Thoughts on the World

A Square Peg, and Only Round Holes

Should the architect fit into a neat slot in the organisational hierarchy?

I ask this, because it keeps on coming up when clients try to define "where I fit" or "who I report to". Regardless of the official answer I often end up working between two or more groups. I suspect this is a common position for many architects. It may actually be a natural result of "looking at the big picture" and "balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders", both of which are key responsibilities of the enterprise architect.

Regardless of how the organisation is sliced up, you need someone who has an interest in and understanding of strategy, of technical architecture and of development project work at the same time. If you try to split these responsibilities up and keep them isolated within the departmental confines then you lose the ability to see how it all fits together, and increase the danger of things "falling through the cracks".

It's not always this way for every architect. The designer of a single system (the "software architect" role) has reporting lines clearly within the project, but his ability to look at the wider picture may not be accepted by others, because of his relationship to the project.

Similarly, if there is a central software architecture group, they often become accused of being in an ivory tower, separate from the realities of the business and the developers at the coal face.

Is this a pattern? Is this why many construction architects are in business quite separately from both client and builder? Is this why many architects end up as freelancers, "Soldiers of fortune"?