Saturday, April 1, 2006

The Great Thing About the Definition of "Architecture"

The great thing about the definition of "architecture" is that everyone has one. Including me.


Responses to my post included comments from quite a few people - some private, some as comments on the blog post. Everyone seemed to have an opinion of what an architect does or what architecture means, although I don't think anyone actually contradicted my main (and, I guess, poorly-expressed) point: that the term "architecture" is very poorly understood.


What was interesting was that everyone seemed to agree that (a) one of an architect's responsibilities is design, and that (b) the key to being a good architect is having a solid connection with both the technologies involved and the customer. (In fact, Martin Fowler points out how this is exactly the role an architect should take in building construction. And often doesn't.)


Michael Platt breaks it down into seven (!) overlapping roles. I'm not denying that the project-management aspects of Michael's breakdown are important functions, but that seems to fall well outside the realm of software, since it would be true of any project of sufficient size of any type. Also, I should point out that I never meant to imply that I thought Michael's definition was wrong or that it somehow missed the point; just that it didn't increase my understanding of anything. Or, to put it another way, I'm still too stupid about exactly what "architecture" means to gain much from the fine points he put on it. :)


I think the main truths (such as they are) are this:


  1. Nontrivial software needs a design.

  2. There's a need for meta-design in larger organizations to constrain software designs to have commonality where this makes sense.


My only point was that I think "architecture" has come to mean both things. I think this makes it rather useless as a term, because the two are so different. But with these two things finally separate in my head, lots of other stuff makes more sense to me now.


  1. Stop linking the profession Architecture with IT professions. In New York it against the law to use the title Architect unless licensed as a BUILDING DESIGN ARCHITECT.

  2. Good thing I don't live in New York. :)

    In the meantime, I'd say the term architect is pretty much here to stay in IT, misunderstood as it might be, and irrelevant laws notwithstanding. For my part, I continue to try to understand precisely what the term means to us as an industry.