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The Robert Frances Group

San Jose, CA: 408 451 2080

Westport, CT 203 291 6900

Role of the Data Architect

Thursday, January 22, 1998
RFG believes CIOs recognize they must manage corporate knowledge and that to do so
effectively, they need data architects. In todays fast-paced world corporate survival and
success are contingent upon timely information and knowledge that must be built upon
sound, consistent underlying data architectures. As Jerry Junkins, former chairman and
CEO of Texas Instruments, once lamented, "if we only knew what we know." However,
many firms have created the data architect position without having clearly defined its
roles and responsibilities. RFG believes a data architect must be the person responsible
for the definition, structure, integration and maintenance of data in the enterprise.
Business Imperatives:
The role and responsibility of the data architect needs to be clearly defined and
delineated, and accepted by those with whom the data architect must interface.
Data is the glue that binds the company together. It must be carefully managed
its accuracy, currency and usage are keys to corporate success. The data architect
must be able to understand how the data relates to the current workflow and
potential future processes.
The overhead associated with data capture, manipulation and maintenance must
be offset by gains in productivity, revenue, or both. Frequently corporations
overwhelm themselves with excess and unneeded data. The data architect must be
able to envision the value of the data to the bottom line.
Users tend not to fully understand knowledge management requirements. They
often therefore request either too much or not enough pertinent data. The data
architect must assist users in defining their current and future data requirements;
in turn, the data architect must be the intermediary between end-users and the
database group.
RFG believes that the starting point of an effective strategy for enterprise information
management is the clear delineation and definition of the roles and responsibilities of a
data architect. If a company has undergone a business process reengineering effort, it will
have included in the outputs of the effort a vision statement, a mission statement, goals,
critical success factors (CSFs), and inhibitors. These pronouncements define the overall
purview under which the enterprise data architect must operate. As a result they can be

used as a baseline to create the data architects vision, mission, goals, CSFs, and
inhibitors. This, in turn, can be used to construct the architects roles and responsibilities.
If there is no baseline available for business process reengineering, then the data architect
should identify those key individuals, both inside and out of IT, with whom the architect
expects to interface. This list of identified individuals should represent the constituency
that the data architect should serve. Once the list is validated, the data architect should
facilitate a planning session with these players. The outputs of this session should be the
data architects roles and responsibilities along with the roles each of the attendees will
play. RFG suggests the facilitator use the development of a vision statement, a mission
statement, goals, critical success factors (CSFs), and inhibitors as a way to determine the
underlying roles and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, most reengineering efforts or planning sessions do not adequately address
the issue of knowledge management. The data architects purview are not just a subset of
those developed for the overall enterprise process statements or the set of views
expressed by the planning team. The new view must incorporate the architecting of data
needed for corporate knowledge management an area unfamiliar to most employees.
Knowledge management is the broad process of locating, organizing, transferring, and
using the information and expertise within an organization. According to the American
Productivity and Quality Center (at on the World Wide Web), the four key
enablers supporting the overall knowledge management process are leadership, culture,
technology, and measurement. A data architect must therefore be able to envision the data
requirements of such future infrastructure needs.
IT knowledge is but one aspect of a data architects role. Since the data architect is the
end-users interface and translator of their business requirements to the IT community, the
architect must possess good interpersonal skills. A data architect must have the ability to
facilitate agreements and resolve conflicts amongst organizations. To do that successfully,
an architect must be able to interpret business needs into data requirements including
such attributes as naming standards, consistent data definitions, data aliases, associated
business rules, data sources, retention criteria, derivations, security restrictions,
accessibility, reusability, currency, frequency of update, linkages, and integration. (See
the chart for a sample outline of roles and responsibilities.)
One of the less obvious responsibilities of a data architect is the ability to differentiate
between valuable, usable information and useless data. People are quite able to theorize
on how data might be used someday or data they would like to have; but frequently that
data is not transferable into actionable information or knowledge that either makes the
company more productive or drives added revenue. It will be up to the data architect to
negotiate with the appropriate players to ensure only the right data is captured,
manipulated, and kept current and accurate. In other words, the data architect must be
able to envision the value of data to the bottom line, and to translate this for
implementation into corporate data models, the corporate metadata repository, and the
data warehouse constructs themselves.

RFG believes that corporations needs to establish the roles and responsibilities of the data
architect in a fashion that allows the architect to effectively act as an intermediary
between the end-user departments and IT. It is also imperative that all the parties with
whom the data architect interfaces fully understand and accept his/her role and function.
Without buy-in at both the management and non-management levels, the data architect
will be stymied and will not be able to perform effectively.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data Architect



Develop a data architecture that:

maximizes revenues by providing
actionable, integrated data;
improves productivity through
strict management of data; and
can be the basis for future
knowledge management
Define and document the data
architecture through gathering of
requirements from end-user
departments or through reverse
engineering of existing data uses
Facilitate and document the
agreements on appropriate
corporate data and its usage
Resolve conflicts between
Ensure all components are
properly integrated and
Coach the IT team on the value
and implications of data
Educate end-users on the value of
data and its associated attributes
Provide support and verify quality
through all stages of
Demonstrate thought leadership

Mediator between organizations

Advocate for end-user
Facilitator of data requirements

Developer and maintainer of

business rules
Interface between end-users and
Interpreter of data and business
needs to data
administrators/modelers and/or
database administrators
Data futurist (i.e., visionary of
future data uses)
Catalyst for converting data into
knowledge management