April 21, 2016

The difference between an IT Architect and a construction architect

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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;

 

Activity Technology Construction
imaginative and creative thinking skills symbol_check symbol_check
ability to identify, analyse and critically assess problems, including those not identified by the customer/client/management symbol_check symbol_check
ability to see the big picture as well as giving attention to the smallest detail symbol_check symbol_check
ability to communicate effectively to both implementation engineers and to management/the customer symbol_check symbol_check
understanding of historical, and cultural and environmental (including power and cooling) concerns symbol_check symbol_check
negotiation skills to resolve complex implementation issues symbol_check symbol_check
lateral thinking skills to solve complex problems symbol_check symbol_check
practical and technical understanding products and materials required to complete the design, understanding of their limitations and capabilities symbol_check symbol_check
practical and technical understanding of standards, regulations, common practice and industry best practice symbol_check symbol_check
more than 4 years of experience in their field, either as implementer or engineer symbol_check symbol_check
practical and technical understanding of their materials and elements, structures, assembly methods (construction/installation) and services symbol_check symbol_check
combine creative design with a wide range of technical knowledge to provide integrated solutions symbol_check symbol_check
can see beyond technical specifications to know the practical parameters of a material used, open to use of new technologies and materials symbol_check symbol_check
combine creative design with a wide range of technical knowledge to provide integrated solutions that will be effective, capable and efficient symbol_check symbol_check
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 symbol_check symbol_check
understanding and knowledge of long-term ongoing costs of maintenance, support and operating costs of their design, and take this into account symbol_check symbol_check
ability to represent complex multi-dimensional designs graphically, using multiple design tools symbol_check symbol_check
multiple years of formal education and training cross symbol_check
works in a highly regulated and controlled industry cross symbol_check

Analogies

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.

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Comments

2 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    I would agree we share similar processes, however I disagree with the notion that all this expertise and knowledge just comes to us. We too must keep up todate and train and learn the latest technologies or get left behind. I have over 25 years of all sorts of experience from building electronic components, code writing, networking, you name it. Hell if I just sat down and started to design a network on 10baseT I dont think my sponsors would be too happy about that. Adding to that we may not be regulated by an authority unless you mean by name of manufacturers such as Cisco, VMware, Redhat, Microsoft all have their own certification programs. Now the requirement for those certifications may or may not be asked for and CV experience being more important, but over the years I have been wary of people who just flash learn to pass an exam but cant put anything into practice and forget it once they have memorized it. Experience counts and just like any other trade/profession you can get a good one or a bad one. It depends on the individual.

    • Thanks Joe, absolutely agree. However, in the construction industry, using the name “Architect” is an official recognition of a level of skills and training. In IT, anyone can call themselves and architect – but you are absolutely right in that employers and customers need to have confidence that the IT Architect actually has the skills and experience to back up their claim to the title.
      Interesting that the term “manager” is similar (in all industries) – anyone can call themselves a manager, but the employer or customer will need to evaluate if the claimant is worthy of that name.

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