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What Do Architects Do Anyway?. Ron Jacobs Architect Evangelist - Microsoft. What is the role of an architect? What is software architecture? Do I want to become an architect?. Architecture as a profession. New York City – 1857

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what do architects do anyway

What Do Architects Do Anyway?

Ron Jacobs

Architect Evangelist - Microsoft

What is the role of an architect?

What is software architecture?

Do I want to become an architect?

architecture as a profession
Architecture as a profession

New York City – 1857

Thirteen powerful men—friends of presidents, capitalists, intellectuals, and architects—emerged from horse-drawn carriages to gather together with a singular purpose: to elevate the practice of architecture to a profession in its own right.

The Software Architect’s ProfessionMarc & Laura Sewell

the role of the architect
The role of the architect




the role of the architect5
The role of the architect





In the 15th century Europe had a business problem. The silk road which had served as an overland trade route for thousands of years had disintegrated along with the Mongol empire and now business was interrupted

Marco Polo at court of Kublai Khan c.1280


“Everything exquisite and admirable comes from the East Indies… Learned people have remarked that in the whole world there is no commerce comparable to that of China”

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

17th Century


Spain, only recently unified through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella was desperate for a competitive edge over other European countries, in trade with the East Indies. Columbus promised them that edge.

Isabella I, queen of Castile 1451-1504


Columbus estimated the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan as just 2400 nautical miles when it is actually 10,600 nautical miles

“and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that anyone has gone.”

Entry from the journal of Christopher Columbus on his voyage of 1492


Although Columbus died believing he had opened up a direct nautical route to Asia, in fact, he established a nautical route between Europe and the Americas. It was this route to the Americas, rather than to Japan, that gave Spain the competitive edge it sought in developing a mercantile empire.

architect as explorer
Architect as Explorer

Architects must be able to help business find technology solutions to pressing business problems.

Vasco da Gama

As an explorer your role is to help the business consider how to apply new and innovative technology solutions for competitive advantage

architect as explorer12
Architect as Explorer

Explorers are visionary

Explorers are persuasive

Explorers are accountable

Vasco da Gama


What are the top 3 new technology trends that will impact your organization in the next 2 years?

How could these trends be used as a competitive advantage for your organization?

Vasco da Gama


What are the pros / cons of exploring these emerging trends?

What type of exploratory project could you propose to test the waters?

Vasco da Gama


What are your projections for benefit to the organization?

What evidence or metrics could you produce to demonstrate that the exploration was a success?

Vasco da Gama

the role of the architect17
The role of the architect




  • ad·vo·cate [ ádvə kàyt ]
  • somebody giving support: somebody who supports or speaks in favor of something
  • helper: somebody who acts or intercedes on behalf of another
  • law legal representative: somebody such as a lawyer, who pleads another's case in a legal forum
  • Alan Dershowitz
  • At the age of 28 he became the youngest full professor in Harvard law school history
  • Successfully defended high profile clients
    • O.J. Simpson
    • Claus von Bülow

March 16, 1982 Claus von Bülow pronounced guilty on 2 counts of attempted murder of his estranged wife Sunny.

Claus von Bulow

Sunny von Auersberg


“Believing in the innocence of my client is not a relevant factor in deciding which cases to take”

Claus von Bulow

“I can’t be both your friend and always be straight with you. I can be your lawyer ... and I will always be straight with you. A lawyer has to be brutally honest.”

Sunny von Auersberg


Scotland Yard found that washings containing a combination of Amobarbital and Valium but no insulin can result in false positive results for insulin tests.

Claus von Bulow

  • Blind Experiment Test Results
  • 4 Samples
  • 2 false positives for Insulin
  • 1 Accurate positive for Valium

Sunny von Auersberg

June 15, 1985 – Conviction is reversed on appeal

architect as advocate
Architect as Advocate
  • “The sole duty of an architect is to serve the public, to meet and surpass, if possible, a client's needs.”
  • Defining Architecture - Brian Nank
architect as advocate25
Architect as Advocate
  • Advocates must listen
  • Advocates must observe
  • Advocates must think strategically
art of listening
Art of Listening

“The architect’s design cannot meet the client’s expectations if the architect cannot hear the client and enter his or her domain.”

  • Listen to:
  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Users
  • Managers
  • Developers
  • Understand:
  • Resources
  • Needs
  • Unique Challenges
  • Preferences
  • Business Climate

The Software Architect’s ProfessionMarc & Laura Sewell

art of observing
Art of Observing

“One architect hired to design software to track and control a large manufacturer’s assets actually followed a piece of equipment through its entire life cycle, asking questions of all who came into contact with it.”

The Software Architect’s ProfessionMarc & Laura Sewell

failure to observe
Failure to Observe

1981 – FAA begins work on the Advanced Automation System – next generation air traffic control

1994 – The project is cancelled after massive delays and poorly designed systems

failure to observe29
Failure to Observe

“Instead of being able to turn a knob by touch to create an airplane's vector line the controller would have to enter 16 keystrokes.”

The Software Architect’s ProfessionMarc & Laura Sewell

failure to observe30
Failure to Observe

“The architect must “design by walking around”… If the trained eye of an architect had fallen upon an actual workstation of an ATC it would have been clear… the design was impossible to implement.”

The Software Architect’s ProfessionMarc & Laura Sewell

art of strategy
Art of Strategy

How can the design be used to advance the client’s business?

How could the architecture transform the enterprise?

How could the software transform the users work?


August 10, 1628

Swedish Warship Vasa

Sinks killing 55 people

Architect Henrik Hybertsson

Designed the ship but died in

The spring of 1627

the role of the architect33
The role of the architect





Believed that humanity should be central to all design

Practiced what is known as organic architecture, an architecture that evolves naturally out of the context, most importantly for him the relationship between the site and the building and the needs of the client

Frank Lloyd Wright

“A doctor can bury mistakes, an architect can only advise their client to plant vines.”


“A structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas (strength), utilitas (utility), venustas (beauty)”

Vitruvius 25 B.C.

Frank Lloyd Wright

“An architect's most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board, and a wrecking bar at the site.”


Designers must understand engineering (strength)

Designers must be able to translate user needs into functional structures (utility)

Designers must be able to create a solution that is pleasing to the eye (beauty)

Frank Lloyd Wright


ar·chi·tec·ture [áarki tèkchər]


building design: the art and science of designing and constructing buildings

building style: a style or fashion of building, especially one that is typical of a period of history or of a particular place

structure of computer system: the design, structure, and behavior of a computer system, microprocessor, or system program, including the characteristics of individual components and how they interact

network architecture

Architecture is an idea, a plan about what the solution that will be built.

Your job is to create an architecture that will meet the need

To collaborate effectively you will need to communicate the architecture to different audiences using a variety of tools, media and means.

What problem are we solving?

What are the practical limits of the solution?

How good does the solution need to be?

What resources do we have to build the solution?

solve the right problem
Solve the right problem

Requirements are the way we define the problem we are trying to solve.

To get Apollo 13 home would require a lot of innovation… I certainly agree that without the splendid people in Mission Control, and their backups, we'd still be up there. - Commander Jim Lovell

“Houston, we’ve got a problem” The Apollo 13 Service Module after it was released from the Command Module and set adrift in space

practical limits
Practical limits

Constraints limit the solution in some practical ways. These limits include time, money, technology, legacy systems etc.

“The Lunar Module was designed to support two men for two days. Now it was being asked to care for three men nearly four days.”

- Commander Jim Lovell

how good the solution
How good the solution?

The solution must perform well, be secure, be robust and easily managed these characteristics are considered non-functional requirements

“We cut down to six ounces each per day, a fifth of normal intake, and used fruit juices; we ate hot dogs and other wet-pack foods when we ate at all”

- Commander Jim Lovell

available resources
Available resources

Resources include people, technology, legacy systems, technical know-how etc.

“They had thought up a way to attach a CM canister to the LM system by using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape- all materials we had on board. Jack and I put it together: just like building a model airplane”

- Commander Jack Lovell


“Find purpose, the means will follow. “

- Mahatma Gandhi

Becoming an architect is a journey toward becoming one who dreams of the solution rather than the one who builds it