34 skills that make a better architect

What skills make a better architect? Obviously that depends on WHAT architecture we are talking about. (See my last post:, ).

Different roles require different specialties: An Infrastructure architect will need to know about Hardware and ITIL; A software architect about SW development methodologies; a business architect about the market; an Enterprise Architect about Program Management and an IoT architect … well … about IoT.

Despite these differences I noticed something along my way in architecture-land: there are plenty of skills any architect benefits from… whatever role!

True architects would see the value of investing in those skills: A toolset with great reusability!

This article discusses 34 qualities that have proven to be valuable to me. I don’t claim this is an exhaustive list: I bet there are several more. Feel free to add! Neither do I suggest every skill is required anytime anywhere. Though I’m sure all together they are a quite useful toolbox for any architect.

34 may seem a bit extensive. It is actually. Therefor a little structure is no luxury.

To categorize the skills, I have developed a “level-model”: The lower the level, the more generic the skill is applicable. The model consists of 8 levels, evenly divided over two main groups: Professional Skills and Personal skills.

Professional skills relate to skills that are typically applicable in an enterprise, where personal skills can be used in any situation.

The explanation of these levels -from bottom to top- are described in the next table:



Applies to

Specific architecture skills

Skills to effectively define, create and manage architecture products only in a certain architecture specialty or domain.


This article does not address all skills that go with specific architecture types. They will be addressed in a future article.

Architects in a specific field or domain, like information architects or infrastructure architects.

General architecture skills

Skills to effectively define, create and manage architecture products

Architects, and other persons who do designer tasks

Project/engagement skills

Skills of formal approaches and methods in order to effectively execute and control engagements/projects

Anyone participating in a project or similar collaboration

Business values

Awareness and compliance to general accepted business values

Anyone participating in an organization.

Intermediary skills

Skills to effectively interact with others in order to reach common results

Anyone having formal interactions

Personal effectiveness

Skills in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness in general tasks

Anyone who has personal goals

Basic Social skills

Skills that help in the informal relational / social field

Anyone interacting with others


Skills that allow you to understand and gather knowledge and be able to apply this to your work as an architect

Anyone who is in a creative or problem solving process in the broadest sense


The model has no scientific foundation. It is just intended to structure the skills in a logical way.

The list below will describe the skills in each of the categories

Professional skills

Professional skills are skills that are typically applicable in an enterprise or organization.

Specific architecture skills

This level contains skills to effectively define, create and manage architecture products in a certain architecture specialty or domain. These skills generally are only applicable to that specific domain and have less or no value outside that domain. Think of detail knowledge of specific network-products, which may be of interest to an Infrastructure architect, but not so much to a Software architect.

This article will not describe these, as it focuses on generic architecture skills.

General architecture skills

General architecture level contains skills that help to effectively define, create and manage architecture products and are applicable to any architect.

Enterprise architecture frameworks

Several great minds already have thought about what it takes to do architecture right. Enterprise architecture frameworks like Togaf, Zachman, SOMF and DYA define a specific vocabulary and provide global governance processes and guidelines. Most frameworks allow to pick specific elements that provide a certain value in the architectural field. Architect should be aware of these frameworks: it is likely to come across them in practice and they come in “handy” as a guide and may prevent you to reinvent the wheel.

Architecture modelling language

Architectural products need to be recorded and communicated with stakeholders in a clear and unambiguous way. Natural language is often too verbose and not specific enough, so a dedicated architectural language is indispensable. Languages like UML, BPML, SoaML and IDEF have proven their value in the past. However, they describe part of the complete architecture landscape. ArchiMate aims to provide an integral language to describe the complete enterprise architecture. It is adopted more and more broadly and knowledge of this language (preferable together with other languages) is highly advised.

Enterprise repository tools

Architectural products need to be designed, recorded and shared with colleague architects and other stakeholders. There are several products in the market that support these features, like the products from Sparx (Enterprise Architect), Software AG, BizzDesign, Casewise and Avolution (ABACUS). These products become more and more commonly accepted, and architects are expected to be able to use them.

Solution design

Each of the architectural product requires a well-founded design that meets all functional and non-functional requirements of the assignment, and comply company standards and policies.

Project/engagement skills

The Project and engagement level contains skills that are related to formal approaches and methods in order to effectively execute and control engagements/projects. The apply to anyone participating in a project or similar collaboration.

Project management

As an architect you are part of a team with specific goals and deliverables, either in a project, a DevOps team or an enterprise architecture context. The architect has a great responsibility regarding the success of the project. Project management products are tools to manage the process of reaching or guarding those goals. Think of work breakdown of the activities, planning and risk management. Mastering these skills will put the architect more in control of the results.

Quality assurance

Architectural products often have a long term life cycle. They only have value in case they have a defined quality. Quality assurance skills may provide an important contribution in defining, measuring and ensuring this quality level. Think of skills to set standards to define the quality and to evaluate the process and product.

Stakeholder management

Initiatives that require architecture usually concern multiple stakeholders, each with specific concerns and requirements. When these stakeholders are not identified and involved correctly you may miss vital requirements, or -even more dangerous- lack a common agreement for the initiative.

Requirement management

In order to have a clear and manageable scope for the architecture assignment it is eminent to gather and manage requirements in a structured way. The concerns of the various stakeholders will have to be translated into concrete unambiguous requirements, which need to be to prioritized and managed them along the assignment. Without the proper requirements management there is a risk for scope creep, incorrect interpretation of the customer needs and inefficient prioritization that prevents maximization of value for the organization.

Product/SW lifecycle management

Any kind of product, system or deliverable has a specific lifecycle. An architect ought to take this into account when making architectural decisions. If not, the product may for instance become available too late (or even too early), or lack the right level of flexibility or robustness suitable for the maturity stage in the lifecycle.

Vision / Strategy

As an expert in your field of architecture you are the one that should know actual developments, opportunities and threats. Hence you are the designated person in order to apply this knowledge to formulate a vision and strategy for the near and distant future.


Every activity performed should deliver value. Else: What is the point of doing it? As the architect usually has various tasks and a mental leadership responsibility he/she ought to be able to do a proper valuation of each activity a deliverable.: What is the value to the organization? The valuation is required for business cases and will help in prioritizing and managing tasks and time effectively

Business Values

Business values concern awareness and compliance to general accepted business values. They create a mutual interest and apply to anyone in an organization.

Organizational focus

As an architect, it is eminent to apply the values of the organization to create the right support for the solution. If not the solution may be (formally or informally) rejected due to visible or invisible resistance

Customer focus

As an architect you are dealing with various stakeholders. They are the actual customers of your products, and you will need to treat them as such. You’ll need to be able to recognize their concerns and manage them accordingly. If not, they may reject you as a “supplier”

Personal skills

Personal skills allow people to behave effectively both in and outside a formal organization.

Intermediary skills

The Intermediary skills level contains skills that are needed to effectively interact with others in order to reach common results.


As an architect you generally have the responsibility for products that in general have a long horizon. This requires a proper vision (mental leadership). Furthermore, you will have to convince people of this vision, and lead them there (effective leadership). This requires leadership capabilities.


As an architect you’re dealing with multiple -often competing- interests and wishes (including your own). You’ll need to be able to negotiate with all counterparts in order to find the right trade-offs that is acceptable by all deciding stakeholders on one side, and which is feasible for yourself too.

Didactic skills

You’ll have to convince stakeholders that the solution you’ve invented is suitable for the intended objectives. This may take a (bit of) explanation (in a different expertise level) and education in case they lack specific required knowledge to judge that.

Consultancy skills

As an architect you will have to use interview techniques and deduct workshops in order to obtain the right information in an effective way. You need to be able to use active listening techniques. If not, you may misinterpret them or miss some valuable information.


As an architect you need to be able to “sell” your ideas, visions and solutions to the stakeholders. It means you need to be able to pitch them to gain support. If not, the ideas or products might be rejected.


As an architect you are always an (important) part of a team. You need to be able to cooperate with you team in order to meet the goals.


You should be able to identify and engage the right sources (funding, time, information, human resources) to your assignment in order to have the correct input and interests for the architecture process. If any of them is lacking the success of the initiative is at risk because either scope, quality or lead-time will be compromised.

Personal effectiveness

The Personal effectiveness level contains skills that help anyone with personal goals to improve efficiency and effectiveness in general tasks.


You have to deal with many authorities and forces. They will have to be engaged (pro)actively in the process in establishing the architecture and to have the products be accepted. If not they might not feel heard of invited to provide their support


As an architect you have to deal with many sources, forces, schedules and inputs. You’ll need to be able to structure all this in order to be able to process it correctly and timely.


You have to deal with various alternative candidate solutions and conflicting interests. You will need to be able to determine and weigh all trade-offs and make decision that best suit the purpose.


The process of getting to an acceptable architecture can be tedious and frustrating due to and conflicting interests, changing insights and politics. So you will have to be able to deal with setbacks in the process to get reach the goals you have set.

Result focus

As an architect you have a significant part in success or failure of business initiatives. Therefore, it is important to be able to clearly identify these goals explicitly and keep focus on them along the assignment.


As an architect you are often the only one in the team who performs a specific architect role – unlike for instance developers. Besides your team-skills you will therefore have to be able to act independently as you may be the only one with specific skills and tasks.


The social level contains skills that help anyone function better in any relationship, formal or informal.


As an architect you need proper communication skills. You need to be able to extract information from your stakeholders. And next you need to present and defend the architecture products to the sponsor and other stakeholders.


You’re dealing with multiple types of stakeholders. You should be able to understand their concerns by placing yourself in their positions. Next you need to be to explain and sell the consequences of architecture decisions keeping their positions in mind.


The Intelligence level contains skills that allow you to understand and gather knowledge and be able to apply this to your personal situation and your work as an architect.

Analytical skills

You need to be able to analyze and recognize patterns in the multiplicity of inputs and solution options in order to design appropriate, efficient, usable, fast and effective and -if possible- reusable products.

Creativity / Innovation

Architecture usually involves the design or definition of a newly to be developed product, service, approach, solution, process or system. This requires an innovative and creative attitude in order to not miss opportunities due to tunnel vision.

Ability to abstract

An architecture is generally defined at a relatively high abstraction level. Simultaneously, the input can you get are detailed. It is important to work out the architecture products on the proper level: Concrete enough but at a sufficient level of abstraction, so that it can be communicated with each of the stakeholders.

System thinking

System thinking is the awareness that “everything” in a “system” (in the broadest sense) is connected in some way. A system can be a physical system, but also for instance an organization or process. Every change in a system may impact other parts of the system. The architect should anticipate on the possible effects of any action, e.g. in terms of risks and cost.


Architecture is a broad discipline, and often has an innovative character. You as an architect are considered to have specific expert skills and vision. This means you have to stay up to date and informed of all relevant developments in your field of architecture.

Problem solving

Along the way of any assignment you will as an architect most likely run into all kinds of challenges that need to be solved in order to book results. Generic problem solving skill may help you tackle those issues effectively

I hope this article may be of any value for you. Feedback is always welcome.

Harald van der Weel34 skills that make a better architect

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