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"sink or swim" written in the sand Alamy

Dear Technical Architects, It's Time to Sink or Swim

Technical architects must repair their reputation to ensure that business and technology leaders see their value.

The new product-centric approach is pushing traditional operating models to the wayside, resulting in technical architects being required to keep up with the demands of their organization in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Technical architects now must account for cloud transformation, Zero Trust, and technology debt and sprawl.

Traditionally, technical architects played a key role in distributed systems, but today, in the age of the cloud, with their main role being to design new technology systems and oversee them, their relevance is being questioned.

Through our research, Forrester has found a repeating cycle of organizations forming architecture groups, disbanding them when they do not produce value, and then realizing that they do need these groups and reinstating them once again. To break this cycle and stay relevant, technical architects must evolve. This, however, proves to be difficult, as technical architects face several reputational challenges, including:

  • Lengthy and error-prone technical designs. Historically, new systems required deep technical design. This engineering process was both lengthy, since architects had to "size" the hardware for acquisition, and error-prone, because requirements were always changing. With the shift toward cloud, however, this level of design became less necessary — yet we have not seen architects keeping up.
  • Technical gatekeeping and loss of technical competence. Technical architects are tasked with managing the technology lifecycle and often must reject product teams' requests for a new technology, which causes friction. Additionally, architects who manage a large portfolio of vendor products are generally less hands-on with products, as they don't focus on any particular technology. Without a specific focus, colleagues question the value and relevance of the technical architect's role.
  • Lack of relevance for today's agile thinking and processes. The evolution of technical practice — including agile, site reliability engineering, DevOps, cloud, and product centricity — has driven the push for improved organizational agility, improved customer experience, faster development, and business outcomes that center on products and services. Technical architects set guidelines and review and approve technology adoption and implementation, but agile teams see this as counterproductive or holding them back.

All together, technical architects must repair their reputation to ensure that business and technology leaders see their value. To do this, technical architects will need to bring new skills to the role and embrace new philosophical approaches.

Forrester's new report, Evolve Your Technical Architects For Modern IT, highlights key ways that technical architects can reframe how businesses look at their role in an organization and also outlines four distinct models to implement that will enable your technical architects to deliver the most value.

Be sure to read the report, stay tuned for upcoming research on developing a future fit IT organization, and schedule an inquiry or guidance session on any of the topics in the report.

This article originally appeared on Forrester's Featured Blogs.

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