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IT is a very new industry compared to other industries and as such there are still a lot of things that are in flux as we learn and mature as an industry. One of those items is job titles. It may seem weird that something as core as a job title is in flux, but in my view it is because we do not yet have universal standards and, sometimes (to a much lesser degree), we are breaking new ground and new job titles need to be constructed to match the new role.
The job title Architect seems to have a nearly universal usage in the IT industry to denote an expert or leader in a specific area. In fact, my current job title is Technology Architect. There are problems, though, with the usage of the title "Architect" in IT and I want to share some of the issues I see with the usage.
Architectural Profession Act of 2000
In South Africa there is a piece of legislation called the Architectural Profession Act of 2000, which defines the rules and controlling bodies for architects – not in the IT space but in the building/construction space. One of the sections of that legislation (section 18) specifies that certain titles may only be used by registered (with the architectural council) professionals. Those titles are:
- Professional Architect
- Professional Senior Architectural Technologist
- Professional Architectural Technologist
- Professional Architectural Draughtsperson
- Candidate Architect
- Candidate Senior Architectural Technologist
- Candidate Architectural Technologist
- Candidate Architectural Draughtsperson
In short, if you are using any of those titles as an IT person, you are breaking the law.
What "Architect" Should Imply
We, in IT, use the term Architect to denote some level of senior status of a person – however, without a standard or controlling body, anyone can use that title. I remember when I was a much younger developer, thrust into a late project to lead it and I was sold to the customer as an "architect." Why was that title applied to me? It was not because of my skills or experience. It was to show the customer that I knew what I was doing and, more importantly for the sales guy, so the company could charge more for my time.
When you look at the building/consulting space, if you want to be a professional architect you need study at a university for 5 years. That gets you to the junior architect level. Want to be a senior architect? Expect YEARS of real world experience!
By adopting the same title as another industry, we need to honor their usage of the titles. If we keep abusing the legacy of the title, we will devalue the title in our industry and we will make our industry look far more immature to the rest of the world.
What should an Architect do?
Not only should we be careful about who we apply the term Architect to, but we should only be applying it to those who actually do IT architecture work. That is a very specific area of work with very specific training and tools such as TOGAF or the Zachman Framework. If you are not doing that, you are not doing architectural work in IT and should not be using that title.
This is obvious, but we fail so often like this – imagine if you called a plumber and his truck and business card said electrician… would you trust him to fix your pipes?
In my view, unless you are doing real IT architectural work and have years of experience in IT and the architectural space, you shouldn’t use the title. If you are doing the correct work you want to make sure that your usage of the title clearly separates it from the building/construction realm by having something like software or IT in the title too.
We, the IT industry, need to do better with titles or we will continue to devalue ourselves in the eyes of our customers and this is a way to get to solving that.