Architect Title vs Architect Role

I have been working in IT industry more than 10 years, I have met different architects in this industry: solution architect, system architect, product architect, enterprise architect, etc. In fact, my current title in my current company is a “senior xx architect”.

However, when we talk about “architect”, most of time, we talk about the architect title. We rarely talk about the architect role.

In my opinion, a title is a position your employer assign to you or the base of a contract between you and your employer. We can think a title is an office you sit in or a desk you sit at. Normally you will only have one office or one desk in one company for one period, which means your title will not be changed very often during a short period. Yes, someone may take several titles in one company at the same time, but, in my opinion, this is not a normal case.

A role is a part you play in your work. Depends on the type of the work you are doing, you may take different roles at the same time or change your roles very quickly. For example, you take an architect role when you are doing architecture work; you take an analyst role when you are assigned some analyzing work; you take a developer role when you are coding. A role is like a cap you wear, so you may have different caps at the same time.

Now, it’s easy to understand that an architect title is just a position defined by an employer and an architect role is a part you play in a team for doing architecture work.

Most employers don’t spend time to think about the difference between the titles and roles when they set “architect” title/position. Or they intentionally don’t care the difference or take it seriously because they think this a way to promote or motivate the employees. It seems understandable and reasonable.

Well, if this is a good tile given to us, as an “architect”, why we need to bother to think about the difference?

I think it’s useful if we know the difference. For example, we may not get confused by the following phenomena:

System architects work like administrators; Product architects work like analysts; and solution architects work like developers since they acts the roles which are different from their titles. 

Some projects are doing well without architects because someone without "architect" title is doing architecture job (act in an architect role). 

It's not difficult to understand why there is always a question: "do we really need an architect?". We may not need someone with an "architect" title, but we definitely need someone to do "architect" work (take the architect role). It's difficult to imagine what the result is if some complex systems have no architecture work!

All in all, thinking “role” more than “title” will make our lives easy.

Written on October 10, 2014
Tags: architect