As the technical architect, you’ll be responsible for defining the overall structure of a program or system. You’ll act as project manager, overseeing IT assignments that are aimed at improving the business, and ensuring all parts of the project run smoothly.
Because you’ll be working from start to finish on each project, it’s essential to understand all aspects of each system, from both a business and technical point of view. This means having a full working knowledge of technologies such as UNIX, Oracle, SQL Server and TCP/IP for example, as well as knowledge of one or more programming languages.
You can work in many different industries as a technical architect, from planning the structure of a large scale patient records database for the NHS, to the redesigning of a shop's e-commerce facility, to name a few.
It’s likely you’ll be employed by an IT firm that specialises in the delivery of these kinds of projects to clients, or in house at a large organisation with its own team. Depending on your responsibility and level in the company, you'll either oversee one part of a system's framework, or you could be in charge of the whole thing.
A lot of your time will be spent liaising with people from different backgrounds, from management to designers and programmers in the IT department, to ensure the project meets the needs of the organisation and the people who'll be using it.
Some of the main tasks you can expect to be involved in include:
• Identifying the organisation's needs
• Breaking down large scale projects into manageable chunks
• Working out which IT products to use based on cost benefit analysis and research
• Agreeing plans with the client
• Explaining to designers and developers what's required and overseeing the progress
• Producing documents that monitor progress and ensure the quality of the project
• Advisg the client on managing future IT needs
To become a technical architect, you’ll often need to work your way up a career path within IT to reach the senior role.
In-depth technical knowledge isn’t a necessity as that is often required more by the people you’ll be managing. However, it’s important that you understand what technologies are out there (Java/J2EE, SQL, SAP, Oracle and C#) and what they do.
This means employers usually require a degree in a relevant subject to demonstrate you have enough technical knowledge to perform well in the role. This may be in computer sciences or computer engineering, information management systems, software development or business information systems.
Experience that is particularly favoured by employers includes systems development, analysis, programming or testing. It’s common in the industry to start work in one of these roles and progress to become a technical architect.