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Article by Mohan Babu


Thoughts on tech architects

Outsourcers in the West are acutely aware of the increasing importance of employing top-tier architects to oversee the execution and management of overseas outsourcing efforts. MOHAN BABU says that this has opened up newer career opportunities in many large organisations .

Anyone who has been in the field of technology long enough probably knows that the nom de plume for a tech-guru in a group, division or organisation changes every few years or decades. About a decade or so ago when mainframes and mid-range systems still ruled the IT world, it was fashionable to call the technical-chief of a project a systems analyst. The title was generally conferred on a person who had grown up the ranks and grappled with the intricacies of software life-cycle in depth. Along with the advent of application development on PCs and the Internet, the term ‘architect’ started finding vogue. This trend is so entrenched in our lexicon that any techie with just a few years in software programming wishes to be titled an architect.

Before we go further along this discussion, it should be noted that most organisations have clear paths for those in IT wishing to move towards a technical or managerial track. Consulting companies provide such dual-track to consultants typically as follows:

a) Management track: Junior Developer—Senior Developer—Team Lead—Project manager—Program Manager—Account Manager, etc. or;

b) Technical track: Junior Developer—Senior Developer—Tech Lead—Senior Tech Lead/Designer—Architect….

Although the above ‘career path’ is just illustrative, each organisation will probably customise a structure like this tailored to their needs. Our discussion in this column will focus on the technical track, more specifically towards—who an architect really is? However, a word of caution: I will not be a career guidance specialist, and will not try to point you towards a roadmap of an architectural career track. The aim is just to examine who an architect is (or could be), and what they do for a living. Perhaps we can begin with my favourite illustration of an architect (See diagram above. An enterprise has many different levels of architectural experts—from a Microsoft’s

MSDN article: /library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnvsent /html/FoodMovers1.asp).

In the article, the author defines different kinds of architects. At the top of the pyramid is the strategic architect, a person responsible for overseeing the overall strategy of the information technologies at an enterprise—someone like a CTO, CIO or an executive sponsor. The enterprise architect typically oversees several applications and projects, and is responsible for cross-platform applications and their architectural decisions. The project or solution architect is responsible for a specific application and its architecture. At the bottom of the pyramid, operational or deployment architects are responsible for defining the operational requirements and executing the deployment of an application from an architectural standpoint.

Now, most of us associate the term architect with that of a deployment architect—a glorified designer—who understands a specific technology like J2EE, .Net, Unix, etc, and ensures that the technical deliverables map to the operational requirements of the application being developed. Also, most consulting companies providing staff supplementation to projects get involved in deployment (design, development and deployment) of the product/solution; and since most of them don’t scale up their expertise, their employees too have to be content to aspire towards a career of a deployment architect, at best. The few large IT consulting houses that do scale up get fewer large assignments where they are also involved in architecting solutions for entire projects, and very rarely divisions within enterprises.

Interestingly, with the brouhaha over outsourcing and global delivery models of project management reaching a crescendo, both the companies outsourcing projects and the outsourcers are acutely aware of the increasing importance of employing top-tier architects to oversee the execution and management of such efforts. This has opened up newer career opportunities at larger companies in the West that are looking at overseas outsourcing as a serious business proposition. They are increasingly building a cadre of architects who can work with their business leaders to ensure that the sourcing and delivery of technical implementations meet the desired objectives.

If anything, the shift towards outsourcing will only accentuate the importance of architects, technical experts at both ends of the spectrum who can speak the same language (both technical and business), and ensure that the teams at different ends work towards a unified goal. Now, borrowing from Microsoft again will be a question for every aspiring architect: where do you want to go today?





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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