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The System Architect – Always There?

July 17, 2015

I had written a post about the recent trend toward using system architects:
https://outonalims.com/2014/12/04/the-system-architect-silver-bullet-or-good-planning/
I had been surprised to see that position suddenly becoming so popular. What I’ve realized is that it might not have been missing as long as I’d thought.

Background
First, let me remind everyone reading this that the system architect is not a new position. System architects have been present in the world of computing for quite a long time. However, in the LIMS and ELN world, since we so long tried to pretend that we weren’t doing any real computer programming, we didn’t use project managers, business analysts, system architects and other positions that are crucial toward good software development.

Basically, a system architect makes sure that the foundation of the system is maintained. That person reviews solutions and maintains integrity. This is the person that can tell you whether you’re proposed solution fits with the structure of the current system or not and will tell you how to make your solution compliant with the current system.

Over the years, and with the multitudes of failed projects, we’ve started to unbend – we’ve started to admit that what we’re doing isn’t “configuration” the way it was intended to be, but is actually “programming.” Even those companies that haven’t gotten over that hurdle have had to give in and start using more structure in their implementation projects.

Recognition of Need
Today, I happened to receive an e-mail from a recruiter looking for business analysts. I don’t pay a lot of attention to these, for the most part, but just happened to skim this one and I realized that what the position was not merely a business analyst. As with many job positions, the position asked for many skills outside what a simple title would suggest.

I happened to notice that the business analyst position was actually looking for a technical person who would perform, among other things, the system architect role, even thought that term wasn’t used anywhere in the job description.

It occurred to me that there were probably other positions that have come across my desk that included the system architect role but that I didn’t recognize as such because the role was rolled-up with other roles, such as the business analyst or the technical lead. It’s probably the case that our industry had recognized the need for the type of work that the system architect does without realizing that this is a defined role, in and of itself.

Before You Get Ready to Tell Me Your Project is Different
As usual, I’ll add that I’m not saying that each of the roles in a project has to be performed by entirely different people. The structure of the project must reflect the size of project being performed. As such, in very small projects, one person wears many hats; in large projects, there are many people present to fill one role (i.e., many business analysts). That’s how it’s meant to be and that’s not a problem. However, when these basic roles aren’t included, at all – that’s when there’s a problem!

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises
http://www.GeoMetrick.com/

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