In describing myself as an IT Architect in a social gathering recently, the gentleman who I was speaking to suddenly burst into a frustrated tirade that he was a real architect, and he was horrified that I could call myself an architect. To become a construction architect, it takes 8 years of study – a 5 year Bachelor degree, and an internship of 3 years, followed by exams and certification before they can use the title “Architect”. So, what is the difference between an IT architect and a construction architect?
The difference between an IT Architect and a construction architect
First off, I’m going to combine the disciplines into one name – so for IT architect, this encompasses Business Architecture, Technical Infrastructure, Data and Information, Network and Security architecture. Not really valid to do so, but only for this comparison. For the same reason, I’m going to use the term Construction Architect to refer to all the architecture specialities relating to making buildings for habitation or business.
This handy little table is my view;
|imaginative and creative thinking skills|
|ability to identify, analyse and critically assess problems, including those not identified by the customer/client/management|
|ability to see the big picture as well as giving attention to the smallest detail|
|ability to communicate effectively to both implementation engineers and to management/the customer|
|understanding of historical, and cultural and environmental (including power and cooling) concerns|
|negotiation skills to resolve complex implementation issues|
|lateral thinking skills to solve complex problems|
|practical and technical understanding products and materials required to complete the design, understanding of their limitations and capabilities|
|practical and technical understanding of standards, regulations, common practice and industry best practice|
|more than 4 years of experience in their field, either as implementer or engineer|
|practical and technical understanding of their materials and elements, structures, assembly methods (construction/installation) and services|
|combine creative design with a wide range of technical knowledge to provide integrated solutions|
|can see beyond technical specifications to know the practical parameters of a material used, open to use of new technologies and materials|
|combine creative design with a wide range of technical knowledge to provide integrated solutions that will be effective, capable and efficient|
|multi-disciplinary experience in multiple fields to be able to communicate with engineers and peers – even when peers are trying to say they know more|
|understanding and knowledge of long-term ongoing costs of maintenance, support and operating costs of their design, and take this into account|
|ability to represent complex multi-dimensional designs graphically, using multiple design tools|
|multiple years of formal education and training|
|works in a highly regulated and controlled industry|
Anyone who reads this blog or knows me will be aware that I often use analogies;
A construction architect will know that if they are designing a home, that the selection of bricks will require that the placement of windows and doors will need to take into account. Windows and doors have a standard size (otherwise they will need to be custom made), and so the location of those elements should not require that bricks are cut to fit – it is better to reduce modifications where possible. The architect will know how much space is required inside walls for wiring and plumbing, and what regulations exist for fire regulations and building codes, they will take into account invisible requirements such as ventilation and moisture control.
An IT architect will know that if they are designing a solution, that the selection of products and components will have an impact on the infrastructure, networking, hosting and physical requirements. They will take into account their existing knowledge of products and components to ensure that the customisation and bespoke development is kept to a minimum – it is better to ensure that the product is supportable by the vendor and by future administrators. The architect will take into account all needs of the solution that may not be visible – such as disaster recovery & backup, administration and support, lifecycle of the product and related components and also of future enhancement requirements.
Why are IT architects not regulated?
To be an architect in the construction and design fields is position of respect and an indication of years of training and formal qualification. Why is there no standard for IT architecture disciplines? There are more similarities than differences, but IT is still a non-standardised industry, where anyone can call themselves an architect.