Role: Architect
The Architect is responsible for defining the software architecture, which includes making the key technical decisions that constrain the overall design and implementation of the system.
Role Sets: Basic Roles
Main Description

The person in this role leads or coordinates the technical design of the system and has overall responsibility for facilitating the major technical decisions expressed as software architecture. This typically includes identifying and documenting the architecturally significant aspects of the system as views that describe requirements, design, implementation, and deployment.

This role is also responsible for providing the rationale for these decisions, balancing the concerns of the various stakeholders, reducing technical risks, and ensuring that decisions are effectively communicated, validated, and followed.

This role works closely with project managers in staffing and planning the project, because it is recommended that the team be organized around the architecture.

This role also works closely with analysts and developers to make sure that the architecturally significant requirements are assigned to the proper components of the system.


Architects must be well-rounded people with maturity, vision, and a depth of experience that allows for grasping issues quickly and making educated, critical judgments in the absence of complete information. Specifically, the person must possess this combination of qualifications:

  • Experience in both problem and software engineering domains, with evidence of a thorough understanding of the requirements to solve the problem and active participation in software development. If there is a team, this experience can be represented by different team members, but at least one person must be able to describe the overall vision for the project.
  • Leadership ability to motivate and maintain momentum for the technical effort across the various teams and to make critical decisions under pressure, plus make those decisions stick. To be effective, this role must have the authority to make technical decisions. This role cannot lead by decree, but only by the consent of the rest of the project team. To be effective, this person must earn the respect of the team members, project managers, the customer, and the user community, as well as the management team.
  • Excellent communication skills to earn trust, persuade, motivate, and mentor. The person in this role must have good communication skills, both verbally and in writing.
  • Critical review skills to make sure that the requirements to be built are clear and consistent and to make sure that the developed system adheres to the architecture.
  • Goal-oriented and proactive orientation with a relentless focus on results. This person is the technical driving force behind the project, not a visionary or dreamer. The career of a successful architect is a long series of sub-optimal decisions made in uncertainty and under pressure. Only those who can focus on doing what needs to be done will be successful.

From an expertise standpoint, the Architect also needs to show both design and implementation abilities. However, from the design perspective, the effective Architect typically exhibits these traits:

  • Tends to be a generalist, rather than a specialist, who knows many technologies at a high level rather than a few technologies at the detailed level
  • Makes the broader technical decisions, thereby demonstrating broad knowledge and experience, as well as communication and leadership skills
Assignment Approaches

The person in this role should be engaged in the project from start to finish.

For smaller projects, a single person can act as both Architect and project manager. However, it is better to have these roles performed by different people to ensure that the pressures of one role does not cause neglect of the other role. The Architect and Project Manager must work together closely.

For systems of scale, it is a common best practice to have an architecture board that is populated by the architects of each system, plus one or two chief architects. In such cases, the members of the architecture board collectively play the role of the Architect.