According to Webster’s dictionary, architecture is defined as “a unifying or coherent form or structure.” The word architect is derived from the Greek word “architekton,” which means master builder. Interestingly enough, “tekton” is also the Greek root of the word technical. By definition, technology architects are the technical master builders of IT, bringing unity and coherence to a technology infrastructure.
In the past year, as the economy has dipped and companies have embarked on cost-cutting initiatives, technology architecture has been dealt a severe blow. In many companies, the technology architects have been downsized or eliminated entirely. They were viewed as nonessential personnel, and in many cases, that was probably the truth.
Two years ago, many companies had a technology architecture organization whose role was to ensure network, data, application and system architectures were designed and implemented in an integrated, planned manner. However, instead of being seen as master builders, they were often viewed as the IT equivalent of the ivory tower college professor: full of esoteric knowledge, but dreadfully lacking in real-world know-how.
In many cases, the architects had no one to blame but themselves. Instead of trying to understand the business needs of their company, architects often escaped into the realm of esoteric technology.
When architects got involved, their solutions were often based on the newest technology without considering whether it met the business requirements or the operations staff could support it. Architects were often guilty of focusing on bells and whistles instead of profit and loss.
But architects need to focus on profit and loss. They need to understand operational issues and constraints. As the ancient Greeks remind us, architects are meant to be master builders. They need to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the company to understand the business requirements. They need to be involved with the engineers, operations staff and developers to understand their issues. And they need to be leading the effort to plan, design and implement integrated IT infrastructures that are fiscally responsible, operationally sustainable and business-valuable.
Today, many companies are building IT infrastructures based on point products. While implementing an IT infrastructure without appropriate architectural planning may be cost-effective in the short term, it will ultimately cost more in the long term. A well-planned, business-focused, scalable IT infrastructure will outlast any depreciation time frame.
As the economy picks up, companies need to again consider the value that technology architecture can bring. And architects need to realize that business knowledge is just as important as technological savvy. Technology architects can be valuable, but only if they roll up their sleeves and become the business-focused master builders of IT.
Yoke is a business solutions engineer for a corporate network in Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.