IT architect roles

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In a survey of architect job advertisements, the top three role titles were technical architect, solution(s) architect and enterprise architect.

Surprisingly perhaps, the term “IT architect” was near the bottom of the list; barely used.

The is designed primarily for enterprise, solution, data, application and software architects.

For a description of the broad architect work space, read “Architecture roles – by level and domain”.

This paper answers the question: Where does the IT architect fit in this work space?


Generalities. 1

Where is the IT architect in the architecture work space?. 1

What technologies might an IT architect need to understand?. 1

What process might an IT architect follow?. 1

Three example role definitions. 1

Example 1 – enterprise level 2

Example 2 – solution level 2

Example 3 – solution/software level 2

Two more example roles. 2

Notes. 2

What is the difference between a “platform service” from “IT service”. 2

What does an IT architect NOT do?. 3



Where is the IT architect in the architecture work space?

Other papers on the - based on industry sources - define the architecture work space below.

People called “IT architect” mostly work in the right of this space - concerned with infrastructure/platform technologies.

(Those working in the left of this space do not call themselves an IT architect, or work under that job title.)


Architecture Work Space




























What technologies might an IT architect need to understand?

Typically, an IT architect is reasonably well-versed in one or more of the following.

·         Client-side technologies: desktops, laptops, other mobile devices.

·         Server-side technologies: virtual and physical environments, clusters, load balancers, hardware platforms, mainframes.

·         Network and communication technologies – office LANs, extranet, VPNs, internet gateways, media and unified comms.

·         Data center technologies: racks, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

·         System management technologies -  monitoring of hardware and software infrastructure, networks and IT services

·         Security technologies – identify management, encryption, firewalls.

·         IT services management technologies: help desk, configuration management.

What process might an IT architect follow?

An IT architect might well say they follow a process of this kind:

·         Establish requirements

·         Identify risks, issues and constraints that may affect the architectural design.

·         Engage with business people to understand the above and ensure sponsorship.

·         Define an architecture to meet requirements, under constraints, while managing risks.

·         Create an implementation and migration plan.

·         Govern detailed design and implementation against requirements and plans.

·         Work alongside all involved until the architected system is operational.


OK, but all requirement-to-delivery processes are similar at this abstract level.

Any solution, application or software architect may say the same.

Three example role definitions

Enterprise-level IT architects are concerned with the enterprise-wide information technology portfolio.

They set general principles and standards and govern the use of technologies by architects at lower levels.

They define strategic road maps that the span the life cycle of each platform technology’s use in an organisation.


Solution/software level IT architects are concerned with the infrastructure needed to support specific solutions and applications


IT architects are not involved in the design or specification of information systems or applications, except as stated below.

They are involved with the deployment of apps in production and other environments, and porting of apps between environments

They are employed when somebody has a need for some client devices, servers, storage, network, connections etc.

They determine the sizes and numbers of technologies, perhaps using performance data from similar systems.

They are concerned with latency, throughout, availability and disaster recovery, backup, failover and restore.

They are concerned with compliance to security requirements for confidentiality and availability.

Where these needs were not defined up front, the IT architect has to persuade people they have the needs, and will pay for them.


IT architects have given me the role definitions below.

Example 1 – enterprise level

The example is pitched at the enterprise level.


I am one of 2 IT Infrastructure Architects, referred to as the IS Infrastructure Network Architect. I will

1.      review EA Technology Solution Reviews that are basically a composite of questions that the Architecture Group wants to see answered before any development, installation, or major modification to the Existing Architecture are made, as will all other Architects in our program.

2.      focus primarily on anything that will result in changes to the Network Infrastructure. (i.e. IPv6, Firewalls, IDS/IPS, Switches, Routers, VPN, Network Design, Management/Monitoring tools, etc.).

3.      be looking at network technology as it matures in the industry, and be ready to prepare strategies for technology that will fit in our technology model and assist with meeting the needs of the business. We want to maintain this knowledge so that when the Business identifies new requirements that we don't have in place, they won't have to wait forever for the Infrastructure capabilities to be available. We will have already done the initial research and be able to be more proactive with our response to the Business relative to providing these new capabilities.

4.      provide opinions as to whether or not new technology is a good fit for us, or whether we want to introduce it to our environment.

5.      look for redundant technologies or solutions that are already available in our environment and help keep cost down by insuring that the Business or Project recommending the change is aware of any solution we already have in place that may be able to meet their needs, and that existing solutions are looked at along with new ones to determine best path, with least resistance.

Example 2 – solution level

This example is at a lower level, and veers towards being a more general solution architect.


“My concerns are to ensure the infrastructure supports the running of applications or IT services.

And it conveys data flows (patient results, ECG graphs, X-Rays, reports) from source to destination (e.g. London to Liverpool) in the correct format.


Various technical architects, engineers and administrators (network, storage, database, servers) report to me.

I do not care about network devices, but I do care if the VPN fails or the firewalls stop the data flow traffic.

I do not care how Windows and Linux are built or managed, but I do care if they do not offer the availability or performance.

The PM handles resource allocation and client billing.

The PM rarely has the technical understanding to front a meeting or explain change requests to a change board.

I often report to program directors, give brief summaries to project boards and daily updates to the PM on progress.

I chase the PM to ensure there is a complete project plan.”

Example 3 – solution/software level

This example is clearly an IT infrastructure/platform architect working alongside project delivery.


“What I do is:

·         Establish OS and platform requirements (e.g. performance data, application information and configuration).

·         Identify required hardware and configuration.

·         Engage with application owners to ensure application environment requirements can be met.

·         Sometimes, work with application guys to help specify what apps can do meet NFRs (e.g. multi node and/or replication)

·         Ensure all NFRs have been considered by business and application architects, and all been met

·         Ensure supportability by business-as-usual and applications teams (engagement, involvement and documentation).

·         Define build and deployment processes and environments if they do not exist.

·         Ensure environment passes through all areas (e.g. test and production), ensure issues are re-mediated.”

Two more example roles

A reader has proposed two more role titles that might reasonably be pigeon-holed in the role grid as shown below.


Architecture Work Space











Operations Architect





Services Architect












Operations Architect

Plays role in Continuous Service Improvement area of ITIL, including ongoing assessment of architectural fit of existing applications, infrastructure and services.

Recommends incremental investments to cope with:

·         changing demand profiles (e.g. user or transaction growth);

·         experience of post go-live snags (integration with Problem Management);

·         end of service issues, platform migration issues, capacity management and total cost of ownership perspectives.


Services Architect

Defines architectures that are focused on orchestration and consumption of external services, particularly in Cloud context, in order to create solution architectures on projects.

Focuses on:

·         specification of integration between internal and external services,

·         specification of requirements for contracts with the external service providers and

·         integration with enabling toolsets for (e.g.) Security, monitoring, data integration.


What is the difference between “platform service” and “IT service”

A platform service is what an infrastructure technology provides to a business application.

E.g. database query, transaction commit, transaction roll back.


And IT service is what an IT service management organisation provides to other business departments.



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Date created

August 2, 2006

Date of last review

August 12, 2008

What does an IT architect NOT do?

IT architects:

·         rarely engage with the business regarding functional requirements.

·         have no influence over business process or business data definition.

·         have little need for business, data or application architecture techniques.

·         never see use case definitions; and do not define software architectures.

·         are not usually employed in a software development or deployment project team.

·         understand surprisingly little of databases and middleware.

·         may deploy a database, yet understand little of how data is structured, stored and accessed.

·         may deploy middleware, yet understand little of how messages flow within and between applications.


Much that is addressed in an architecture framework sits before or above IT architecture.

TOGAF is often said to be an IT-centric architecture framework.

In truth, it is IS-centric rather than IT-centric; it presents a business process and application-driven view of IT architecture.



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