Software structural engineers

Billy Hollis made an interesting point in his interview on .NET Rocks. He argues that “structural engineer” is a better analogy than “architect” for the role of “software architects.”

Structural engineers make sure a building can withstand the stresses it will be subjected to. They do not design buildings, though they work closely with the architects who do the design. Hollis says that most software projects do not have an “architect” who is responsible for the external design of the project. Instead they have structural engineers who focus on infrastructure. This is a very important role, but calling these folks “architects” may obscure the lack of someone playing a role analogous to the architect of a construction project.

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5 thoughts on “Software structural engineers

  1. indeed, an architect in construction is more of a requirements engineer. Although he’s not elicitating the requirements, he is mainly suggesting them. Think the actual user requirements (user = person who has to live in the building) are quite underrepresented.

    That’s how we got all these great looking buildings (from the out side), that make residents feel like caged birds (inside).


  2. I believe the role of the software *architect* is just raising in popularity with mobile and web software product development. It’s called an “interaction designer” or the so called “UX designer”.

    @modelpractice: Yes, the “requirement engineer” does kind of fill part of the role in enterprise and big business software. Making software in these areas is like making buildings for the military: the most imporant factor is function, cost efficiency, not aesthetic or usability. Some technics of user-centered design are used, but mostly by function-oriented engineers or analysts.

  3. Oh dear, now we have structural engineers and software architects. I nearly spilled my coffee all over my keyboard when I read this hilarity.

  4. Structural engineers are legally liable for their work.

    So, if you want to be legally liable for when the architecture causes SLA breaches or in worse cases, someone is hurt or killed due to software, cool. Seriously, bring it on, it’s needed for our industry and it might finally sort out some of the cowboy nonsense we put up with.

    But if it’s just “oooh, this sounds shiny!” then thanks, but I think we have enough stupid meaningless titles already, don’t you? I don’t see ninja rockstar dentists or thought leader plumbers anywhere…

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