• United States

On the job with an IT architect

News Analysis
Apr 17, 20065 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIT LeadershipSecurity

Techie discusses the role and responsibilities that his position with staffing firm Spherion entails.

The position of IT architect has been growing in visibility as it blends technology and business goals. George Drazick has spent 3½ years in that role at Spherion, a staffing and recruiting firm with $2 billion in annual revenue and more than 300,000 employees worldwide.

George Drazick, IT architect at Spherion
George Drazick, IT architect at Spherion. Photo by Scott Bell

The position of IT architect has been growing in visibility with its signature responsibility of blending technology and business goals. George Drazick has spent 3½ years in that role at Spherion, a staffing and recruiting firm with $2 billion in annual revenue and more than 300,000 employees worldwide. Now transitioning into the role of director of technology, he recently talked with Network World senior editor John Fontana about how Spherion defines the IT-architect role, what the responsibilities are and how important it is to marry systems, applications and business requirements

Can you define the role of IT architect?

We have two functions they fill: one is a systems architect, and one is an applications arch. When you bring those two together you really get your lead IT, or enterprise, architect from a technology standpoint.

The IT architect is the person who now looks at not just the applications that are there, but also the systems that comprise those applications. In this role, not only is the understanding of technology important, but also the ability to articulate the interrelationships of business and technology models. It’s not only to be a subject-matter expert, but also to be a proponent of an overall corporate or business strategy.

Give me a rundown of your responsibilities.

No. 1 on my mind all day is application and system performance. Security, standards; implementation of standards across the board whether they apply to systems and operating systems for the application. That is in terms of the KnowledgeSphere [Spherion’s ERP integration of four applications: financials, human capital management, front office and services procurement], reporting applications, as well as our latest deployment of portal and our implementation strategy. Also guidance for longer-term strategy for building an application technology model that is able to accommodate the business’s changing needs.

What is your experience, your background?

I started as a systems architect. I was really focusing on server technologies to enable the applications that we were deploying. As time went on, though, and I worked for PeopleSoft and Dun & Bradstreet, I gained more knowledge of the applications and focused first on decision-support systems-reporting, warehousing, datamarting-applications that enabled business intelligence.

What sort of initiatives are on the board for you now?

One is an implementation of a new business-intelligence platform where enterprise data-marting and reporting are the focus. Second is the actual upgrade, which is an area where application system architects are heavily involved. These application upgrades are usually one-year-to-18-month projects and require looking at every piece of the architecture, every piece of the application, every piece of security that the system has run on.

What are some of the challenges you face in this position?

Influencing all parties that are concerned with the environment, all of those that have a stake in it, so they see a unified view. Without the personal buy-in from the folks that represent the different applications and different functions, the different systems areas, it is extremely difficult for any organization to be able to be successful in maintenance or deployment of systems or applications.

Where does this position fit in terms of the overall IT department’s organizational chart?

My position reports directly to our CIO.

What did it take to get into this position?

You come up through the ranks, but there has to be some expertise that you are able to provide. For me, it was working with Dun & Bradstreet. I first worked in a support organization and then found my way into a decision support role. I hone skills from Unix systems, AIX, HP operating systems, as well as databases, such as Sybase, DB2, Oracle and the other flavors.

At some point, I moved to the development organization and had a chance not only to play in the administration of the environment but to actually see the development and understand how a developer would go about building applications. I was able to see the needs and requirements for those applications, which truly is to the next stage to becoming what would be classified as an engineer. Dun & Bradstreet led to PeopleSoft and another intensive round of low-level expertise and practice, which led me to Spherion.

How have you seen this role mature over the past four or five years? Currently companies seem to by applying the concepts of this role to more fine-tuned areas, such as networking and specific applications.

Absolutely, that is happening. I have seen it change truly from a technical heads-down role into a more visible, more social role. This role is filled by someone who is able to socialize the ideas, thoughts and strategies and has the people skills to be able to span the divide that exists between certain technical groups or certain technical functions.

Previously, I think we as architects were purists in terms of technology. People that would deliver what they thought were the best solutions and then leave them on the table for others to really implement and go forth and to spread the word.

How does this position translate into helping Spherion generate revenue?

Increasing overall application performance, streamlining systems and application administration and creating a more flexible architecture to allow technology to be taken out of the business decision-making process, which enables us to be more nimble as an organization.

What sort of pay scale is associated with this position?

That depends on the organization. Industrywide across the board, I’ve seen the scale range anywhere from $85,000 to $180,000.