Architect, Developer or Mineral?

Working within the IT community of a large Telco I am fortunate enough to work with a range of specialists across a range of IT related disciplines. I use the term specialist intentionally, as one of the biggest culture shocks I encountered when joining the corporate entity from a start-up and freelancing background, was the degree of specialisation afforded IT professionals within the protective enclave of the corporate firewall. Terms like ‘I only deliver software I don’t support it’, ‘I am a solution designer, not a developer’ and ‘I don’t do customer’ were sadly common and although strategic programmes have re-aligned focus on what matters (i.e. customers) there is still a great degree of specialisation by choice rather then specialisation by demand as in the open-market.

So why is this important. Well I constantly hear and experience (mostly) light-hearted jousting between Developers and Enterprise Architects (such as I). The fundamental basis for this banter is the fact that the Developers believe the Architects are ‘wannabe developers’, seemingly detatched from the build process because they are too busy sculpting new ivory towers in which to postulate the meaning of next months’ ‘strategic strategy for planning’. Developers meanwhile, (I’m led to believe) keep the business running by cutting code in their sleep, being part of some niche music scene, knowing why Ruby is far better then Perl, and have discovered cool t-shirt and bag shops where the doors are closed to anyone with MS Powerpoint installed on their laptop !

Having recently made the transition from a pure Architecture to a pure(ish) Developer role to get a closer appreciation for skills I had stopped using some years ago, I now consider myself able to understand a little more clearly, this perceived void between Developers and Architects. It is simply a matter of specialisation through necessity.

Enterprise Architects have a role in which they are rewarded for looking toward the horizon, and dove-tailing business and IT activities to make optimal use of available resources whilst mindful of all the constraints in the delivery engines. The number of bases one must cover (speaking from painful experience) if one is to be an effective Enterprise Architect, does require a similar degree of intensity as that of a developer with head-in-code, albeit detail of a different nature. It is unlikely that Enterprise Architects, however technically minded, can find time to drop beneath a system-level perspective.

Developers have a role in which they are rewarded for effective delivery of solutions involved in a current or near-term horizon, by ‘going vertical’ into the detail with a narrower ‘enteprise’ scope but becoming a domain expert within a specific field. The level of focus required for a developer to become fully integrated with the evolving solution, leaves little ‘free memory’ or ‘cpu cycles’ for engaging in the Enterprise planning activities keeping the EA guys so busy.

Moving between these roles does take a period of mental refactoring of one’s head-space from a horizontal to a vertically arrangement, so it’s not the sort of thing one can do on demand (unless you are one of the lucky ones with unbounded mental scalability which I aint!). So I am emphasising the specialisation thing again, where we specialise on either 1) What we get paid to, or 2) What we enjoy. So to round off this ramble…

An Enterprise without Architects is a ship without a rudder…

An Enterprise without Developers is a ship without an engine…

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So let’s start appreciating each other…

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