In this third addition to our new article series “Career Insights,” we’re talking about IT architects. If you’re interested in a new freelancer career for yourself, or just wondering what an IT architect actually does – this article will include a job description, required skills and exactly what salaries you can expect in this role!
What is an IT architect?
An IT architect is the person that acts as a middleman between the IT and the business side of things. He or she is an expert at applying IT in a way that is efficient and meets the end goals of the project.
As a job description that is kind of between two chairs; you will have to know what both sides are aiming at, what resources they have at their disposal and how to make the link between business requirements and software possibilities.
In addition to acting as a liaison and having a deep understanding of both sides, an IT architect will often be responsible for creating a robust framework. That means keeping IT solutions easy to change and manage – things change, often quite fast. And that’s why the IT infrastructure has to be adaptable. You don’t want to be starting from scratch and burning down all of your previous work if you can avoid it.
Keep in mind, however, that different companies, depending on their size and focus, will define IT Architects, in a variety of ways or use different descriptions, as there is not an exact definition of the job. So architects doing pretty much the same job and with the same skills are referred to as:
- Enterprise architect
- Project architect
- Technical architect
- Solution architect
- Application architect
- Data architect
- Cloud architect
- SOA architect
- and the list goes on!
We’ve tried to include the basic skills every one of those professions uses, but that also means some details are left out. We’ll be looking at two main skill sets – the tech one and the business one.
Technical Skills Required
1. Data Modeling
Data Modelling will be one of the main tasks you have as an IT architect in many companies. This means creating a data model that determines the needs and goals of an organization. Since many businesses nowadays have large amounts of data, they have to be systemized in such models. With them, an IT architect can show not only what data you have, but also how it relates to each other and, most importantly, how it can help a company reach certain goals.
Such models not only help you communicate goals and needs to the various departments, but they also help you identify possible links and weaknesses in the way you are currently organizing things. In short, data models give you a great overview of a glance.
2. Architecture frameworks
Frameworks such as TOGAF, DODAF, Zachman, and others are basically meta-models that are meant to apply to all kinds of different enterprises. They include industry-wide expectations and standards and are a great first step towards identifying the challenges your company is facing.
How do architects use this? It’s a system, one you can modify and cut up, but it’s a system that has been proven to work. Utilizing those frameworks will help you understand common challenges and the ways to fix them. Frameworks are, in simple terms, perfect structures you can look at, apply to your case and learn from. It sounds more complicated than it is!
UML (Universal Modeling Language) is an important toolset in the arsenal of an IT architect. Coding languages come and go and if they’re not your main field of expertise, it can be tough to adapt to them all. Luckily, UML is language-independent as well as enterprise-independent. That means it is made to work with any language for any type of company. That is why, UML, as a stepping stone, can be invaluable.
Looking for an IT Architect?
1. Communicating clearly
First and foremost, you will have to learn to act as a translator. Most of the time, you will be the only person that can both grasp what the IT department is facing and what these struggles are in addition to keeping your eyes on the big picture and financial constraints.
To put it simply – the business side will often ask you to “just do X”. The IT side, however, will say “we can’t do X, how about Y instead?” Your job is to understand what X and Y are, communicate that it’s not feasible if it really isn’t and review the alternative before presenting it back.
2. Putting your foot down on behalf of IT/business
Translating, however, isn’t the only thing you will be expected to do as an IT architect. It will also be your job to use your understanding of both sides to make decisions and sell them. Whether it’s financed pushing for quicker and more efficient work or IT saying they can fix an issue if they get just one more week, it will be up to you to decide in most cases.
After you make a decision, you will also have to present your arguments and convince both sides that this is the right course of action.
3. Leading by example
Getting an IT department to be happy to be led by an IT architect doesn’t always come easy. Unless you prove to them that you know what you’re talking about, you won’t be any different than everyone else from the business department – people that usually don’t understand what IT does and are only pushing them with ridiculous demands.
How to get rid of that stereotype? Get down and dirty, do some coding and lead by example. The best IT architects have an in-depth understanding of programming and aren’t afraid to show it.
So, who is looking for IT architects?
IT architects are needed in almost any field: software companies, the automotive industry, telecommunications, public administration, and many more. Often they just work on a project basis as IT consultants and thus, it’s a very interesting niche for freelancers.
Is it possible to have a work-life balance as a freelancer?
As you would be between IT and business stakeholders, some meetings will not be that easy to sort and thus, some extra hours might be required when you test a concept or develop a new one.
Talking about testing, often newly developed software is played on weekends. That means you will often need to work at least some hours on weekends or bank holidays. s it’s when regularly fewer people use it and thus, the potential errors In this respect, the work-life balance is often not completely balanced by an IT architect.
Besides nerve-racking meetings, which are also about bringing back wishful thoughts to a real base, working hours are not always optimal.
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Salaries / Hourly rates
Now that we’ve talked about how much you have to bring to the table as a successful IT architect, you’ll be happy to know that the salary is accordingly good.
According to Payscale, the median monthly payment for an IT architect is around 115,000 USD, with a quarter of the architects actually getting 130K or above. For contract roles, the daily rates are around 800 to 1000 USD.
Check out the rest of our Career Insights Series for more details on the thriving freelance job market!