The “All New” Digital Architect: Must-Have Tools (Part Two)

The world of IT is transforming thanks to new technologies, Agile methodologies, and DevOps ways of working. And as a result, the pace of digitally-enabled change is accelerating. To keep pace, architects must design for change and keep learning. As discussed in the first part of the series, their work must be grounded in a commitment to embracing continuous design, preserving engagement, and building collective knowledge.

To successfully subscribe to these principles, we believe there are several must-have tools in the architect’s toolkit.

Data: Think of data as the crown jewels. The best architects ensure it is well understood, governed, and secure. They feed real data into the design process as early as possible and obfuscate sensitive data. They do not think “one size fits all” – but instead use the best fit data architectures for the scenario (relational, non-relational/NoSQL, streaming).

Visualization: This includes documenting, reasoning, and sharing architectures using diagramming tools, techniques, and engaging visualizations. They use modeling tools to demonstrate how designs map to business, strategy and technology—key to helping merge the priorities of IT and the business.

Facilitation: The design process is just as important as the design itself. Effective architects are leaders as much as they are collaborators. They encourage passionate debate around design and lead the group to a reasoned conclusion, ensuring everyone moves forward with the decision taken.

Validation: Theory can be useful, but proof is essential, especially where there is a low tolerance for error. “All new” architects validate assumptions early and regularly, put together quick Proof of Concepts and “Fail Fast.” This mindset is applied equally to functional (e.g. feature testing) and non-functional (e.g. stress testing) requirements.

Broad Thinking: Every touch point and any aspect of an architecture can make the difference between success or failure—and there’s little room for error as IT is increasingly called upon to deliver on business priorities. From scalability to security and from flexibility to fault tolerance, they think broad and, through working with others, ensure the right level of depth is applied where required.

Differentiation: The best architects create architectures that enable engineers to focus their time on building capabilities that differentiate their organization from its competitors. For everything else, they are continuously looking for ways to operate cheaper, faster, and more reliably (e.g. leveraging services in the Cloud, Containerization, API re-use, automating development processes with DevOps best practice, automating business processes with machine learning).

The “all new” digital architect should use as many of these tools and techniques as required to make things simple, and complex things possible, as inspired by the words of Alan Kay.

For more on transformational IT leaders, click here to read our article in partnership with MIT Technology Review Insights.