Why do we need Software Architects?

By on October 24, 2013 in Software Architect

Is it possible to create software applications without an architect? Absolutely! After all software developers write the software, not the architect. However, as software systems become more complex so does the likelihood that a project will fail. Projects fail for a variety of reasons but it has been my experience that most failures are related to time and money, not technology. Two of the most common reasons for project failure are:

  • Project takes too long
  • Project costs too much

These sorts of failures are often very subtle but can be quite damaging because organizations continue to sink money and resources into projects that, even once delivered, may not meet the business goals that originally drove them. Or worse yet the business opportunities that once drove the project have disappeared because it just takes too long to deliver the project. Project failures like these can also be very toxic to an organization. Trust and commitment between the business and technology groups are always impacted and future projects are inevitably affected. So what can organizations do to mitigate the risk associated with large complex projects?

Some of my peers might argue that these type of failures can be eliminated or at least greatly reduced with an agile or iterative approach but I believe this this is only part of the equation. Methodology alone can only get you so far. Success, especially when we are talking about large complex projects, must be planned for, it rarely happens by chance. Successful projects cannot be left to chance by expecting a group of technologist to self-organize, identify a single vision, and march forward to successful completion. Success cannot be guaranteed with a simple plan to iterate until we get it right. Agile without a vision and without a plan does not get us any closer to completing projects on time and on budget than does any other approach. Agile alone does not solve the problem.

A successful outcome requires vision, strong leadership, structure and planning. Having an experience architect on a project is certainly no guarantee but experienced architects provide the vision, leadership, structure and experience to a project team that, when paired with methodology, gets us closer to success than either can alone.



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