I’ve always felt that the ability to deal with ambiguity is key leadership characteristic. People who have the ability to synthesize answers to difficult problems or the ability to know what to do when others don’t is worthy of followership. No where is this more evident than in IoT. Because after looking at the job requirements of an IoT architect, I can assure you that it’s all about leadership. IoT architects take ambiguous ideas like — “how do we use sensor data to optimize our warehouse” — and turn it into a real, working solution. An IoT architect’s job is to do whatever it takes to build end-to-end IoT solutions that solve real business problems. That’s easier said than done because building a solution that collects real-time sensor data from operational technology, streams that data to an IoT platform, analyze it, and evokes applications that –potentially — alters the course of your business, well, that requires an incredible, diverse skill set. A skill set that only the best of leaders possess. And because IoT is rapidly becoming a key piece of IT and business strategy, the IoT architect will become one of the most important and impactful IT roles for the foreseeable future. Hence, IT managers and personnel must start now to hire IT personnel with the broad skills necessary to be a successful IoT architect.
What is an IoT Architect? An IoT Architect is an IT leadership position that is responsible for the vision, strategy, architecture and shepherding of IoT solutions from inception to deployment. The typical credentials are:
- Education: B.S. in Computer Science/Engineering or Information Technology
- Skills: Leadership, technical knowledge, integration skills, dealing with ambiguity, artful communication, and business acumen
- Pay: Unknown (too new), but as a reference, according to dice.com, a cloud architect’s average salary was $160K from 2013-2015
- Outlook: Unknown, but I predict it will grow at a similar pace as the cloud architect
OK, got it. But what does an IoT architect actually do? There are two modes of operation for an IoT Architect. The first mode is to help the organization solve various business problems by building discrete IoT solutions. This requires a certain skill set including: collaborating with business leaders to determine their top business problems, architecting an IoT solution that will solve the problem, building a business case to justify the ROI, building an IoT solution prototype and selecting vendors, and finally, deploying the solution — at scale — across the enterprise.
The second mode is much more broad. The IoT architect must take responsibility for setting and communicating the overall IoT vision, message, — and most importantly — architecture. Why? Well, it’s likely that organizations will have multiple IoT projects. Without an IoT architect — who can build, communicate and drive a cohesive, centralized IoT architecture — the organization ends up with a proliferation of IoT devices, platforms, and architectures…which wastes money, time and resources.
What are the qualities or characteristics of an IoT Architect? Being an IoT architect isn’t for the faint of heart. Every step in the solution requires the IoT architect to employ technical, business, communication and leadership skills to overcome inevitable obstacles that lie in the path. What obstacles? Technological, political, financial…to name a few. Here’s a short list of characteristics for an IoT architect:
- Technical expertise. IoT solutions run the technical gambit. An IoT architect must have enough expertise (or the ability to rapidly become an expert) in several key IoT technology spaces including embedded systems, network topologies, transport protocols, cloud computing, stream processing, data management, analytics, security, identity management and app dev.
- Integration Expertise. An IoT solution is only as strong as its weakest link. The ability to integrate the disparate technologies listed above is probably the most important skill for an IoT architect. It’s highly likely that the IoT architect can explain the integration and I/O flow throughout the entire solution.
- Business Acumen. Before organizations will invest the capital to deploy hundreds or thousands of devices, perhaps globally, ingest and analyze that data, they’ll want to know the ROI. The IT architect is in the best position to make that case because he/she will know the pieces, parts, functionality, and result of the IoT solution.
- Organizational Versatility. An IoT architect is someone who has enough versatility that can hold a conversation no matter whether they are interfacing with a business exec, operational engineer, or an IT expert. As IoT architect, you will have to collaborate with many parts of the organizations that are in the path of the adoption process, understand their function, speak their language and — most importantly — help them understand how IoT will impact them and how it applies to their job.
- Ability to deal with ambiguity. Which is another way of saying “problem solver”. It is someone that knows what to do, when no one else knows what to do. In fact, they embrace it. They have a way of working through issues to help people see the IoT vision, to let go of the insignificant concerns and to focus on the most impactful problems- with the wisdom to know the difference.
OK, what’s the risk Drue? Well, what if IoT goes “bust”? Meaning, what if IoT is fad, or just doesn’t work out for you personally? Well, the fact is that most of these skill sets, especially the integration and ability to deal with ambiguity, are easily transferable to other jobs in IT. Most of these skills sets are highly desirable for other architect jobs that IT executives seek.
What do you think?
For more information on IoT, please see Gartner’s document Preparing, Planning and Architecting for the Internet of Things
By the way — I want to give a shout out to Clive Howard. He wrote a nice piece on the “Rise of IoT Architect” for ADTMag.