• Architects in IT organizations should develop as “superglue,” people who hold architecture, technical details, business needs, and people together across a large organization or complex projects.
  • Strong Architecture = Strong Architects.
  • Architects should stand on three legs: Skills, Impact, Thought leadership.

Superglue Vision

The People Pillar part of grounded architecture considers the people the central and essential part of architectural activities. In other words, Strong Architecture = Strong Architects. Developing the architecture function requires having competent, empowered, and motivated architects.

I found that Grounded Architecture is more effective if architects being a part of the People Pillar, view themselves as “superglue.” I borrow this view from Adam Bar-Niv and Amir Shenhav from Intel. They pointed out that instead of the superhero, we need “superglue” architects - the people who hold architecture, technical details, business needs, and people together across large organizations or complex projects.

The superglue characteristics mean serving as the organizational connective tissue, linking the “business wheelhouse” and the “engine room.” Architects, of course, need to be technically strong. But their unique strengths should stem from being able to relate, or glue, technical issues with business and broader issues.

From discussions I’ve had with our technology leaders, engineers, and architects, the picture below has crystallized as a representation of the “superglue” metaphor for architects (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Architects serve as a superglue, connecting development teams with business stakeholders while linking teams with the internal communities and the external world.

IT organizations need persons who look broader, linking architecture, technical details, business needs, and people together. These persons may not necessarily have a title of an architect. But they must have good working relationships with developer teams and the local business stakeholders and functions. Simultaneously, such a person is well-connected with the internal communities and has external visibility. They promote what we are doing, and on the other hand, they bring back ideas from the outside.

Superglue Abilities

Setting the architects’ goals to be “superglue” also requires some thought on developing architects as a superglue. Borrowing from Gregor Hohpe’s view on architect development from his book Software Architecture Elevator, I share the view that our architects should stand on three legs:

  • Skills
  • Impact
  • Thought leadership

Figure 2: Architect Profile: Skills + Impact + Thought Leadership.


Architects have to have proper skill sets. By skills, I mean possessing knowledge and the ability to apply relevant knowledge in practice. These skills should include both technical (e.g., cloud architecture or Kubernetes technology) as well as communication and influence skills.

A typical skillset of an architects includes (I provide links to some of my tools I found useful for obtaining these skills):


Impact should be measured as a benefit for the business. Architects need to ensure that what they are doing profits the business. New architects start as students or trainees having skills but little impact. But sooner than later, fresh architects need to get out into the world and make an impact. Architects that do not make an impact do not have a place in a for-profit business.

Examples of such impact may include:

  • Aligning business, product, technology and organizatinal strategies (see the next section for more details),
  • Process optimizations and improvements, with real measurable impact on work of an organization,
  • Cost optimizations of systems, based on data informed decisions,
  • Developing pragmatic technology strategies, helping business reach goals in a sustainable way,
  • Driving delivery of products, supporting teams to increase quality and speed of delivery,
  • Supporting business innovation, bringing new ideas in a pragmatic way aligned with business strategy and goals.

Though Leadership

Thought leadership acknowledges that experienced architects should do more than make architecture. This “more” can have different forms but should include at least some of the following activities:

  • Mentoring junior architects and engineers,
  • Publishing articles,
  • Giving talks,
  • Starting initiatives, and
  • Driving strategic decisions.

It is crucial for an organization that a senior architect mentors junior architects. Feedback cycles in (software) architecture are inherently slow. Mentoring can save new architects many years of learning by doing and making mistakes. The People Pillar should create spaces for such coaching and collaborations.

Balanced Development

Architects need to have a minimal “length” of all of these “legs” to be successful (Figure 3). For instance, having skills and impact without leadership frequently leads to hitting a glass ceiling. Such architects plateau at an intermediate level and cannot lead the company to innovative or transformative solutions. Leadership without impact lacks foundation and may signal that you have become an ivory tower architect with a weak relation to reality. And having impact and leadership qualities but no skills leads to impractical decisions not informed by in-depth knowledge.

Figure 3: Architects need to have a minimal “length” of all of these “legs” to be successful.

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