In my IT Thrill Seekers - Conquering the Skill Shortages article, I referenced a CIO Magazine report citing Enterprise Architecture (EA) as one of the top five skills in Information Technology (IT) which are facing a shortage of qualified resources. The focus of this article is to discuss brand-based architecture positions and if the employment of these such positions is a wise idea.
What Are Brand-Based Architects?
My definition of brand-based architects is as defined below:
Brand-based architects are architecture positions that explicitly list a product name in their title, with the majority of roles and responsibilities associated with the position tied directly to the named product.
- J. Vester
Searching monster.com, I was able to locate the following brand-based architecture positions:
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Architect
By comparison, I was also able to locate the following list of more traditional architecture positions:
IT Application Architect
Data Infrastructure Architect
Application Integration Architect
Technology Solutions Architect
Do They Have a Place In IT?
Looking at the positions available for the brand-based architecture positions, showed a mix between service companies offering consulting positions and full-time corporate opportunities. At a high-level, it was clear that more of the brand-based positions were for consulting positions. In this regard, I feel that brand-based architecture positions have a place in IT - a rather strong place at that.
Consider the scenario where your team is analyzing your options for a given solution. At the end of the analysis, a recommendation is made to the decision-maker, who ultimately determines the final solution. At this point, a brand-based architect, who yields the highest level of expertise regarding the solution, could provide an insurmountable degree of value with assisting the implementation team. Absence of a brand-based resource introduces risk in the implementation phase that could result in decisions that are sub-par at best.
Should They Be Avoided?
Where I have a concern with brand-based architecture positions is within full-time corporate positions. I certainly realize that the Java and .NET Architect positions are commonly employed today, but I wonder if the brand should be included in the title. Perhaps usage of a title like IT Application Architect would be a better fit?
In a corporate environment, I would replace the brand-specific positions as listed below:
Java and .NET Architect -> IT Application Architect
Oracle Architect -> Database Architect
Salesforce Architect -> CRM Architect
MuleSoft Architect -> Application Integration Architect
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Architect -> Enterprise Architect
My Biggest Concern
The biggest concern I have brand-based architecture positions in a corporate culture is that the individual in the position may not maintain the best level of subjectivity when evaluating opportunities and making decisions. Over the last 20+ years, I have experienced decisions where the wrong solution was put into place by trying to utilize a product for the wrong purpose. I will always remember visiting a client that had decided to use Lotus Notes as their ERP solution — even to the point where they were performing transactional-like functionality against the non-relational database. While that was years ago, I have witnessed this same pattern just within the last few weeks — reminding me this is still an issue today.
Of course, simply changing the titles from brand-based to more universal titles will not fix the problem noted above. Placing the *right* individual (who maintains a brand or technology-agnostic view) is a more pertinent requirement. From my perspective, I always prefer an Enterprise Architecture position covering a wider spectrum, than multiple brand-specific architects to round out my corporate team.
Brand-based architecture positions certainly have a place in IT. They can provide an extreme amount of knowledge and direction for the product or solution they represent. In my view, these positions provide the greatest amount of value in a consulting capacity.
Corporate hiring managers should put careful thought and consideration into place before seeking brand-based architecture positions for full-time staff positions. Otherwise, they are likely to find themselves dealing with the technical debt associated with brand-based decisions instead of technology-based decisions.
Have a really great day!