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What's in a name?

posted Jul 13, 2012, 2:08 AM by Jerry Dawson
Enterprise Architecture as a profession has apparently been around since 1987, but it's only relatively recently that it's getting any widespread adoption. More generally, the term "Architect" when applied to the IT world (and certainly many EA's would question whether we should be defined as being part of IT) is subject to a whole range of interpretations and misunderstandings.
Living in Holland, but working mostly for UK and American organisations, I also see a geographic tendency in the way the terms are interpreted. Unfortunately in Holland especially, there's a general assumption that an architect is little more than a senior developer. The expectation is that an architect's role is to have a detailed technology-specific experience which enables them to essentially create work packages for developers, enabling a team of developers can deliver a standardised set of code on the chosen platform. To my mind, that may be the job of a lead developer, and you can call them "Java Architect" or "BizTalk Architect" if you like, but the concept's a misnomer.
The analogy to a building architect remains a good one, and as someone who managed in a design and construction business for a while, it's one that I feel particularly at home with. An architect is someone you go to and say "I want a house with three bedrooms and a large sunny living room" and it's their job to understand from you what your requirements really are and translate them into a design which can be built against. While an architect might even specify the type of wood to be used, nobody's going to expect them to give the carpenter a hand. And nobody's expecting an architect who knows all about electricity but nothing about plumbing.
We're the jacks of all trades but we should be masters of one: being an architect.