Let’s imagine that a company launched a test version of software. The product began gaining momentum, but then the system simply stopped. One of the reasons why can be poorly designed IT architecture. In order to resolve the issue and make sure such things don’t happen again, you need an IT Architect. Let’s figure out what IT Architects are responsible for and if there are cases when a project can get by without one.
What solution IT architecture is
IT architecture is a broad term that includes:
- enterprise architecture describing a company’s IT system from the business goal perspective, and uniting people, processes, and technologies;
- infrastructure architecture representing the entire structure of IT solutions to organize work (data centers, servers, network, custom applications, and so on);
- solution architecture applied to develop new software for a particular task.
For comprehensive IT architecture planning, a crucial aspect is the planning of a foundation – platforms (hardware or cloud providers), external infrastructure (servers, network), and internal infrastructure (delivery of software solutions, their placement, and establishment of communication and interaction).
For example, a company creates a service allowing travelers to book flights, hotels, and taxis. An IT Architect’s task is to analyze what tools to choose (programming languages, platforms, APIs, etc.), how long the development will take, and how the audience will use the product (what devices and platforms they can access it from).
The Architect knows that the purpose of any product is to be user-friendly and accessible to the end-user. For illustration purposes, an architecture is drawn up in the form of diagrams showing the components and tools necessary for work. Architectural solutions are planned in such a way so as to allow all technologies to work together accurately and properly.
Core processes of solution architecture
Well-elaborated solution architecture allows IT specialists to develop a product on time, within the budget, and in line with business requirements. It helps them avoid such difficulties as incompatibility of the technologies used, or the impossibility to scale or modify the software. In situations like this, due to poorly elaborated IT architecture, companies have to redevelop programs and systems completely.
Well-designed architecture also makes it possible to more accurately plan the time required to develop and deliver the final product or its parts. It gives sufficient flexibility to development processes and the ability to parallelize these processes, reducing the complexity of understanding individual modules and services.
There are processes in IT architecture that need to be considered. They are:
- Compliance of new software with the corporate environment.
When IT Architects start their work, they undertake a prior study of the systems within the corporate environment so that the new program syncs with it and the systems don’t come into conflict with each other.
- Selection of technologies for project development.
Specialists create IT architecture following on from software development technologies. They analyze what platforms, programming languages, and tools are suitable for a given project. To do this, an IT Architect needs a technical background and programming experience.
- Meeting non-functional requirements.
Every product has non-functional requirements specifying software characteristics: security, performance, user-friendliness, scalability, and so on. The IT Architect is supposed to analyze these quality attributes and make sure that the project developed on the basis of the proposed architecture will correspond to them. Even if it is impossible to predict the need for scaling at the initial stage, a plan and strategy for the development of a sufficiently flexible infrastructure is created to automatically manage the expansion process.
Every program is based on the architecture that supports it. As a rule, there is no need to design and document architectural solutions for simple applications because software is often developed according to templates. However, when it comes to a unique complex program that needs to be implemented within a large organization’s corporate system, IT architecture must be well thought-out and accurately documented.
Is it possible to write code without considering the IT architecture? Of course it is. But if the development is not planned, the team is at risk of missing some crucial aspects. They will have to go back to redo parts of the program. This will lead to delays and unforeseen costs. Figuratively speaking, without IT architecture, the planned skyscraper risks becoming a two-story building. The IT architect approaches software design with all the expertise and foresight to make sure such things don’t happen.
Responsibilities of an IT Architect
If IT architecture is a kind of a frame for an application, it follows that an IT Architect is a specialist who builds it. They work out the design of a program, its main parts and interfaces so that the software is interoperable with external systems.
Solution Architects start their work long before the development process begins, looking for technologies that fit the business. As mentioned above, Architects take care of the functional and non-functional peculiarities of the system in order to create a successful product. They assess the correctness and feasibility of the requirements and the possibility to meet them within a reasonable time and the allocated budget.
IT Architects also analyze the technological environment and the сompany’s profile, document the requirements, and create a prototype of an architectural solution. These specialists share the architectural vision of the project with developers, monitor the process, and support employees at the stage of product development. They fix technical issues, if there are any, and take part in subsequent program updates.
When working on the program design, an IT Architect not only creates a solution for the implementation of the initial idea but also anticipates possible risks and restrictions associated with the non-functional product qualities. For example, if the application isn’t scalable, the money allocated for development is likely to be wasted. If requirements change and this may affect the original design, an Architect tries to prevent their negative impact on software performance, security, and other qualities.
To carry out this large-scale job, IT Architects need a wealth of experience in programming and business analysis, as well as knowledge of modern technologies and Agile methodologies. It can be said that the position of an IT Architect is the next step in the career ladder of a Tech Lead, a Team Lead, or an experienced developer.
What projects you need an IT Architect for
As a rule, the need for an IT Architect arises in large projects with several technical teams (Front-end developers, Back-end developers, and DevOps engineers). This specialist is also called on when complex non-typical software is being developed. Template development projects – an online store, for example – can do without an Architect.
Involving an Architect at the start of a small-scale project or startup is mistakenly considered to be not so important. As a result, after the MVP is completed, the product goes through a full beta testing phase, and new large-scale functional and non-functional requirements appear, it is often too expensive or even impossible to change the system. This occurs due to the complexity of modification (the presence of hard dependencies), poor testability (there is no possibility of testing individual parts of the product), poor monitoring (control of internal and external processes), and other factors.
In global terms, an IT Architect is necessary to design an efficient IT solution that meets business goals. Otherwise, the team risks developing a product that won’t be able to work for clients or scale to the full extent, and will have to be redone. In fact, these are double costs. An IT Architect will help avoid these unforeseen issues in a project.
The IT Architect considers rapidly changing technologies and the increasing complexity of systems and can work out strategically important points, find beneficial solutions, and present a general vision of a product to developers and customers. Thus, the customer knows what to expect, and programmers understand how to create the product.
As for large-scale and complex projects, especially with a little-known subject area, an Architect has an important additional objective – to define the most atomic parts of the project with a limited area of responsibility. This gives specialists a clear understanding of all the processes of development, testing, and further support of the product and its individual modules.
The value of Solution Architects is that they lay the foundation for the future product. This allows the team to attain coherence between requirements and tech solutions. As companies strive to keep up with the emerging technologies and build reliable high-quality applications, they need specialists who are aware of how to transform technical know-how into concrete business results. With an IT Solution Architect, the project has a better chance of a successful launch.