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SOA Skills: Enterprise architects in demand, job researcher finds

There is a growing demand for service-oriented architecture professionals and a broadening of the definition of the SOA skill set.

Service-oriented architecture is driving demand for IT professionals with skills and certifications, according to David Foote, co-founder, CEO and chief research officer for Foote Partners.

His firm tracks the demand for specific SOA certifications including project management professional (PMP) and the IT certified architect from the Open Group, which he describes as a "guru, master level architect," as well as beginner and intermediate certifications. There are also non-certified jobs in SOA.

"SOA is a huge collection of skills," Foote said. "There's a lot to SOA so it's a very, very broad category."

There is growing demand for SOA architects, but he does not lump all architects into one category.

"In SOA there are so many types of architects that there is a continuum of architects," Foote said. "On one end of the scale are pure technical architects. On the other end of the scale are purely business architects, who work in IT but are much more conversant with the business."

He hastens to add that business architects will know the technology involved in SOA, but their job is not focused on deep technical architecture and systems integration. Their job is to look at SOA from a much more strategic business point of view.

In the middle between the technical and business architects in Foote's continuum are the architects that make the nitty-gritty decisions such as what products to purchase to implement SOA in their organization.

Middle tier architects focus on choosing products that are scalable, extensible, and customizable, so they can be used in a variety of SOA applications, he said.

"They're the ones who are trying to reduce spending overall on technology by choosing products that will work in future applications," Foote said.

As SOA adoption has become more widespread people with architecture skills are increasingly in demand, he said.

"Most companies we talk to have architects but they need five-times as many," Foote said.

He finds that companies are seeking architects who not only understand SOA but understand their particular business and even their specific corporate culture. To accomplish that, he said, some companies are developing architects in-house with IT professionals who already know the business and culture.

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"Companies are willing to pay a lot of money to find and develop that talent," Foote said. "I think SOA has really pushed this because companies realize you need people with architecture skill sets to do this well.

For his part, Michael R. Rollings, senior analyst at Burton Group Inc. said that the ability to communicate with business people is an important skill for SOA architects. In a report, Rollings said it is important for architects to understand how business processes are viewed and carried out by other people from other departments or areas within an organization. The architect can then incorporate that into an SOA design that will better meet the business needs, he said.

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