Home > Uncategorized > Architects and Engineers: A New Way to Think About Them

Architects and Engineers: A New Way to Think About Them

IMHO, Ken has really got it right…(Bill)


by Ken Orr, Fellow, Cutter Business Technology Council

For some time now, I’ve been looking for a word or a phrase or some way to distinguish among classes of architects. Over the last decade, I’ve largely worked as an enterprise architect, with an emphasis on “business architecture” — especially “business process reengineering” and “data architecture.” Every so often, I’m finding myself talking to “technical” or “solutions” architects or experts in “business process tools” or “business rule engines,” and so on. As much as I’m interested in the higher-level tools that continue to be built and aggressively marketed, I find that there is often a large gap between what I think of as “enterprise architecture” and “technical architecture.”


I must say that much of enterprise architecture, as it is portrayed in the standard methodology texts and articles, is not very useful. What is useful is the part that interfaces with the business and professional users in the enterprise. I find many of these people more and more knowledgeable in the use of smart devices and computers, but they are still put off by the strange language and technical jargon that surrounds corporate/enterprise systems.


In my EA practice, I work with business users developing logical/conceptual solutions that can be easily translated into technical solutions. My solutions usually stop short of executable code BPMN instead of BPEL — “decision tables” rather than “structured English,” for example — but are very clear to intelligent users.


So what about the technical or solution or SOA architects? Well, I think we have been calling them by the wrong name. I think that we ought to call them “technical engineers” or “solutions engineers,” and avoid fouling up the communication channel just to give our technical people a few more bucks. Architects are, I think, more conceptual and more interested in business systems than in IT systems. When I got into the IT business, there were still industrial engineers around doing, among other things, “business process analysis,” “document management systems,” and understanding how things worked in the real business world. Over time, we began to replace these troglodytes with “computer systems analysts.” If the road back to enterprise architecture has proved nothing more, it has proved that what we gave up is more critical for the future than it was in the past.


Every time I ask a SOA engineer to try to explain why SOA is the solution to every business problem, I feel compelled to leave the room. Our job as IT professionals is to make the systems that our business people use every day easier to use and accessible in their terms, not ours. One of the principle tenets of object-oriented design is “information hiding.” We need, as much as humanly possible, to hide the complexity of our systems from our users and give them more and more power to do and think about their jobs. The great Steve Jobs and his cohorts at Apple have taught us that given the right interfaces, intelligent people don’t need weeks or months of training in user technology … architects ought to give us the vision, and engineers ought to give us the tools.


I welcome your comments about this  Advisor and encourage you to send your insights to me at  korr@cutter.com.



Ken Orr, Fellow 

Cutter Business Technology Council 

E-mail:  korr@cutter.com

Categories: Uncategorized
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