How Architecture Evolves into Strategy


Technology systems are difficult to wrangle. Our systems grow in accidental complexity and complication over time. Sometimes we can succumb to thinking other people really hold the cards, that they have the puppet strings we don’t.

This is exacerbated by the fact that our field is young and growing and changing, and we’re still finding the roles we need to have to be successful. To do so, we borrow metaphors from roles in other industries. The term “data scientist” was first used in the late 1990s. In 2008 or so, when data scientist emerged as a job title, it was widely ridiculed as a nonjob: the thought that people who just worked with data could be scientists, or employ the rigors of their time-honored methods, was literally laughable in many circles. …

Likewise, the term “architect” didn’t enter popular usage to describe a role in the software field until the late 1990s. It, too, was ridiculed as an overblown, fancy-pants misappropriation from a “real” field. Part of the vulnerability here is that it hasn’t always been clear what the architect’s deliverables are. We often say “blueprints,” but that’s another metaphor borrowed from the original field, and of course we don’t make actual blueprints.

So, we will define the role of the architect in order to proceed from common ground. This is my tailored view of it; others will have different definitions. Before we do that, though, let’s cover some historical context that informs how we think of the role.

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