When Architecture Gets “Ignored”

A criticism that I’ve had over the years from various Architects is that IT appears to spend more time researching and protecting systems than supporting the actual practice of Architecture.

It’s hard to argue with this on the surface: Security issues, rapid mandatory upgrade cycles and the BIM movement have made a lot of tough work for the IT department in recent years. Looking back, many IT departments were better suited to support our Architectural staff when these issues were minor or didn’t exist.

But that’s the past, and this is now. The long and short of it is something of a “Coming to Jesus” realization for both management and technology departments both.

1. Technology isn’t getting cheaper or better – In fact, one might be able to argue that it’s getting more expensive simply on the grounds of demand. As far as I can see, this trend is unlikely to abate. As modern designers, we tend to consider an improvement to technology as a simplification of seemingly unnecessary complexity. Rarely does this happen. Technology companies make money when you buy a new product. We’ve taught them that we’re willing to do this, even when paper-thin promises for new functionality are the basis for purchase.

2. New pressures are added to the IT plate constantly – Didn’t see “Green Computing” coming, did you? I certainly didn’t. I had written it off as a fad attached to the Green political campaign and never considered the facts and implications of my data center consumption. Just like the Green movement, new large initiatives will continue to appear. Most of them won’t be the brain child of the IT department.

3. The Internet should be rethought – Its difficult to argue against a disconnection of the Internet, but your firm should consider it – at least as a “what-if” exercise. Step back and be sure you understand why you have Internet to every computer. Evaluate if it’s really necessary or if there are better ways. It’s a good exercise to understand why you got it in the first place and how it’s developed into a business tool.

4. Technology will only get more complex for everyone – More programs, services and ways of using technology are coming onto the scene every day. The number of updates to your existing software is even more staggering. Everyone, not just IT, will continue to need training on a regular basis. It’s difficult to keep up on and one could argue that much of it provides little benefit to Architectural practice. Regardless, our software and hardware vendors continue to focus us on staying current by changing license and support agreements. This renders your mastery of any software or “electronic” process or work flow obsolete immediately. There will always be a supposedly better way to accomplish anything.

5. Remember that Architecture comes first – If you’re firm is like mine, the business of Architecture comes first. Remember this always, IT guy. You may “need” to deploy a security update immediately, but your PM’s and PIC’s can’t be slowed down by it. They have jobs to do to. The buck used to stop with you, but now that’s not always the case. You still call the shots on how, but when and how much is costs may be up to a larger group of people to decide. This is perhaps the most frustrating part for seasoned IT. We do have to let others in on our decision processes more often than before. It’s uncomfortable, and nobody is as qualified as you to make the decision from a technical perspective. Hold your ground, but don’t ignore your fellow co-workers. They’re needs are in fact important.

There isn’t a hard-and-fast solution for any firm. If you experiencing growth, this is the time that can be the most frustrating for you. You’re going to be pulled from all directions and you are going to get the lowest level of compliance with your policies you’ll ever see. Hang in there, do your best to remind people of the rules and never loose your cool. It could be the difference in your continued employment and you being outsourced.

To be successful in the current state of Technology, IT must roll up their sleeves and put in some elbow grease to succeed. Remember how hard you worked to get AutoCAD 2005 deployed? Get ready to invest energy like that more often. IT people are the worst work ethic examples and are master procrastinators (we spend much of our time trying to find a “better and more efficient” way to accomplish something rather than just doing it). It’s in our best interest to shed ourselves of that mindset and label. Become a doer!

Last – Re-evaluate yourself. Do you still want to pursue a career in IT? It’s getting tougher. If this level of pressure and responsibility (and proactiveness!) aren’t comfortable, it may be time to consider steeping into a different profession. Your job is to ensure your Architectural staff can do their job. This is job #1. If you can’t see eye to eye with this and still insist on focusing on patching and upgrading constantly, consider looking elsewhere for work. You’ll save yourself and your firm a great deal of heartache.



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