Architects Don’t Know What They’re Doing!

This is the second in a series of articles that makes the latest research into architecture available in useful bite size pieces.

It’s official, Architects are trained all wrong and that goes a long way to explaining why so many programmes end up in trouble. Whether you take Zachman’s 1987 paper as the start of the architectural time-line or not, doesn’t really matter. The point stands that architecture, as in the planning of IT systems, has now been around for thirty years. So why do we still struggle with it? Why is it that only 5% of organizations are able to effectively leverage architecture?.

It has long been recognized that architecture lacks basic research. ‘Although a wide range of topics is covered, the discipline is lacking basic research.’ (Langenberg and Wegmann 2004 Enterprise Architecture: What Aspects is Current Research Targeting?) ‘enterprise architecture is a new discipline and it will not mature unless substantial basic research will be made’.(Noran 2003).

Well it seems that some of that ‘basic research’ has finally been done (Hope 2015 The Critical success Factors of Enterprise Architecture) and some of the results are a bit disturbing. Like the fact that architects basically aren’t prepared for their role. Then it’s hardly surprising that they don’t know what they are doing (See 30 years and we don’t know what we are doing).

Furthermore, the architects’ choices don’t tally with the academic research.The analysis shows that the only factors significantly correlated with success were Monitoring and Compliance, Commitment to the Use of Architecture, Consultation and Communication. The use of methodologies, strategy and tools did not correlate with success.

Hundreds of Architects were surveyed about their training. They were asked to classify their training based on the skills required to cover off a number of potential critical success factors identified by the research.. They were also asked about their formal education. And here’s what they said.

Highest Qualification %
High School     5%
Bachelor’s Degree   35%
Master’s Degree   40%
Doctorate     7%

As a group Architects are reasonably well educated should have a degree and probably should be looking at getting a masters even if it is just to be keeping up. But the really interesting information is about the vocational training.

For more information about PDAP or PraXtice email

‘Overall the architects’ background did not seem to influence the training they received. They were least likely to claim Excellent training in Testing, Data Analysis and Technical Writing’. (ibid)

So, what does this all mean? Basically vocational education seems largely absent. And when it does occur it recognizes two things methodology and the importance of communication. The problem with the emphasis on methodological training is that research shows (see below) that the actual method used seems to be a lot less important than the practice used to implement it. (Hope, Chew & Sharma 2017 The Failure of Success Factors)

Skills and Training
Skill None None/Poor Poor/Adhoc Competent Better
Project Management 30%
SDLC 26%
Testing 54%
Requirements Gathering 32% 49%
Data Analysis 39% 19%
Architecture Methodology 37% 45%
Problem Solving 34% 12%
Business Theory 33% 17%
Technical Writing 39% 17%
Interpersonal Communication 75%

As for the concentration communication training, it looks a lot like the desperate last resort of organizations, that don’t invest in their Architects; a vain attempt to fix glaringly obvious problems. However, it’s clearly not working!

We’re talking about a failed methodological paradigm! What’s needed is an alternative that gets to grips with the real issues. Purpose Driven Architecture Practice (PDAP) offers such a new paradigm. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s not surprising the research was only published in late 2015. PDAP takes an empirically substantiate approach to architecture practice to develop a socio-centric approach. Suggesting that architecture consists of three Architectonic Activities, whether you like it or not these activities are going on all the time and they determine the fate of the architecture programme.

If you’d like to know more about PDAP then email True Technology Partners are the only organization in Australia qualified in PDAP.

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