Technical Architect: – It's never wrong to do things right!

Anders is, as he himself puts it, a 53-year-old boy. It's a delightful way to introduce oneself; youthful like a boy, yet with enough years to be considered experienced. He actually looks a bit like that too; genial and cheerful with slightly round cheeks, and a slightly scruffy but by no means unkempt greyish beard – which shows both age and experience.

Anders, back then a 26-year-old, started as a developer in 1997. At that time, the end user was something different than today.

– We wrote software for experts or specialized professionals, who were then sent on courses to learn exactly this system. If there was a manual system in place before, it had to be as similar as possible to it – that's not how it is today, he says.

Anders, back then a 26-year-old, started as a developer in 1997. At that time, the end user was something different than today.

The major paradigm shift came a few years later when programming for the web became more prevalent. He elaborates on this by explaining that it led to different expectations about what an end user should experience.

– The winners were those who managed to design things that did the job efficiently and were intuitive.

At the same time, there was a different expectation for code as technology improved.

– We used to code for the CPU in the old days, where even short variable names helped you. That's no longer necessary. Now, you should write code for the next programmer, he explains passionately.

There is always a way to write more compact code, but Anders' attitude towards code and infrastructure is quality over complexity. Especially in terms of readability for the next person or team who encounters his code, who might use it for new functions or simply understand what the system actually does.

According to Anders, architecture is about dualities that need to interplay.

As the conversation shifts more towards architecture and the role of an architect, I find myself pondering whether it's the duality in Anders, the boy with experience, that makes him such a skilled technical architect. Because even in architecture, there are fronts that must work together for the whole to function.

– Architecture is about dualities that need to interplay.

Because, as Anders informs, a good architecture should function towards the end user of the system, but it should also be 'fit for purpose' on the inside.

He elaborates:

– This means that the architecture must be able to balance different needs so that the stakeholder gets what they need in the form of good, intuitive, and relevant user interfaces. At the same time, the back-end should be put together to support both the current needs and also the unknown needs of the future.

What we know, we in this industry, is that a well-designed system just hums along and works, regardless of what is delivered to the user, not in spite of it. There are plenty of examples where a lack of architecture governance has had significant and costly consequences, where someone 'just does', which then has unforeseen consequences further down the line.

In the discussion about these consequences and what can actually go wrong, Anders says:

– I have a saying I've always used when I've been teaching courses: It's never wrong to do things right!

He explains that not doing architectural work from the start can be very costly, especially if you haven't accounted for things like growth and scalability. Or it can become so chaotic that it cannot be properly tested, which is extremely critical.

– And then you end up having to build everything from scratch, just because you didn't take the time initially. A skilled architect knows this, he continues.

He explains that it's about creating balance. An architect does this by being the one who creates a bridge between the client and the implementer. A skilled architect is therefore someone who is humble and listens to those around them, learns from them, and has diplomatic skills to find the right compromises at the right time and place. And most importantly, someone who can translate this into proposed solutions.

– The architect must be able to sort everything into actionable items.

At Forte Digital, Anders initiated something he calls the "Architect Seed Program."

He talks about having decision-making ability. For Anders, a skilled architect is often someone who has the ability to both raise their gaze and see the big picture, but who also has skills down to the code level to understand the details.

Anders' descriptions are accurate and show that the architect role is demanding. It requires a certain amount of experience and a certain type of qualities. Especially to become a good architect. It may not be the direction for every developer to take.

But those who do, like Anders, usually have a strong interest in the field and, because they have gradually gained enough experience to understand something more or larger wholes than they might have before.

Anders also very much wants more people to develop some of this understanding earlier, and in Forte Digital, he started something called the "Architect Seed Program."

"Well," says Anders, pausing for a moment.

– It's just that we architects can quickly be seen as some older folks who seem a bit unapproachable. So we talked a bit about creating awareness of what we do, and from this came the idea of how we could work more towards what we often call 'architect seeds'.

Anders took the lead and outlined a plan we at Forte Digital call the "Architect Seed Program". The idea of the program is to identify developers and others who have ambitions towards the architecture profession, catch them early, and stimulate to help them along the way.

There is no explicit goal that all seeds should end up as architects, nor any fixed timeline for how long it should take to get there.

– The journey is the goal, so to speak, he says enthusiastically and continues:

– And in connection with the work on the seed program, the concept of The Empathetic Architect emerged, where I think an architect should be good towards the client, code, colleagues, data, processes, interfaces, fellow seeds, and so on.

"The one who predicts the future lies."

If we achieve this, Forte Digital, and by extension our clients, potentially will have an advantage in the years to come. The Architect Seed Program, which Anders is responsible for, is in its early stages and will start its first courses in the fall of 2024 – something several in the company are looking forward to following and seeing the results of.

Our allotted time for this conversation is nearing its end, but we touch a bit on the future and what it will bring. Among other things, we talk a little about AI.

Anders doesn't have much to add to that discussion that hasn't already been said, but once again, we encounter a duality. This time perhaps more like Janus, this Roman god with two faces that among other things represents beginnings and endings, but also doorways.

– It can be used both destructively and constructively. We simply don't know yet, but we should remember that they said a lot of jobs would disappear when the internet came – and then there were only more jobs.

I try to push him a little more on what he thinks about the future.

"The one who predicts the future lies" (quote by Tron Øgrim), paraphrases Anders, and adds:

– But it will be exciting to see.

It's easy to get behind that statement.