Defining an Application Architect

Application architecture is a critical discipline in application development, and effective organizations follow similar application architectural practices to increase agility and lower costs. Application managers must define the application architect’s role to improve organizational outcomes. Application architecture determines how to create workable solutions with the desired characteristics, and to capture those decisions into patterns and practices that can be reused. These decisions should guide application construction, deployment and monitoring, as well as the continued evolution of the application portfolio. This discipline is more fully described in “Defining the Discipline of Application Architecture.” An application architect focuses on the use of architectural patterns and reusable artifacts in the development configuration and deployment of an application, and harvests those artifacts for use in other situations. The objective is to ensure that applications meet organizational goals and priorities for versatility, usability, maintainability, robustness and innovation. This is done not by creating optimal solutions for each of the characteristics in every case, but by using proven patterns and practices that can be leveraged to create known capabilities in these areas. Organizations often speak of application architecture as a singular noun — something it must develop and to which it must adhere. The reality is that every application has its own architecture, and the practice needs to account for these variations. Application architects must assist the development team in delivering innovative approaches, when those are within the parameters of the project. For example, although there are established patterns for how to build large-scale applications, in most cases, these applications require increasing expenditure on operational capability to scale out. Some organizations have started looking at cloud architecture concepts (e.g., horizontal, elastic scalability) as a means to deliver improved architectural qualities, such as robustness. Best-practice organizations have recognized that these metrics, although useful and indicative, do not capture the real value of application architecture efforts. Instead, best-practice organizations gather metrics about the improvements in architectural characteristics of the resulting systems, and relate them to objective metrics about the project and performance attributes of the system. Application architectural characteristics are usually described in general terms, however, a more useful approach would be to break it down in terms of the main attributes of good architecture.

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