Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Architect vs. Engineer

There are various channels to mature as an Enterprise Architect, and there are many skills engineers have to sharpen for building their professional competency
Architecture and engineering are interrelated disciplines. An architect captures the “big picture” and business insight; and an engineer figures out how to make things work technically. An architect ensures that a company builds the right system (effectiveness); an engineer ensures that a company builds a system right (efficiency).

Architecture does make sure all of the elements necessary for an outcome are present; engineering makes sure those elements are put together well: An architect focuses on “why” and “what”; an engineer tries to figure out “what” and “how”; although a good engineer also frequently asks “why” to dig through the root causes of the problem in order to solve it logically; and a good architect perhaps should know “how” at a certain level in order to make the discipline more practical. Knowing how things actually work and how they are done is indispensable to an architect. The key skills of the business architects are to analyze the business and design changes to make it operate better. Engineering a wrong system may cost a lot more time and money than architecting a wrong system.

An enterprise architect blueprints the future of the organization, and an effective Enterprise Architecture practice will improve business capabilities. An engineer, on the other hand, should think about the goals, but their first concern should be meeting the narrower requirements that their aspect of the overall design must meet. An engineer must be able to design down to the last detail, whereas an architect need not be concerned with all of the contexts.

An architect’s mindset is holistic, coherent and persuasive; and engineering thinking involves analogical reasoning and deduction: An architect has the ability to read the "ripples on the surface of the water," practice abstract thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, analysis & synthesis, strategic thinking, pattern thinking, systems thinking, etc, all the time. An engineer also demonstrates multidimensional thought processes such as logical thinking, analytical thinking, critical thinking, and step-wise problem-solving skills; understands trade-offs, and creates things under constraints. At a career progression view, more typically, architects are either independently trained or engineers transition to architecture roles over time.

An architect's viewpoint is different from an engineer's. An architect must consider the whole, and their purpose is to achieve the goals for the thing being architected. Otherwise, they will design a building that cannot be built. The rapid engineering of a modular architecture is possible without a compromise on quality and performance. An enterprise architect ensures that the organization fits for the purpose; while some significant goals of engineering are for automation, reliability, and continuity, etc. An engineer ensures the implemented project fitting for specification, and making continuous integration, and optimization.

An architect is a “specialized generalist,” and an engineer is a specialist or ideally, “generalized specialist”: An architect is the "Chief Engineer" of a system, in which the architect must make sure that everything works as a "system," not just from a technical perspective, but from the perspective of the system's goals. If you look at a company as a collection of subsystems with integrated business elements, the architect does have the role of analyzing the business to make decisions or create business cases, or do feasibility studies, to ensure overall business integrity. Engineering is the practical application of principles and practices constrained by the laws of the domain to solve technical problems. An architect must know the relevant aspects of engineering, otherwise, they cannot make good decisions about the architecture.

The architecture discipline not only embraces models, methods, and theories of management and control but also embodies the quality of human thoughts and brings up multidisciplinary perspectives such as systems engineering, linguistics, cognitive science, environmental science, biology, social science or design, etc. There are also art and science embedded in engineering disciplines. Engineering = Science + Methodology + Creativity + Design + Operation + Process + System.

There are various channels to mature as an Enterprise Architect; and there are many skills engineers have to sharpen for building their professional competency. The fierce competition and continuous disruptions force architects and engineers to be proactive, work collaboratively, bring up architecture, design, and engineering aspects to the table and get really creative on how to shape a people-centric digital organization and add a more enriched digital context for the seamless digital paradigm shift.


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