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The Last Architect

Much is written about the changing role of IT in organizations brought about by the cloud. I truly believe the days of corporate enterprise kingdoms  commanding huge budgets and headcount are numbered. Moving to the cloud and SaaS is simply too compelling of a business argument not to pursue The downstream effects however are not fully realized. Having spent most of my career in some way affiliated with corporate IT I am curious how this new enterprise technology economy affects the growth of those just entering the job market. In one sense, IT heavy lifting first moved off shore and then it left the planet all together and into the cloud. The role that has not and will not float away though is the architect.

For all of the inefficiencies, IT organizations have produced one product that can come from few other sources. Technology savvy subject matter experts capable of connecting complex systems together in their head and on paper. I often descibed my role in the past as the guy who draws boxes on whiteboards, connects them with lines and then explains to developers what the lines are supposed to do. This oversimplified and self-deprecating description is still accurate. It is a skill however that comes less from academics or methodology than from experience.

I did not learn to do this in school. I learned the methodology and notation from books but not the ideas, passion and drive behind the business that the notation represents. There is a belief in the consulting world that every business is the same. That it is exactly like their last contract. To an extent that is true but commonality of competitors is not where advantage is born.

Where will the next generation of architects come from? Where will they pay their dues and learn how to navigate more than code trees and deliverables? How will they learn the corporate skills required to remove political obstacles blocking their technical objectives. As more vertical cloud solutions are implemented there will be fewer opportunities for the small, less risky projects to make mistakes on and learn what is really important in a 1000 line work breakdown structure.

The best architects in IT organizations are those that strike the balance between vision and pragmatism. Pushing the boundary of the possible while keeping the wheels from coming off. Moving and consolidating all of IT to the cloud does indeed make business more efficient but one day the most valuable guy on the team will be the one that knows how to do bring it back to Earth but he will have no where to learn the trade.

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