Who is an IT architect? What are his responsibilities?

Piotr Molski | Project management / Software development | 05.07.2023

When we hear the word “Architect,” the first thing that comes to mind is: “A specialist who works in the field of designing and erecting buildings.” Have you perhaps wondered about the work of an architect who does not erect huge skyscrapers and whose field is the IT industry? Or have you seen job ads looking for an “IT Systems Architect”? In this post I will try to explain what an Architect does and who exactly he is.

Who is an IT architect?

In short, an IT systems architect is the person responsible for preparing the system design and overseeing that it is implemented according to the design plans.

Responsibilities of an IT systems architect

In order to design a system architecture, regardless of its complexity, it is necessary to have a good knowledge of functional and non-functional requirements. The architect must be very familiar with the expectations placed on the system in order to adequately propose the optimal architecture.

Depending on the organization and the specifics of a particular project, the architect may operate at different levels:

  • from the macro scale, which focuses on high-level system components (applications, services, subsystems) and their integration through shared interfaces,
  • to the micro-scale, where it designs class dependency structure, data models and business logic algorithms based on commonly accepted design patterns.

The result of the architect’s work is most often documents describing the designed part of the system, including but not limited to:

  • Technical documentation describing the details of the architecture (i.e., the components present in the system: modules, applications, servers, services, and how they are integrated and interact),
  • UML diagrams (diagrams of classes, components, sequences, activities, etc.).

It is very common that an information systems architect, when planning the use of a solution, prepares a so-called “solution” for it. “Proof of Concept,” a simplified implementation designed to show the concept of how a mechanism works and verify its feasibility.

Who does the information systems architect work closely with on the project?

As mentioned earlier, knowledge of functional and non-functional requirements is crucial to prepare an optimal architecture, which is why the architect often works with business analysts and, in smaller projects, directly with the client. Once the requirements are taken into account and the system design is prepared, the IT architect hands it over to the development team for implementation. A person in the architect position works closely with developers, especially in projects conducted in agile methodologies (e.g. Scrum). This is an iterative work, during which the architect designs successive parts of the system and the development team implements them.

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I want to become an IT architect. What areas of knowledge should I focus on?

There are several areas of particular interest to those interested in the architectural profession:

  • Proficiency in programming (architects often specialize in selected technologies, such as .NET / Java),
  • Knowledge of design patterns, project management models and good programming practices,
  • Knowledge of architectural patterns,
  • Knowledge of communication interfaces (REST API, SOAP, gRPC, GraphQL, etc.),
  • Knowledge of basic ways of integration between systems (queues, communication buses).
  • Soft skills development – communication skills and good organization of work
  • foreign language skills – especially in an international environment in the IT industry

From intern to architect – the development path of future IT architects

The most common (though not the only possible) development path for an architect is one related to programming. Often, once they have become proficient enough to implement systems, senior developers, wanting to have more influence, begin to look at the systems from a broader perspective and focus their attention not only on how the software is implemented, but also on the concept of operation, integration and design of solutions for the entire system.

This is when they most often take on the role of architect on the project.

Pros and cons of working as an architect

The design of IT systems and the work of an architect brings incredible satisfaction, as it is very creative work – each project is different, so the problems and challenges that arise are also different. The architect seeks optimal solutions to these problems based on design requirements and constraints. Watching ideas and concepts transform into a working system is a lot of fun.

Making decisions on. However, system architecture involves a lot of responsibility – a poorly designed architecture can result in the entire system or part of it not working as expected. So: if I could turn back time, would I become an architect? Definitely yes – it’s extremely passionate work!