendas. For example, developers may want to use some new technology so that they can put it on their resume. Paul gave us a specific example. He came into a situation where the business was already using several object relational mapping tools and the developers wanted to adopt yet another one for a new project.

Paul ended his talk by plugging the IT Regional Conference in San Diego in October. Everyone who is involved in IT Architecture should check out the conference and the IASA

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