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12 Essential Skills for Software Architects: Importance of social vs technical skills

Alec Swan
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Joined: Feb 03, 2005
Posts: 39

Hello,

I know some great architects who have very limited social skills but sound confident (read cocky) when they talk about technology and you can tell they know what they are talking about. This sort of attitude often times instills confidence.

I think it is important for anybody to have good social skills. But how important are social skills vs technical skills to a software architect 10/90, 20/80, 30/70?

Thanks
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
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Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 61652
    
  67

Hold on, let me compute that for you.



(In other words, impossible to quantify.)


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Alec Swan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 03, 2005
Posts: 39

I was expecting that - made me an easy target I think the question still stands even without numeric quantification.
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 61652
    
  67

Soft skills are important for any developer -- if you cannot communicate, your value is diminished. For someone working at the architecture level, it's even more important as communication of ideas is a large part of the job. The "smartest" architect is useless if all he or she can do is think great thoughts and keep them to themselves.
Alec Swan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 03, 2005
Posts: 39

Being able to express your thoughts clearly is different from having good social skills. In fact, most of architects that I admire have extensive vocabularies and presenting skills.
Sometimes I am worried when we have to take architects on customer sites because they can come across as cocky and patronizing. But surprisingly such behavior seems to make customers feel more secure.
I better get a copy of your book and see how this outcome can be achieved through other types of behavior.
Amit Wajge
Greenhorn

Joined: Nov 27, 2008
Posts: 1
The current Software world becomes very DYNAMIC today because of the volatility in the current market due to globalization and users become very much choosy because of this. Due to this most of the projects follows AGILE technology now a day. In this scenarios user requirements are not fixed and keeps changing during development cycle of software. In these scenarios Software Architect should have Social Skills which are equally important to Technical Skills. Social skills play important role in below scenarios.
1. Software Architect need to understand the client requirement and need to judge whether it is Achievable or not and need to communicate the same to the client with proper justification.
2. Software architect need to involve in negotiation with the client to get the project work.
3. Software Architect needs to put his technical thoughts properly on document and need to communicate the same properly to Project members. It helps to reduce the requirement gaps in future of the project and helps to achieve the project in planned budget.
4. Software architect should also be good in Domain knowledge. It helps to raise the proper queries to the client during the requirement gathering .Hence social skill help here to communicate the queries in efficient ways to the client at proper time.
5. Software Architect should also have good flexibility of mind which helps him to take proper decisions on behalf of project if someone responsible from the team fails to do so.
As per my understanding 12 Essential Skills for Software Architects book will really help to understand Social Skills which need to be deliberately cultivated by each Software Architect in order to get more hold on current business, project and market scenarios to develop and deliver more robust software.
Aaron Jones
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 01, 2007
Posts: 2
More than simply Domain knowledge, I feel it helps significantly when an Architect has some level of business savvy. To some degree I suppose this encapsulates a level of social grace, though I don't know that acquiring those soft skills is the point of having a "head for business".

Sometimes an architectural decision can be made that is perfectly sound from a technical perspective and it even seems to fit the business needs - those needs, as stated by the business, often carry an implied level of knowledge that isn't captured in a requirements document or visible as an artifact of the business itself. There is a reason why the perception of IT project failure rates hovers in the 50% range at any given time, and I wouldn't be surprised if this has something to due with the that lack of "insider knowledge" and general understanding of business exhibited by some Architects.
arulk pillai
Author
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Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3259
Technical skills alone can be easily replaced. The soft skills and domain knowledge are harder to replace.


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Dave Hendricksen
author
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Joined: Dec 06, 2011
Posts: 31
Hi Alec,

I believe technical skills form the foundation of the skills needed for an architect (without them making architectural decisions would be very challenging).

I view the set of skills needed for an architect as a pyramid (not really in terms of percentages, but more as layers).

The first layer is technical skills (for purposes of this book these are assumed).

The second layer is relationship skills (gracious behavior, communication, leadership, negotiation, and politics).

The third layer is personal skills (transparency, passion, and context switching).

Finally, at the top the fourth layer is business skills (business knowledge, innovation, pragmatism, and vision).

Layers 2-4 are the basis of the groupings of the chapters in the book and the parentheticals form the chapters of the book.

Generally, I view the layers as building upon on another, and they form a progression of skills to consider working on.

Good question!

Dave Hendricksen [12 Essential Skills for Software Architects]
Alec Swan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 03, 2005
Posts: 39

Great answer, Dave! I like your layering approach.

Thanks!

Alec
 
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