As I prepare to shut down operations for the year, I reflect on some of the most frequently asked questions I get when I visit Gartner clients – What is an application architect?, What does the application architect do?, and How does the role of the application architect relate to others, such as application developers, enterprise architects and solution architects? This led me to co-author with Bruce Robertson the following three research notes (which were just published today) to address these questions:
Application Architecture Overview, Part 1: General Context and Scope*
Application Architecture Overview, Part 2: Enterprise-Level Scope and Roles*
Application Architecture Overview, Part 3: Project-Level Scope and Roles*
Part of the confusion is that MANY roles contribute to the application architecture, not just the work of the “application architect”. For example, the role of the enterprise solution architect (ESA) addresses the conceptual/planning level of the application architecture in collaboration with other architects focused on the needs of the technology, business and information architectures. The ESA ensures that the application portfolio evolves at an appropriate rate and does not become unviable as the other related architectures change. The ESA also provides the reusable standards, guidelines, patterns and frameworks to application development projects, including those related to application architecture.
At the project-level, solution architects make sure that all aspects of the application solution architecture are optimized (as much as possible given other constraints of time and budget) by working with subject matter experts (SMEs) in the areas of technology, information and application architectures and disciplines. The application architect is the SME focused on designing application interfaces and software services to maximize reuse based on the business processes and governance rules for sharing.
As organizations move to service-oriented architectures (SOAs) where applications are composed via the assembly of reusable application interfaces and services, the role of the application architect becomes crucial to help reduce development time and costs while also enabling application and business agility. So, to net this out, implementing the role of the application architect is a critical success factor for SOA.
*Available to Gartner clients or for a fee
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