Technical Architect -- the newest title on the I/S organizational chart

At one time, an evaluation team, temporarily siphoned from the development staff, could feasibly manage the new system selection process. Today's technology landscape has changed dramatically, both in the number of product classes and the rate of introduction -- not only in the number of products in any given class, but in the number of technologies.

Software Productivity Group's annual market research survey identified over 50 products all claiming to be "enterprise-class application development tools." Respondents to this same survey additionally identified over 25 different database vendors -- exclusive of data warehouse and the new object-based vendors. Add the products associated with middleware and the skyrocketing Internet/Intranet technologies and the system selection process can be overwhelming.

Compounding the issue is the indication that 1997 will be a banner year for the implementation of true mission-critical client/server applications. The implementation of such systems has appropriately lagged the general acceptance of client/server systems at the departmental level. The technologies required by these large-scale systems have finally matured to the point where they can sustain the demands of such systems, and the I/S staffs in charge of implementing such systems are now secure enough in their understanding of the issues to attempt these bet-your-business applications.

Thus, not only is it increasingly difficult to keep technologically current, the need to do so has never been more important. To address these two needs, more and more end-user organizations are turning to the Technical Architect.

As with Phil Wilkerson at The Gap, these architects wear several hats. One is certainly to understand the state of the technology. Another is to educate the I/S team members on those technologies. Yet another, depending on the organization, is to guide the organization toward the appropriate technologies and help the organization avoid those that are inappropriate.

Software Productivity Group (SPG) is seeing evidence in its market research that adoption of technology is not occurring at the same pace as the creation of technology.

With technology advances potentially outstripping the ability of organizations to internalize and use that technology, the choices a company does make become even more important. For companies who have not invested in a Technical Architect function, it may well be time to reevaluate that decision.

About the Author

Sandra Taylor is director of SPG Analyst Services, Natick, Mass.