In enterprise IT, the data architect has their own important and unique role. Sometimes these professionals seem like the unsung heroes of their departments, but their work is ultimately important to everything else that goes on.
Essentially, data architects are responsible for computer database life cycles that provide the fundamental mechanism for companies to use all of that data that's so important to their operational business processes.
Here's more on what we've heard from professionals in the field about this challenging work:
The Joys and Perils of Architecting
In general, many IT professionals of a certain tier have one of two titles — an engineer of something, or an architect of something.
Like other architects, the data architect is seen as pursuing big-picture strategic goals, while the data engineer is tasked with making those strategies happen tactically. (Read Job Role: Data Engineer.)
“Data architects act strategically, whereas data engineers act tactically,” said Dan Mullaney, who works in data integration at CloverDX.
“The data architects give data engineers their marching orders, so to speak. Data architects, with all the organization’s current and potential data in mind, come up with a framework on which to execute a plan that data engineers put into place.”
That puts a lot of responsibility on the data architect’s shoulders, because if the strategy is wrong, everything else is going to fail as well.
It also means though that the architect might have the ear of the executive team a little more easily, or work more closely with the CIO.
Put Everything In Its File Folder!
Experts may also describe the data architect as an archivist or curator, which is to some a charitable way about talking about this kind of organizational activity.
“Data architects build and maintain an organization's database by recognizing basic and establishment arrangements,” said Rafoat Qudratbekova, founder of Digital Marketing.
“They work with database executives and investigators to tie down simple access to organization information. …all of the data that used to be caught on paper records is currently caught in electronic records that must be put away for recovery in an electronic archive. This requires the utilization of social databases for everything except the littlest, most straightforward applications, and the utilization of social databases requires the abilities of a database director or potentially information modeler … (data architects) plan and actualize compelling database arrangements and models to store and recover organization information.”
“Basically, it's a data architect’s job to accurately and efficiently capture all data for a business,” adds Colin Ma, founder of DigitalSoftwareProducts.
“From there, the data architect engineers the solution to capture the data and then store it in a manner such that it can easily be translated. Though proper storage seems trivial, it’s actually quite difficult as the data architect has to balance availability, costs, and access levels.”
That core organization in itself is a big job, but it's only part of what these professionals do for their employers.
Get Business Insights, Influence People
As we've mentioned so many times, data is one of the most important assets for any business, because it allows the company to derive key business insights through business intelligence processes. (Read Job Role: Business Intelligence Analyst.)
The data architect can be a big part of making that happen, according to IT consultant Sten Vesterli of Vesterli, who points out that data architects deal with data permissions, validating data and systematically correlating data with other data.
“A data architect ensures you are gathering the right data in a format that allows you to derive business value from it,” Vesterli said.
Being responsible for driving business insights is an important job, and that becomes a major component of what many data architects are focused on as they continue to practice best practices for data management.
Tools and Techniques
How do data architects do all of this?
They tend to use certain tool sets. Liz Erk, founder and principal partner at The Jaxson Group for DataKitchen, spelled some of that out for us, suggesting that stock in trade tools for data architects include SQL and XML as well as Apache products like Hive, Spark, and Pig, for orchestrating good data handling strategies.
Specialized Data Architect Work
Here's some input from a particular kind of data specialist that shows some of the details of how these folks work in specific enterprise contexts.
Darren Smith is a geospatial specialist at Soar, , a company doing ground-breaking (no pun intended) work in geographic mapping.
“As a geospatial specialist, I’ve spent the whole of my career both reading and working with the data contained within mapping images,” Smith told us. “Whether they’re small scale images collected from the inside of a petroleum well deep inside the earth, or large scale satellite images acquired hundreds of kilometers in space.”
Data visualization, he said, plays a major role in many fields, including his own.
“I’d like to think my eyes have been trained to pick out trends and anomalies in the data that a person new to the environment wouldn’t, however, in truth, the technology behind the visualization is what makes the differences more apparent,” he said.
“Each discipline has its own refined algorithms and accepted methodologies to make new discoveries from the data. What gets me excited is how the data we use to visualize things like a core section from a petroleum well can give us information about how those rocks were originally deposited millions of years ago, or, how a multi-spectral image from a UAV or satellite will tell us what types of rocks are present from hundreds of kilometers away.”