Architects must stand up and be counted

I was taken with Richard Sharpe's article in the 22nd May issue, on ditching the architect label in IT. While I agree that linking the terms architect and .Net may be done with some lack of foresight and a full understanding of the breadth of the architect role, the promotion of the role of architect (branded with IT, software, application, solution etc) is the very thing our industry needs. 

We have gone through the phases of excitement with new technologies and approaches, and exist where the ideal, ethical, personally gratifying approach to software development has lost ground to economic, efficient, insulating and satisfaction destroying approaches.

Taken against this backdrop, linking architect with .Net, is hardly different to linking architect with J2EE; Microsoft is merely playing catch up with Sun Microsystems. It won't be long before we see a Microsoft-Certified Enterprise Architect, just as we have a Sun-Certified Enterprise Architect. 

The claim that many are tying the role of architect and .net is a poor reflection on the state of job adverts rather than real research into the role. We have ended here because IT is permeated with non-technical people, hauled in to cover the surfeit of communication and business oriented thinking we techies have chosen to avoid.

We choose to mark our expertise in the technical arena by the term architect, and it is fitting. We are not engineers, not artists, not developers, testers or any other process oriented role. We sit outside process and project and align technical solutions to business problems. We inhabit a space beyond the pantheon of process and technology, uninterested in the arguments of language and brand loyalty. 

Architects became architects to prevent buildings from falling on people's heads. We become architects in IT to prevent similar disasters. Yet buildings still collapse; IT still fails us. 

We need you, the master of your craft, to step forward and be counted as an architect, a purveyor of quality, a most useful proponent of technical and personal skills. We must move beyond these delusions of right and wrong, this confusion over benefit and harm. Because so many share this sickness, they cannot perceive that it is a sickness. 

We need our architects. We need our technologically neutral, technically skilled, highly communicative and effective people to deliver the IT systems we need. 

Richard Sharpe pointed out the rigorous training and independent certification required to be able to carry the title of architect, and the lack of such independent certification in IT. The Worldwide Institute of Software Architects (WWISA) is working towards certification under a board comprising such luminaries as Grady Booch, Dana Bredemeyer and Thomas Mowbray. WWISA has 2500 members in 74 cocuntries.

Creating independent certification is far more difficult than a commercial company creating its own certification scheme. Getting from an independent certification scheme to a charter is an extremely arduous road, yet it is one we have begun. 

We have many ingrained attitudes and opinions to overcome, and have much to learn about our own role and the way we operate, before we create a better world with software architects than a worse one without. 

So here is the real equation: Software Architect = Success, for you and your employer. 

It is time to embrace the architect role. 

You can read further about the comparison of Building and Software Architects in Marc and Laura Sewell's book: The Software Architect's Profession: An Introduction. 

Nigel Leeming is a software architect and founding member of the Worldwide Institute of Software Architects (, and author of

This article was written as a reply to an article by Richard Sharpe in an earlier edition. The earlier article can be read at

I am indebted to some of the words in this to (as far as I can recall) Dr Edmund J Bourne Ph.D, and the philosopher Lao Tzu.