Exploring architecture roles
Architects have been around for as long as business systems. They may have had different titles over the years, such as systems analyst, technology analyst, and the like, but fundamentally, they have always designed systems that are scalable and efficient. Today, the titles have become more refined and there are multiple types of architects specializing in their own domains. Understanding each of these is important because it will help us have better communication with them and enable us to bring other stakeholders on the same page as well.
Business architects are concerned with identifying how value can be created for internal and external stakeholders of the enterprise. This usually involves producing strategy documents, process maps, capability maps, and commonly used business terms within the enterprise or the industry in which the enterprise operates.
Data architects are the key topic of this book. Of course, they are mainly concerned with data: how data is organized, how it is moved internally or externally, and how it can be made accessible to users when it is needed. Data architects create data models and make decisions on how data will be stored, consumed, and archived. Some data architects will also analyze and communicate how insights and intelligence can be derived from data that can be useful to stakeholders. Typical deliverables include data models, data definitions, the flow of data, and integrations.
A solution architect is concerned with designing systems that deliver business value to stakeholders. Working closely with Business Architects (BAs), they ensure that the solution will provide the business value that the business requires. One of the key responsibilities of solution architects is to identify the most optimal technology that will meet business requirements. This can include packaged software such as Salesforce or designing custom solutions from the ground up. Deliverables for this type of architecture include functional and technical design documents, system landscape diagrams, and the actual software that's delivered in line with the design that the architect puts forward.
These are architects that have expertise in a particular domain of technology. For example, Information Security (IS) architects, technology architects, and cloud architects have very specific expertise in their respective areas and are considered domain architects. A Salesforce Certified Technical Architect (CTA), although required to have a broad knowledge of certain areas, are experts in implementing Salesforce solutions.
Information security architect
The IS architect has been becoming more important as data integrations between systems become common and cybersecurity becomes critical for enterprises to protect their data and, by extension, their reputation. IS architects are responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining security solutions that can protect the organization's network and hardware. They regularly conduct different types of testing to identify vulnerabilities and proactively fix them before a security incident materializes. In cases where the organization's security is breached, they work on a root cause analysis and identify fixes to remediate those vulnerabilities.
A technology (or infrastructure) architect is concerned with the physical infrastructure needed to enable organizations to deliver their software applications to their stakeholders. Servers, networks, and cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) fall into this category. Their responsibilities include the following:
- Designing and implementing the infrastructure solutions needed by organizations
- Supporting the hardware needs of projects in an enterprise
- Monitoring production environments to ensure that they are running optimally by monitoring certain attributes such as throughput, latency, and redundancy, among others
Deliverables include network diagrams, server-to-server diagrams, and others. With the advent of the cloud, another type of architect that's gaining traction is the cloud architect.
These architects are mainly concerned with an enterprise's cloud strategy and its implementation. Like technology architects, they are concerned with implementing cloud solutions that can support software that runs on the cloud. The key difference between technology and cloud architects is that traditionally, the former has been more focused on on-premises systems whereas the latter has been focused primarily on cloud solutions. Salesforce, for example, runs entirely on the cloud and although customers don't have to be concerned with how that cloud is implemented, maintenance schedules, and security patches, Salesforce has internal resources that focus on maintaining the cloud infrastructure, ensuring that it can meet the needs of its customers. Cloud architects are also change agents as they must be able to effectively communicate the benefits of using the cloud and be knowledgeable enough to address the questions and concerns that people not so familiar with cloud technologies have.
Let's look at why data architecture is important and what its benefits are.