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Information Architects and Technicians

Originally published abril 29, 2010

An interesting discussion arose the other day about the difference between a technician and an architect. The lines between the two are a lot more blurred than you would ever imagine.

An understanding of the differences between a technician and an architect has some very real, down-to-earth consequences. Take a look at job descriptions that are being advertised on the Internet and in newspapers, and you see that technicians are paid at a far lower rate than architects. In most cases, architects have been around for a long time and technicians are just out of school. Now, from this, one might draw the conclusion that in order to be an architect, you have to have been around for a long time. But this does not mean that everyone who has been around for a long time is an architect. A good friend of mine has 30 years of experience. That is, he has one year of experience 30 times. This friend thinks that databases are new things and that data warehouses are pie in the sky – a great theory that will never happen. He is still slinging COBOL code as he did 30 years ago. (All of which does not stop him from being a nice person.) But no one would ever mistake him for an architect.

Consider this. Can an architect be an architect without understanding technology? No, an architect must understand technology in order to be an architect. And can a technician be a technician without understanding architecture? There are droves of technicians who have only the faintest idea about architecture. They think that architecture is a foreign and mysterious subject.

So what are the real differences between an architect and a technician? If there is one difference, it would have to be outlook. Let’s explore this notion of outlook.

A technician gets the job done. The technician knows which wires go where and what happens when you push a button. A technician knows where to find all sorts of stuff – some of it useful, some of it not useful. A technician is the packrat of technical trivia. A technician knows his/her environment inside and out. A technician has a good micro view of his/her immediate environment and has a detailed outlook, focusing on minutiae.

An architect is someone who sees patterns. An architect looks well beyond any given technology and makes comparisons with other technologies. An architect sees things abstractly. An architect recognizes patterns even when they are not apparent to the casual observer. An architect is able to see the macro view of an environment. The architect sees patterns and focuses on the large picture.

Because the architect sees patterns and abstractions, it is no surprise that architects have been around for a long time. The longer they have been around, the more basic material they have in order to see patterns and abstractions.

So why is this distinction between architects and technicians important? There are a lot of reasons, but probably the most important reason is suitability for a task.

For example, you wouldn’t hire an architect to maintain Windows. It would be a waste of time and probably a waste of money as architects are more expensive than technicians. Besides, technicians have more details in their brains and could probably do a better job than the architect at a task like this.

And you wouldn’t hire a technician to design a complex infrastructure such as DW 2.0. The technician would simply get lost in the myriad of details that comprise a large and complex architecture. The technician would spend huge amounts of time on one aspect of DW 2.0 while totally ignoring other major parts of DW 2.0. Instead of a technician, you need someone who can understand architecture holistically.

 The world needs both technicians and architects. Both have important jobs to do and important roles to play.

SOURCE: Information Architects and Technicians

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

    Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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