Skill sets, Career Paths, and Must-Haves of

IT Architects

What are the different types of IT architects? How are they similar? How are they different? Understand the required skills and pick the right career path.

► Compare different types of IT architects!

Introduction

Enterprise architect, software architect, technical architect, security architect… Within an organization, there can be many different types of IT architects. Each one provides unique technical skills to address complex business needs and goals.

Tasks, responsibilities, and deliverables of IT architect roles overlap, so it’s important to understand the differences between each one. Let's make sure you match your skills with the right role and consequently took a career path that fits you.

This guide expands on Red Hat's take and will outline the differences between each IT architecture role, including the responsibilities, skills, and career path required to be successful.

 

IT architect types

An IT architect is a specialized position that manages various points in the product and solution life cycle. They draw up the blueprints to achieve high-level solutions for business applications, systems, portfolios, infrastructures, or the entire enterprise.

Their job is to maintain the IT landscape, develop and upgrade IT services, and create solutions for organizations. Solutions often cover design, communications management, security, networking, storage, etc.

Types of IT Architects

There are four main groups of IT architects, all specialized in different areas. However, roles will occasionally overlap and work closely together:

  • Business-focused
  • Vendor-focused
  • Developer-focused
  • Operation-focused

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Business-focused

The main focus of business-focused architects is to ensure that all IT systems are managed and maintained to meet the organization's goals.

Business-specific architects will have an overarching view of an enterprise’s technology, processes, rules, and expected outcomes based on resources and constraints.

These roles are closer to the business side, which strategize and develop a holistic, multidimensional business architecture. This allows a continuous transformation from as-is architecture to target architecture.

Business architects, enterprise architects, or chief architects are three kinds of business-focused architecture roles.

1. Enterprise architect

Role & responsibilities

The enterprise architect is a strategically and technically high-level position that rightsizes elements of enterprise architecture for critical use in enterprise environments. Enterprise architects will have the most overarching view of an organization’s technical architecture and will map business capabilities and potential.

Their responsibilities include developing IT strategies to address IT risks and improve effectiveness. They also produce target architecture by implementing large-scale, innovative IT solutions to drive business transformation.

Skills

Soft and hard skills are required to become a successful enterprise architect. The role requires both strong communication and negotiation skills. In the analytical and technical know-how role, they ensure to meet practical business needs.

Most important are management, problem-solving, and strong leadership. It requires fluency within enterprise architecture frameworks, patterns, and best practices to drive business transformation.

Career path

Most enterprise architects will have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or IT management. It's common to have a relevant experience in other strategic or planning positions. These include positions in corporate or business planning, senior IT roles, or even C-level roles.

To move to a more senior role, it’s required for EA to have a solid understanding of technology and business alignment.

Certifications

Examples of certifications for enterprise architects include:

2. Business architect

Role & responsibilities

The main responsibility of a business architect is to find areas of improvement and apply changes within the business structure to reshape the business.

Business architects are responsible for map making and building the business architecture. This includes creating and maintaining the knowledge base and connecting it to other domains such as processes and system applications.

Their role is diverse, but their main intention is to align strategic business objectives and tactical demands with IT.

Skills

The role of a business architect is a senior position that requires a varied set of skills; both technical and interpersonal. The right candidate will need to have experience with business process modeling, enterprise architecture, and associated tools.

They will need to visualize growth and build high-level models for future analysis. These roles into project management skills that can translate complex subjects into actionable recommendations for teams and stakeholders.

They should also have a deep and expansive knowledge of their organization’s internal IT business processes.

Career path

Business architecture is a senior position that requires a background in IT. There isn't one career path to becoming a business architect. It is desired to have experience in business analysis, project management, business consulting, product management, or technical architecture.

Several years of experience in any of these fields – especially in a leadership capacity – is required to become a business architect.

Certifications

Certifications for business architects include:

3. Chief architect

Role & responsibilities

The main role of a chief architect is to build internal networks and inform the business on different software and functions. Even though the role is similar to enterprise architects, their role tends to be more administrative.

They will be responsible for exploring and suggesting new technology, as well as running feasibility studies and proof of concepts. They are in charge of all architectural activity to ensure that business needs are being met everywhere.

Skills

Like an enterprise architect, chief architects will need exceptional organization and people skills to be successful in the position. They will need to have a strong understanding of cloud programs and software languages and be comfortable spearheading innovation projects within an organization.

This requires excellent negotiation and communication skills. They also need strong leadership skills to steer the project in the optimal direction.

Career path

Similar to EA, chief architects have many years of experience in lower-level IT positions, before securing a career as a senior-level architects. Most often they have computer science or software development education, with relevant certificates and experience to show competency as a chief architect.

Certifications

Certifications to become a chief architect will be the same or similar to those of an enterprise architect (see above).

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Operations-focused

Cloud architects, network architects, security architects, site reliability engineers, and automation architects are all examples of operations-focused architects.

Their role primarily deals with designing systems that are in line with the operational resources and capabilities of the organization’s digital infrastructure.

These architects need to have a strong knowledge of system administration, testing, security best practices, network engineering, and system frameworks.

1. Cloud architect

Role & responsibilities

A cloud architect will work with cloud-based technologies to meet business goals overseeing an enterprise's cloud infrastructure and strategy. From cloud adoption, application design, and management to monitoring.

They oversee activities in all cloud environments – including on-premise, private and hybrid. They are responsible for cloud application architecture and deployments and need to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the technology.

Skills

Cloud architects need to be flexible and experimental, able to replace and reconfigure any area of their organization’s cloud architecture to meet new goals.

They should have a strong knowledge of cloud-specific patterns and technologies, enterprise computing, programming languages, and a solid understanding of cloud-based security concepts. Good leadership skills are also beneficial.

Career path

Most cloud architects will have a strong background in computer operating systems, programming languages, networking, and security. Most have a degree in computer science or a related field.
The role isn’t an entry-level position, therefore, cloud architects need to gain on-hands experience. It can be gathered in cloud support, software development, system engineering, database administration, or data management, etc.

Certifications

Examples of certifications for Cloud Architects include:

2. Security architect

Role & responsibilities

A security architect’s main responsibility is to maintain, upgrade, design, and build the security structures within an organization's IT system.

Their role deals with the design of security structures that keep organizations safe from malware and hacker intrusions. Security architects audit their systems regularly and test them for weaknesses.

It’s important a security architect has a thorough understanding of an organization's systems to recognize where potential vulnerabilities may arise.

Skills

Security architects need to be adept with analysis, and security technology and be comfortable designing secure systems. It helps if they are able to think like a hacker and understand where and how threats are carried out.

As the position is managerial, security architects need to be able to communicate clearly and lead teams of security experts. As security is of the utmost importance to most organizations, security architects should be comfortable working under pressure.

Career path

Security architects tend to come from a career in cybersecurity and have an education in computer science. They will need experience in a related entry-level position within security, such as an analyst, specialist, or consultant.

It is beneficial for security architects to secure certifications in the field, which will help them stand out from the crowd and prove competency.

Certifications

Certifications for security architects include:

3. Network architect

Role & responsibilities

Network architects are mainly responsible for designing and managing data communication networks. This means designing local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and Intranets for organizations.

Their role makes them responsible for how a company accesses, uses, and benefits from the internet. A network architect’s main responsibility is to make sure a business not only remains connected but benefits from reliable internet speeds.

Skills

Skills to become a successful network architect include an understanding of technical governance, IT infrastructure, systems design, and systems integration.

Network architects need to be strong communicators with solid interpersonal skills, so they can convey complex information effectively and accurately. They also need to be able to troubleshoot issues and provide resolutions.

Career path

An education in computer science, information systems, engineering, or mathematics is required to pursue a career in network architecture. It is required to have several years of hands-on experience in a relevant field, such as network design or solution development.

Certifications

Examples of certifications for network architects include:

4. Automation architect

Role & responsibilities

IT automation architects are tasked with the design and development of an organization’s automation processes. They build strategies and present automation plans and guidance to leadership.

Their goal is to streamline automated systems to make them more effective and develop the link between these systems and an organization’s human workforce.

Skills

Automation architects need to be familiar with information technology, but they also need an understanding of the workflow, industry, and business parameters. They need to be effective problem solvers, with the ability to assess current business processes and identify issues.

As with all IT architecture roles, they need to have strong and effective communication skills with the ability to lead and delegate. AWS and/or cloud learning knowledge and familiarity with programming languages are also beneficial.

Career path

To become an automation architect, a bachelor’s degree in data management and data analytics is a great starting point. This will help candidates develop the IT fundamentals and relevant software experience.
Certifications are also required, as is hands-on experience in data management and automation processes. An advanced degree in data analytics or similar is preferred for advanced automation positions.

Certifications

Examples of automation architecture certificates include:

5. Site reliability architect

Role & responsibilities

A site reliability architect (or site reliability engineer) is responsible for monitoring systems and analyzing performance to discover potential issues and areas of improvement. The results of this analysis help organizations calculate the potential cost of outages and plan for contingency.

It is then their job to prepare engineering teams for a future incident. Their role tends to be split between both operations and the development of systems and software. SRE teams will use software tools to manage systems, solve problems and automate operations.

Skills

Sometimes confused with DevOps, SREs will need skills that focus on the planning and design aspects of operations management. They need to be proficient in programming languages such as Python, Go, or Java, and be familiar with their organization’s operating system(s).SREs will be comfortable using monitoring and version control tools. They also benefit from a strong understanding of databases, cloud native applications and CI/CD deployment.

Career path

A site reliability engineer will usually have a background in software development, and several years of experience in operations and business analytics. All are necessary to solve operational problems with the help of code.

The job is considered a mid-senior level position, so leadership experience is not as necessary in this role as in other IT architects. Certifications may also be required by employers.

Certifications

Examples of site reliability architecture certificates include:

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Developer-focused

Developer-focused IT architects – such as software architects, application architects, and data architects work on system design from the programming and software development aspects.

These types of architects will need to have a strong understanding of programming languages, software development frameworks, and database technologies.

They will also be adept in different schools of programming, such as object-oriented and functional programming. It is their job to develop solutions using software development that benefits the organization as a whole.

1. Software architect

Role & responsibilities

Software architects drive all critical decisions in regard to an organization’s software system. They provide the design expertise, guidance, and policies relevant to developing enterprise-wide software systems. With the right technology and frameworks, they are able to satisfy the technical needs of a business.

They have a deep understanding of software architecture and its main components, as well as the interactions between these components and other external systems. They will also be familiar with cloud adoption processes and infrastructure.

Software architecture is a very senior IT position, as they provide the blueprints which the rest of the software team will put into practice.

Skills

Software architects need a deep knowledge of one or more programming languages, familiarity with diagramming complex architectures, and DevOps practices. Knowledge of cloud infrastructure is also beneficial.

Software architects also need soft skills to be successful in the role. These skills include leadership, problem-solving, organization, and the ability to prioritize. These skills are vital to make sure development and operations teams are aligned.

Career path

This is a senior-level position that requires a strong educational background in software development and information technology.

Software architects are full-stack developers and need strong experience in multiple programming languages. Most will have several years of experience as a software engineers or developers.

Further, training in DevOps, system development, and programming is also desired.

Certifications

Software architecture certificates include:

2. Application architect

Role & responsibilities

In many ways, an application architect is similar to a software architect. Application architects monitor a single application to understand its interactions with different components, other business apps, and external software. That's why they will define the limitations and requirements of the source code.

Their role includes providing expertise, guidance, and implementation policies to an enterprise within a particular programming framework. They are responsible for leading the application development team to implement application development plans.

Skills

Application architects should be well-versed in API technologies (REST, GraphQL, gRPC, etc.) and be familiar with container/binary orchestration frameworks (Kubernetes, Docker, Docker Swarm, and WebAssembly).

They also need excellent leadership and interpersonal skills to support junior developers and provide end-users with technical support. Application architects also benefit from strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

Career path

To become an application architect, candidates will need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, specialization in software engineering, application development, or similar.

They also need several years of work experience with programming languages and have worked as junior application developers within a related industry.

Certifications

Application architect certificates include:

3. Data architect

Role & responsibilities

Data architecture is responsible for monitoring how an organization’s IT infrastructure supports its data strategy. A data architect designs, implements and monitors how company infrastructure acquires, transports, stores, queries, and secures its data.

They are responsible for the architectural components (pipelines, cloud storage, API, data streaming, etc), and data standards. All these grant businesses a broad overview of company activities and allow them to make data-driven decisions.

Skills

Data architects need to be skilled in mathematics and data analytics and should be comfortable with data visualization, migration, and modeling.

They should also possess a strong knowledge of systems development; including the system development life cycle, project management approaches, and testing techniques. Strong knowledge of programming languages such as Python, C/C++, Java, and Perl is important.

Data architects also need strong interpersonal skills to coordinate and collaborate with users, system designers, and other developers.

Career path

To start a career as a data architect, recruiters will look for an educational background in computer science, computer engineering or a related field.

They will also look for extensive experience in data management, programming, and technology architecture. An MBA in data science, design, management and storage work is also desirable.

Many data architects begin their careers in data administration, so they can gain valuable experience in database management and warehousing.

Certifications

Certificates data architects benefit from having include:

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Vendor-focused

Vendor-focused architects, such as solution architects and technical architects, apply a product or service to system designs intended to achieve business goals.

These architects need to have experience in products or services offered by external vendors, such as AWS, SAP, Google Cloud, Salesforce, etc.

They also need to know how these products will interact with the overall enterprise architecture and how they will improve systems for business needs.

1. Solution architect

Role & responsibilities

A solution architect is a specialized role, providing the groundwork for software development projects by tailoring IT solutions to specific business needs.

Solution architects require both technical and interpersonal skills to design, describe, and manage solutions. They will evaluate the existing environment and work out how different elements of business, information, and technology can be applied to solve a problem.

Skills

Successful solution architects need both hard and soft skills to achieve competency in this position. As this is a senior position, solution architects need excellent interpersonal, communication, and negotiation skills to convey complex solutions and lead their development teams.

They need experience working with software design, programming languages, and architecture. They also need to be able to implement and manage services offered by external vendors, such as SAP, Oracle, or AWS. This is where job titles most often come from, SAP architect, Oracle architect, AWS architect, etc.

Career path

Most solution architects will hold a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or software information. An MBA in information systems would also be a good fit for those pursuing a role in solution architecture.

At least 5 to 10 years of hands-on experience in software development, network administration, or information technology. This will help would-be SAs develop a strong understanding of the tools and technologies needed to design and implement solutions.

Certifications

Certificates solution architects benefit from having include:

2. Technical architect

Role & responsibilities

A technical architect is another vendor-focused IT position that will design the structure of new technology systems and oversee program implementation.

Technical architects are the closest to the end-user, so they are the ones that ensure the usability and functionality of the respective technology.

They will usually have the most hands-on approach and in-depth proficiency in one single technology. Similar to SA, they are often named after their area of knowledge, e.g., SAP architect, Java, or Python architect.

Skills

A combination of hard and soft skills is vital for success as a technical architect. Technical architects are required to have advanced problem-solving skills and the ability to project manage.

This requires strong interpersonal skills, so they can communicate and collaborate with stakeholders and team members.

TA's hard skills include extensive knowledge of computer hardware and networking systems. Expertise in programming languages and familiarity with operating systems, cloud computing and cloud technologies is required.

Career path

As a technical architect, you will need to complete a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in IT, computer science, computer engineering, or equivalent.

From here, would-be TAs tend to start their careers in system development, programming, or testing. Many also start out in software engineering which teaches them the foundation of how to build and install various applications.

As this position is a senior one, gaining experience in leadership is vital. Most technical architects will have at least five years hands-on experience in a similar or related role.

Certifications

Examples of certifications technical architects can hold include:

 

IT architects tools

IT architects need modeling and diagramming tools that aid them with IT landscape management or the development of their systems, applications, and processes.

At the start of the journey, architects most often use free & open-source tools for quick and easy modeling and diagramming. Once architects' roles are established, collaborative and easy-to-use platforms, such as LeanIX are required which position IT as a business enabler.

LeanIX allows many different types of IT architects to achieve transparency and control over their IT landscape. LeanIX offers:

 

What are the must-haves for a successful IT architect?

While many IT architecture roles overlap, there are several must-haves all should possess before embarking on a career as an IT architect. Top IT architect values include:

  • A strong education (bachelor’s or post-graduate degree) in IT, computer science, software engineering, or equivalent.
  • Certificates that demonstrate the architects' ability to tackle a project effectively.
  • At least five years of hands-on experience in software development, analytics, architecture, or in a technical leadership position.
  • Subject matter expertise in the field of work.
  • Ability to strategize, model, and map complex enterprise or software architecture.
  • Strong knowledge of programming languages (Python, Java, Go, C#, etc.)
  • Ability to prioritize and negotiate.
  • Strong interpersonal and team leadership skills.

 

Conclusion

IT architecture is a broad field, covering many different areas of IT infrastructure and software development. Knowing which type of IT architect you are, can help narrow down your options. It can help you figure out which certificates and training are beneficial in the long run – as well as for your next career move.

Information technology architects are always in high demand, especially as enterprises become more invested in researching, developing, and implementing technology to stay competitive.

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The core competencies of IT architecture

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How to become an Enterprise Architect

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How to become a Solution Architect

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How to become a Technical Architect

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The daily use cases tackled by each role

Frequently asked questions on IT architects

What are the types of IT architects?

There are many kinds of IT architects, all of which have different focuses. IT architects will usually be business-focused, vendor-focused, operations-focused, or developer-focused; depending on the needs of the organization.

How do I become an IT architect?

Most IT architects have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or something similar. Further education and certificates are also desired by recruiters. Almost all IT architecture positions require several years of hands-on experience in lower-level roles.

Is an IT architect a good career?

An IT architect is a very good career for anyone in software development or engineering who is looking to level up. It is a senior position.

How long does IT take to become an IT architect?

Most IT architects need several years of IT experience before they can become an architect. Depending on what kind of architect you wish to become, anywhere between 2 and 10 years of relevant experience is required.

What background should an IT architect have?

IT architects will have a technical background; in software development, data analysis, engineering, security, or general enterprise architecture. They should also have served in a leadership position, and be comfortable designing, modeling, and communicating complex IT infrastructure concepts.

What do IT architects do?

IT architects will manage the various points in the product and solution life cycle. They design the blueprints which will achieve high-level solutions for business applications, systems, portfolios, infrastructures, or the entire enterprise.

What degree do you need to be an IT architect?

Most IT architects start out by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or something similar. An MBA related to their chosen architectural field is also beneficial to the candidate and desirable to recruiters.

What makes a good IT architect?

Great IT architects are subject-matter experts in the field of work. They have the ability to strategize and model complex architecture and have a hands-on experience in analytical or technical roles.

The more senior the role is, the more soft skills for prioritization, leadership, and negotiation come into account.

Which IT architect makes the most money?

Business-focused architects, such as enterprise architects, business architects, or chief architects make the most money out of all IT architects.

These roles are essential to align technology with business goals and position IT as a business enabler rather than a bottleneck.

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