What came first – the solution or the data?
I’ve spent years in IT and no matter what I do, it keeps coming down to the data. As an Enterprise Architect, selecting a portal for a large financial company was an exercise to plan for technology that would support data in many areas.
As the years go by, Data Architects have become responsible for Web Site Content.
Sadly, there are many folks out there on the Web who actually think this is Information Architect – yikes. (see my related article at Architect Boot Camp in the Information Architecture Section It is so much more than just content, although the Data Architect’s job has become so big when they have to figure out how this stuff is going to be stored and organized as well as designing custom databases for in house applications.
So when you are called upon to create a Solution Architecture – where do you start? The requirements is usually the first place, but often the requirements come out in the form of Data. Someone says “we have this sales information and we need to make it viewable and include the ability to create custom reports for our marketing managers.” So what do you do first? Do you create a data model? Do you pick technology to run it on? Do you choose the application technology you will use to create it?
Architecture is both a means of doing an inventory, linking and creating new stuff. The inventory in this case includes finding out if this data all lives in a database you can access directly, or whether or not you need to create a new one. It also includes an inventory check of the custom development and data warehousing technologies you have, as well as the interface technologies you have to bring them to the users.
What about security? Do you have that in place to present this information to the marketing team over the net in distant places? Or do you need to protect this stuff so Walmart can’t get it (just kidding – they are the favorite commercial villain, right next to Microsoft!).
How about resources – do you have anyone in your company who has done this before? Can you borrow someone who’s done it, or better yet, some application and resource who have done it and simply tweak it to get new data?
The longer you’ve been around as an IT Architect, the better you’ll get at recognizing patterns, inventorying them and picking them back up and dusting them off for a new solution. Ain’t life great? The best employees might also be the ones who try to do as little new work as possible!