Home > Articles > Software Development & Management > Architecture and Design

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book


Now that we have defined what we mean by architecture, we can turn our attention to the role that is responsible for the creation of the architecture: the architect. The role of the architect is arguably the most challenging in any software development project. The architect is the technical lead on the project and, from a technical perspective, ultimately carries responsibility for the technical success or failure of the project.

  • [An architect is] the person, team, or organization responsible for systems architecture. (IEEE 1471 2000)

As the technical lead on the project, the architect must have skills that are typically broad rather than deep (although architects should have deep skills in particular areas).

The Architect Is a Technical Leader

First and foremost, the architect is a technical leader, which means that in addition to having technical skills, the architect exhibits leadership qualities. Leadership can be characterized in terms of both position in the organization and the qualities that the architect exhibits.

In terms of position in the organization, the architect (or lead architect, if the architect role is fulfilled by a team) is the technical lead on the project and should have the authority to make technical decisions. The project manager, on the other hand, is more concerned with managing the project plan in terms of resources, schedule, and cost. Using the film industry as an analogy, the project manager is the producer (making sure that things get done), whereas the architect is the director (making sure that things get done correctly). As a result of their positions, the architect and project manager represent the public persona of the project and, as a team, are the main contact points as far as people outside the project are concerned. The architect in particular should be an advocate of the investment made in creating an architecture and the value it brings to the organization.

The architect should also be involved in determining how the team is populated, because the architecture will imply the need for certain skills. Dependencies among elements of the architecture influence the sequencing of tasks and, therefore, when these skills are required, so the architect should contribute actively to planning activities. On a related note, because the success of the architect is closely linked to the quality of the team, participation in interviewing new team members is also highly appropriate.

In terms of the qualities that the architect exhibits, leadership can also be characterized in terms of interactions with other team members. Specifically, the architect should lead by example and show confidence in setting direction. Successful architects are people-oriented, and all architects take time to mentor and train members of their team. This practice benefits the team members in question, the project, and ultimately the organization itself, because some of its most valuable assets (people) become better skilled.

Also, architects need to be very focused on the delivery of tangible results and must act as the driving force for the project from a technical perspective. Architects must be able to make decisions (often under pressure) and make sure that those decisions are communicated, that they are understood, and that they ultimately stick.

The Architect Role May Be Fulfilled by a Team

There is a difference between a role and a person. One person may fulfill many roles (Mary is a developer and a tester), and a role may be fulfilled by many people (Mary and John fulfill the role of tester). Given the requirement for a very broad set of skills in an architect, it is often the case that the architect role is fulfilled by more than one person. This practice allows the skills to be spread across several people, each bringing his or her own experiences to bear. In particular, the skills required to understand both the business domain and various aspects of technology are often best spread across several people. The resulting team needs to be balanced, however.

Throughout this book, the term architect refers to the role, which may be fulfilled by either an individual or a team.

  • [A team is] a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. (Katzenbach 1993)

If the architect role is to be fulfilled by a team, it is important to have one individual who is considered to be the lead architect, who is responsible for owning the vision, and who can act as a single point of coordination across the architecture team. Without this point of coordination, there is a danger that members of the architecture team will not produce a cohesive architecture or that decisions will not be made.

For a team that is new to the concept of architecture, it has been suggested that to achieve this common purpose, goals, and approach, the team should create and publish a team charter (Kruchten 1999).

Good architects know their strengths and weaknesses. Whether or not the architect role is fulfilled by a team, an architect is supported by several trusted advisors. Such architects acknowledge where they are weak and compensate for these weaknesses by obtaining the necessary skills or by working with other people to fill the gaps in their knowledge. The best architectures usually are created by a team rather than an individual, simply because there is greater breadth and depth of knowledge when more than one person is involved.

One pitfall with the concept of an architecture team, especially on large projects, is that it may be perceived as an ivory tower whose output is intellectual rather than useful. This misconception can be minimized from the outset by ensuring that all the stakeholders are actively consulted, that the architecture and its value are communicated, and that any organizational politics in play are considered.

The Architect Understands the Software Development Process

Most architects have been developers at some point and should have a good appreciation of the need to define and endorse best practices used on the project. More specifically, the architect should have an appreciation of the software development process, because this process ensures that all the members of the team work in a coordinated manner.

This coordination is achieved by defining the roles involved, the tasks undertaken, the work products created, and the handoff points among the different roles. Because architects are involved with many of the team members on a daily basis, it is important for them to understand the team members' roles and responsibilities, as well as what they are producing and using. In essence, team members look to the architect for guidance on how to fulfill their responsibilities, and the architect must be able to respond in a manner that is consistent with the development process being followed by the team.

The Architect Has Knowledge of the Business Domain

As well as having a grasp of software development, it is also highly desirable (some would say essential) for architects to have an understanding of the business domain so that they can act as intermediaries between stakeholders and users, who understand the business, and the members of the development team, who may be more familiar with technology.

  • [A domain is] an area of knowledge or activity characterized by a set of concepts and terminology understood by practitioners in that area. (UML User Guide 1999)

Knowledge of the business domain also allows the architect to better understand and contribute to the requirements on the system, as well as to be in a position to ensure that likely requirements are captured. Also, a particular domain often is associated with a particular set of architectural patterns (and other assets) that can be applied in the solution, and knowing this mapping can greatly assist the architect.

Therefore, a good architect has a good balance of software development knowledge and business domain knowledge. When architects understand software development but not the business domain, a solution may be developed that does not fit the problem, but instead reflects the comfort zone of things that the architect is familiar with.

Familiarity with the business domain also allows architects to anticipate likely changes in their architecture. Given that the architecture is heavily influenced by the environment in which it will be deployed, which includes the business domain, an appreciation of the business domain allows the architect to make better-informed decisions in terms of likely areas of change and the areas of stability. If the architect is aware that new regulatory standards will need to be adhered to at some point in the future, this requirement should be accommodated in the architecture, for example.

The Architect Has Technology Knowledge

Certain aspects of architecting clearly require knowledge of technology, so an architect should have a certain level of technology skills. An architect does not need to be a technology expert as such, however, and needs to be concerned only with the significant elements of a technology, not the detail. The architect may understand the key frameworks available in a platform such as Java EE or .NET, but not necessarily the detail of every application programming interface (API) that is available to access these platforms. Because technology changes fairly frequently, it is essential that the architect keep abreast of these changes.

The Architect Has Design Skills

Although architecting is not confined solely to design (as you have seen, the architect is also involved in requirements tasks), design clearly is the core aspect of architecting. The architecture embodies key design decisions, so the architect should possess strong design skills. Such decisions could represent key structural design decisions, the selection of particular patterns, the specification of guidelines, and so on. To ensure the architectural integrity of the system, these elements are typically applied across the board and can have far-reaching effects in terms of the success of the system. Therefore, such elements need to be identified by someone who has the appropriate skills.

  • One does not acquire design prowess overnight; instead, such skill is the result of years of experience. Even expert designers look back on their early work and shudder at how bad it was. As with every other skill, one must practice design in order to obtain proficiency. (Coplien 2005)

The Architect Has Programming Skills

The developers on the project represent one of the most important groups that the architect must interact with. After all, their work products ultimately deliver the working executable software. The communication between the architect and the developers can be effective only if the architect is appreciative of the developers' work. Therefore, architects should have a certain level of programming skills, even if they do not necessarily write code on the project, and those skills need to be kept up to date with the technologies being used.

  • The Architect should be organizationally engaged with Developers and should write code. If the architect implements, the development organization perceives buy-in from the guiding architects, and that perception can directly avail itself of architectural expertise. The architects also learn by seeing the first-hand results of their decisions and designs, thus giving them feedback on the development process. (Coplien 2005)

Most successful software architects have, at some stage, been hard-core programmers. To some extent, this experience is how they learned certain aspects of their trade. Even as technologies evolve and new programming languages are introduced, good architects can abstract out the concepts in any programming language and apply this knowledge to learning a new programming language to the depth required. Without this knowledge, the architect will be unable to make decisions with respect to the architecturally significant elements of the implementation, such as the organization of the source code and the adoption of programming standards, and a communication barrier will exist between the architect and the developers.

The Architect Is a Good Communicator

Of all of the soft skills associated with the architect, communication is the most important. Effective communication involves several dimensions, and the architect needs to be proficient in all of them. Specifically, the architect should have effective verbal, written, and presentation skills. Also, the communication should be two-way. The architect should be a good listener and a good observer also.

Being able to communicate effectively is a skill that is fundamental to the success of the project for many reasons. Clearly, communication with stakeholders is particularly important to understand their needs and also to communicate the architecture in a way that gains (and maintains) agreement with all stakeholders. Communication with the project team is particularly important, because the architect is not responsible simply for conveying information to the team, but also for motivating the team. Specifically, the architect is responsible for communicating (and reinforcing the communication of) the vision for the system so that the vision becomes shared, not something that only the architect understands and believes in.

The Architect Makes Decisions

An architect who is unable to make decisions in an environment where much is unknown, where insufficient time to explore all alternatives is available, and where pressure to deliver exists is unlikely to survive. Unfortunately, such environments are the norm rather than the exception, and successful architects acknowledge the situation rather than try to change it. Even though the architect may consult others when making decisions and foster an environment in which others are included in decision-making, it is still the architect's responsibility to make the appropriate decisions, which do not always prove to be right. Thus, architects need to be thick-skinned, because they may need to correct their decisions and backtrack.

An inability to make decisions will slowly undermine the project. The project team will lose confidence in the architect, and the project manager will be concerned because those waiting for the architecture cannot make the required progress. The very real danger is that if the architect does not make and document decisions about the architecture, team members will start to make their own, possibly incorrect, decisions.

The Architect Is Aware of Organizational Politics

Successful architects are not only concerned with technology. They also are politically astute and conscious of where the power in an organization resides. They use this knowledge to ensure that the right people are communicated with and that support for a project is aired in the right circles. Ignoring organizational politics is, quite simply, naïve.

  • Politics involves a great deal of ambiguity, which makes many technical people nervous. It forces them to play on "someone else's court," as it were, a place where they feel they are at a disadvantage because their technical prowess doesn't count for much. (Marasco 2004)

The reality is that many forces at work in organizations lie outside the project delivering the system, and these forces need to be accounted for.

  • Human beings tend not to all think alike; in order to resolve differences of opinion, a political process is unavoidable. So, rather than condemn it, it is better to understand politics as an effective means of dealing with the inevitable need to resolve differences of opinion. (Marasco 2004)

The Architect Is a Negotiator

Given the many dimensions of architecting, the architect interacts with many stakeholders. Some of these interactions require negotiation skills. A particular focus for the architect is minimizing risk as early as possible in the project, because minimizing risk has a direct correspondence to the time it takes to stabilize the architecture. Because risks are associated with requirements (and changes in requirements), one way to remove a risk is to refine the requirements so that the risk is no longer present—hence, the need to push back on such requirements so that stakeholders and architect can reach a mutually agreeable position. This situation requires the architect to be an effective negotiator who is able to articulate the consequences of different trade-offs.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020