The IT architect title is used to describe a range of jobs varying in scope and responsibility but, in summary, the architect team is responsible for developing, maintaining and governing the ICT solutions across an organization. They are also tasked with making sure technology meets the current and emerging needs of the business.
Quite often, there’s an expectation that the IT architect is responsible for building as well as designing. However that isn’t always the case. Most IT architects are accomplished developers and, depending on their level of responsibility or seniority, may design and programme system changes personally or provide technical leadership to the development team.
What are the key traits every IT architect needs?
“First and foremost, the architect is a technical leader, which means that, as well as having technical skills, the architect exhibits leadership qualities,” says Peter Eeles, Senior IT Architect, IBM, Software Group. Although the IT architect role is very varied, there are essential skills needed:
- Strength and depth of knowledge
IT architects need depth of knowledge in one or two particular areas, but also need to understand how different technologies work and integrate
- Big thinking
IT architects must have their finger on the pulse when it comes to technology trends so they can identify the emerging solutions that will benefit their organization. “Avoiding tunnel vision and being able to look at a problem from multiple angles” is also crucial, according to Mike Walker of Microsoft
- An evaluative mind
Reviewing and evaluating new technology is a key role of the IT architect. Professionals need to be able to advise senior stakeholders on the IT solutions needed and present their business case with confidence
IT architects need to be customer service minded and foster a culture of meeting business demands amongst their team
- Planning and project management skills
An IT architect may work on simultaneous projects or oversee a team in delivering multiple schemes of work at one time. As such, robust planning and project management skills are a must-have
“I look for individuals who have an exceptional ability to communicate, deal with political situations, and take on big, bold organizational challenges,” says Kathy Watanabe, Microsoft Chief IT Architect. At times, IT architects will have to deliver unpopular messages so a knack for diplomacy is essential. They will also need to use a range of communication styles to keep stakeholders across the business up to speed.
What are the prospects and opportunities for an IT architect?
As it’s a relatively new and emerging position, IT architects have the chance to evolve and develop their role within their organization. Because the position involves a mix of technical and interpersonal skills, there are also a wide range of career pathways open to professionals from IT Project Manager to Chief Technical Officer.
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