An ICT Architect – The what, why & how

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When you think about architects, you probably think about building architects. However, in the ICT industry, there are also architects. In this post, I’ll discuss what this role entails, why we need it, and how to become an ICT architect.

What is Architecture?

Architecture” is typically associated with the building and construction industry. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of architecture states the following:

architecture (noun): the art or science of building, specifically: the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones

However, if you scroll a bit down the architecture definition page, you’ll also find the following definition:

architecture (noun): the manner in which the components of a computer or computer system are organized and integrated

Most people outside the information and communication technology (ICT) industry only know the first definition. When I tell my friends and family that I’m doing “architect” work, they are usually confused because they thought I was doing something with computers and not designing buildings.

However, there are a lot of similarities between the design and construction of building structures and the design and construction of information and communication systems.

Why are ICT architects necessary?

Imagine you were constructing a building, getting the best electrician, plumber, builder & painter for the job. You then instruct them to use their expertise and finish your construction project. Even though they are masters in their respective crafts, they would not be able to work independently of each other. There is always some collaboration required between them.

You can argue that these experts could lay the foundations for a small house, do the wiring and plumbing, paint it, and get it done through on-site teamwork. You would probably be correct, but there is one thing this group cannot do by themselves: scale. They could not scale this operation and build an entire development of apartments or a ten-story building with only an on-site joint effort.

Scalability is also experienced in the ICT industry. You can watch YouTube videos and probably build your desktop computer from ordered components at home or program something in Python. You can probably scale to doing that for a couple of friends and family. However, once you start to scale to larger business sizes, you need an architect or even a couple of architects, depending on the organization’s size.

Architects provide ICT solutions to business problems, just as architects design buildings. They have the right education and experience to make design decisions for the stuff that is hard to change down the line. Usually, these designs take several months to years to be implemented by the organization (Much like the timeframes experienced by the construction industry).

There are a few different types of architects. Each of them plays a vital role in the information and communication chain. Some examples include:

How to Become an Architect

One of the major differences between the traditional (building) architect profession and an ICT architect is that you cannot simply study for a bachelor’s degree to become one. The road to becoming an ICT Architect is long (approximately 5-20 years of professional working experience).

The road usually starts with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering (It is important to note that sufficient experience can make it possible to become an architect without a bachelor’s degree). This is followed by gaining experience in different IT, software, or systems development areas, which is required to learn the competencies required for the specific architect role.

The next step is recognition. Once your organization appoints you with an official title as an architect, you are recognized within the organization as an architect. You can also apply for recognition outside your organization through an Open Certified Architect (Open CA) certification. The Open Group describes the Open CA program as follows:

The program requires applicants to demonstrate skills and experience against a set of conformance requirements through written applications and peer interviews. There are no training courses to attend and no written exams to complete.

The Open CA program is not the only way to obtain recognition in your industry. You can also attend and participate in conferences, publish articles, and speak at user group events to collaborate across various organizational boundaries.

In short, the title of architect is something you need to earn through peer-reviewed, verifiable experience and skills.


Architects in the ICT industry focus on the art of designing and implementing software and computer systems that can scale with various interconnections, components, and business requirements. Architects think “big picture” and provide long-term solutions to business problems that are costly to change once implemented.

One does not simply become an ICT architect through studying for a bachelor’s degree, but one must be able to demonstrate your education, skills, and experience to peers. The role of an architect is thus based on recognition by the organization and the broader industry.



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