Defining Architecture

One of my mentees asked me about the concept of architecture, and what the differences between an IT, Infrastructure, Application, Data, Solutions, Business, Enterprise, etc, etc, etc Architects were.

Well, I had to admit, it stopped me in my tracks for a while as I sought out the words to try and clarify the distinctions between each discipline within the greater architectural pyramid.

So, as a means to solidify my own thoughts, and to answer their question, it is the focus of today’s blog entry.

* DISCLAIMER * DISCLAIMER * DISCLAIMER *

In the majority of cases and in the majority of organisations, I would dare say that the role titles would reflect the corporate culture more than they reflect some form of ideal or job description. This is why you’ll find advertised roles for IT architects that specify completely different selection criteria or demand various knowledge & experience foci. The following definitions are based on my views of the roles in question, and how I perceive their relationships to each other and the greater vision of the enterprise.
In my opinion, although it would probably be best to have a specific person in each role, the intention is to describe the role that should be done. The tasks should be done … regardless of who is actually performing it.
Furthermore, some of my ideas may still be immature in their descriptors. I look forward to any input from the readers to assist me in clarifying some of these fields.

* DISCLAIMER * DISCLAIMER * DISCLAIMER *

A note on the colours used for headings:

  • Foundation Architects: Responsible for the architectural design and documentation at a reference model (i.e. Big Picture) level
  • Business Focus: These roles focus on the business functions required.
  • ICT Focus: These roles focus on the technology functions required.
  • Mixed Focus: These roles focus on a specific solution for either business or ICT.

Enterprise Architecture
Although as a concept, Enterprise Architecture is at least 20 years old, the reality is that it has been slowly evolving during all of that time. For that reason, you will see a number of definitions of what an Enterprise Architect is and what they are responsible for.

In my mind, the concept of an Enterprise Architecture refers to the architecture of an Enterprise. Well, Of course! To be more specific, it refers to how all parts of an enterprise do (and should) work together to provide the capability of said enterprise to achieve its vision.

I do like the description that is located on the GEAO website, which states that:


Enterprise Architecture refers to the way in which an enterprise vision is expressed in the structure and dynamics of an Enterprise. It provides, on various architecture abstraction levels, a coherent set of models, principles, guidelines, and policies, used for the translation, alignment, and evolution of the systems that exist within the scope and context of an Enterprise.

It should be noted that systems is not purely a computer or ICT system – it can (and does) refer to any range of systems including (but not limited to) the organisation, management systems, business processes, methodologies, standards, compliance regulations, etc. In short, it refers to the whole ball of wax that makes up the enterprise. So, by definition then, it means that all next level architectures (business, IT, communications, etc) are all part of this larger system.

This means that Enterprise Architecture covers a very broad area of interest and runs through (and is involved in) all disciplines within the enterprise.

So, to summarise, from my perspective, the EA is more of a city planner than a building architect. Their job is to co-ordinate the planned community (not an unhindered sprawl). That’s all. They are not meant to design or co-ordinate a well-designed building, motorways, recreation zones, etc. Those are the responsibility of each of the other Architects in the team.

Clear as Mud? Fantastic! Let’s move on …

The Business Architect

Just like the EA, the Business Architect is a Foundation Architect who has the responsibility for architectural design and documentation at a reference model level. They often lead a group of Architects related to the business program. The focus is on enterprise level business functions required.

So what are these? Information, Process, industry and organisational specifics, legal, etc …

The focus is on the Business Case, the Business Scenario, the alignment of the Business Vision, Mission Statement and future direction of the organisation and its individual units.

I see this person as a combination of Management Consultant, Business Analyst, Business Process Engineer, Operations Officer and CEO. In some cases, this entire role may actually be replaced with a board of those same individuals.

Information Architect

Information Architecture is the art and science of structuring, well, Information. IA is generally viewed as an umbrella phrase and is generally appropriated by IT workers in the UI field.

However, the term information architecture describes a specialized skill set which relates to the management of information and employment of information related tools. It is associated with library sciences due to the nature of information relationships and management of information content and you’ll find that many library schools teach information architecture as a part of their curriculum.

So how does this relate to the Business side of the Architecture?

Well, from my perspective, the flow of information is one of the major lifeblood sources of any enterprise. This architect will be responsible for the architecture of the flow of information – within the enterprise, to the enterprise, from the enterprise.

It’s perceivable that this role would interface quite heavily with the Data Architect.

Process Architect

The Process Architect is responsible for analysing the enterprise and either optimising their business processes or architecting new ones organizational needs.

Unlike a Process Engineer, the architect looks at the inter-relationship of processes, the cross-departmental links, industry best practices, etc. Unsurprisingly, they take a big-picture approach.

The role is re-iterative, with the Architect responsible for monitoring the execution of the business processes, providing management with the means to analyse their performance and make additions, subtractions or changes to the process tree with the aim of improving the enterprise.

The Process Architect may also be responsible for the governance of the Enterprise Architecture plan and process execution.

Industry Architect

The Industry Architect has the responsibility for architectural design and documentation at an industry level. The focus of the Industry Architect is on industry specific problems and solutions, for example banking, mining, retail, hospitality, etc.

Organisational Architect

The Organization Architect has the responsibility for architectural design and documentation of specific organisational units. They re-use the output from all other architects. The focus of the Organisation Architect is on enterprise level business solutions in a given domain, such as finance, human resources, sales, etc.

The [IT/ICT] Architect

Like the Business Architect, the IT or ICT Architect is a Foundation Architect who has the responsibility for architectural design and documentation at a technology reference model level. They also often lead a group of Architects related to the technology program and focus on enterprise level technology required.

Data Architect

This person is responsible for designing the logical and physical data models. The Data Architect designs and creates logical data models based on the information needs supplied by the Business Architect, IA and/or Business Analysts.

Application Architect

Also known as a Software Architect, their responsibility lies in the actual specific building design. In the same way as a building architect sets the principles and goals of a building project as the basis for the draftsman’s plans, so too, a software architect sets out the software architecture as a basis for actual system design specifications.

From an enterprise level, an application architect employs extensive knowledge of software theory and appropriate experience to conduct and manage the high-level design of all software products. They are also responsible for placing the guidelines for the choices made for COTS or in-house products.

The software architect develops concepts and plans for software modularity, module interaction methods, user interface dialog style, interface methods with external systems, innovative design features, and high-level business object operations, logic, and flow that would be utilised for all application and software decisions.

Infrastructure Architect

This person is responsible for designing the logical and physical infrastructure models required. In the same way as a building architect sets the principles and goals of a building project as the basis for the draftsman’s plans, so too, an infrastructure architect sets out the infrastructure architecture as a basis for actual technology specifications.

The Infrastructure Architect is responsible for creation and maintenance of the infrastructure to support the complex application environment. They design and create the requirements for the choices of iron and networks, and may also be responsible for operating system software and management tools.

Systems Architect

The System Architect has the responsibility for architectural design and documentation at a system or sub-system level, such as management or security.

A system architect may shield any of the Foundation Architects (EA, Business Architect, IT Architect) from the unnecessary details of the systems, products and/or technologies.

The focus of the System Architect is on system technology solutions, for example a component of a solution such as enterprise data warehousing.

The Solutions Architect

The Solutions Architect, just like the Systems Architect, has the responsibility for architectural design and documentation at a project or sub-project level and are generally used to shield any of the Foundation Architects from the unnecessary details of a particular project.

Although generally a generalist architect (in some ways a hands-on version of a foundation architect) they may also be focussed within another discipline – such as an Infrastructure Solutions Architect.

The focus of the Solutions Architect is on the project, for example the entire solution of an enterprise data warehouse.


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How it all hangs together:


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I hope all of that made sense … I’m rather tired and my brain is a bit slushy, but hopefully it helps clarify a few things … I will expand on this and clean it up a little in the future … If there’s something in particular you’d like to see focussed on first, please let me know!

TTFN!

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