Keep Your Architect Busy

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Architect is probably the most prestigious technical job available in software development. Unsurprisingly, most developers have mixed feelings about the project's architect. Part of this mix is that you might want to become one yourself; another part is that competent and dominant people often appear arrogant and a threat to other people's self-confidence.

While you might be tempted to avoid any contact: be aware that this is your decision and not his. There are constructive ways to benefit from an architect's presence, both for your personal benefit and your project's progress. Ultimately, architect is a supportive role. Make the architect work for you. Ask him for problem resolution, remind him of his responsibilities in the ongoing project. This way he will not be occupied with some vague future project, or become ignorant of actual problems during implementation.

First of all, someone who does the decomposition of a system should also be able to take responsibility for its recomposition. This means that the architect who structured the system should also be the key integrator who makes sure that the developed pieces fit together and can be made work. Such a reciprocal definition of responsibilities will let every architect be careful and interested in the ongoing development. An architecture may even put his main focus on the final integration, a model I like to call integration-driven architecture.

Second, real projects can face architectural problems at any time. It is a myth that the "architectural" issues are all addressed at the beginning of a project. Each project learns many things during implementation that turn out to be relevant for the overall project success, some of them might flatly contradict what the architect stated months ago. (Note that this is neither the developer's nor the architect's fault.) Experienced architects explicitly leave some issues for resolution until such a time as more knowledge becomes available. Make your life easier: When you need a decision, invite the architect to solve the architectural issues.

Last, but not least, frequent contact with an architect is a great learning opportunity for you. The decisions you demand will likely benefit from your own ideas and proposals. You will receive feedback on your work, widen your horizon, and increase your career options. And, if your architect knows about the art of deciding no earlier than necessary, you can gain invaluable insights about what makes projects successful. And he will likely be thankful for your responsiveness — an assumed ivory tower is a place without much opportunity for feedback, in either direction.

By Klaus Marquardt

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3

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