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Data architect vs. application architect: Segregate the duties

Find out the duties of data architects and application architects -- and why they should not overlap, according to a data modeling expert.

I have been asked to provide justification for a data architect to do the XSD modeling of data entities. I have prepared the Conceptual Entity Model and have elaborated on each entity (attributes and attribute properties) in a spreadsheet. The application architect has now requested that I help develop the XSDs for the model and also that I be the data architect and take ownership. The senior enterprise architect, though, believes that this responsibility is that of the application architect. What is your suggestion in this matter?
Would an application architect be responsible for designing a database implemented on a DBMS platform? The answer is almost always no. In the same manner, an application architect should not be responsible for designing an XML data store (whether that data store persists for seconds or months). The data architect's duties are to thoroughly understand the data (whether at rest or in transit), ensure that it is used correctly and securely, ensure that it meets business requirements and ensure that the models have sufficient semantic meta data (business meta data). The data architect must also ensure conformity to data standards, identify opportunities for reuse, and help to ensure that data, an enterprise asset, is properly leveraged (ideally, in conjunction with a Data Governance program).

In short, the data architect should be an objective third party, somewhat independent of the application team who...

is empowered with oversight and design of the data in the application. Just as an application architect is expected to be well-versed in software architecture, programming languages, programming methodologies, so must the data architect specialize in the field of data and meta data. There is usually too much involved to have one person be responsible for delivering a robust, scalable, reusable, high quality data architecture AND deliver a robust, high performance, high-quality application at the same time.

More information about data architecture and the duties of data architects

This was last published in July 2008

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