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The systems architect

ystems Architects interface with multiple stakeholders in an organization in order to understand the various levels of requirements, the domain, the viable technologies, and anticipated development. Their work includes determining multiple design alternatives, assessing such alternatives based on all identified constraints (such as cost, schedule, space, power, safety, usability, reliability, maintainability, availability, and so on), and selecting the most suitable options for further design. The output of such work sets the core properties of the system, and those that are hardest to change later.

In small systems the architecture is typically defined directly by developers. In larger systems, a Systems Architect may be appointed to outline the overall system and interface with the users and stakeholders. Very large, highly complex systems may include multiple architects, in which case the architects work together to integrate their subsystems or aspects, and may respond to a Chief Architect responsible for the entire system.

In systems design, the architects and engineers are responsible for:

  • Interfacing with the user(s) and sponsor(s) and all other stakeholders in order to determine their (evolving) needs.
  • Generating the highest level of system requirements, based on the user’s needs and other constraints.
  • Ensuring that this set of high level requirements is consistent, complete, correct, and operationally defined.
  • Performing cost–benefit analyses to determine whether requirements are best met by manual, software, or hardware functions; making maximum use of commercial off-the-shelfor already developed components.
  • Developing partitioning algorithms (and other processes) to allocate all present and foreseeable requirements into discrete partitions such that a minimum of communications is needed among partitions, and between the user and the system.
  • Partitioning large systems into (successive layers of) subsystems and components each of which can be handled by a single engineer or team of engineers or subordinate architect.