What’s in a title? Or Kumar becomes chief architect
COMMENTARY -- "Software architect"is still an ill-defined term, industry analysts tell us. As one points out, there is no official degree or licensing for the position as there is for brick-and-mortar architects.
Perhaps Bill Gates brought the luster of his fame and money to the title when he became chief software architect at Microsoft. But where there’s luster, there can also be lackluster. So is the title now tarnished by the sudden creation of a chief software architect position at Computer Associates (CA) for the newly displaced president and CEO Sanjay Kumar?
To be fair, when Kumar began his career at CA in 1987, he worked in a senior development position, so it isn’t as if he’s a business executive who doesn’t know Java from tea. ADT asked industry analysts if they thought the harsh spotlight of the Kumar news adds or detracts from the job description.
"It’s a double-edged sword," said Tony Baer, a principal at onStrategies, a New York City-based consulting firm. "At first glance, Kumar’s apparent demotion to chief software architect under the cloud of scandal certainly devalues the title. For Kumar, the move is likely a holding action until guilt can be proven or not."
Baer notes that while Gates made his career move at Microsoft, he wasn’t in need of a silky exit strategy. "In his case, the move was genuine," Baer said. "Gates is the one focusing on blue sky projects, while [Steve] Ballmer is running the company."
Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at consulting firm ZapThink, Waltham, Mass., sees Kumar "following in the footsteps of Bill Gates here." But will he get his shoes muddy?
"Gates did not cheapen the title at all," Bloomberg maintained, "as he is truly a well-qualified architect. The biggest risk to Kumar is that he won’t live up to the high standard for a chief software architect that Gates has set."
Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst and founder of ZapThink, notes that the software architect job title is ill-defined; in addition, he hopes that CA is not starting a trend of using it to re-title executives.
"The term ‘architect’ has been ill-defined for at least the past half-decade," Schmelzer noted. "It will take some time to put real definition, if not formalized training and certification, around the use of the ‘architect’ term in relation to real IT responsibility and capabilities."
Schmelzer and the other analysts ADT contacted give Kumar the benefit of the doubt, both in terms of any possible wrongdoing in his past or job performance issues in his future. However, Schmelzer concluded, "it remains to be seen if Kumar will do the title justice."
Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.