What does a data architect do: roles, responsibilities, and relevant trends

Photo ir. Rick Van der Linden
Author: ir. Rick Van der Linden
Senior Data Architect & Associate Partner
Table of Contents

Data is becoming an increasingly important asset for any organization, and the data architect plays a crucial role in it. They are the developer of a robust data infrastructure, they organize processes around data quality, metadata, and master data. The data architect must ensure that data is usable in every way, whether it is for analytics, reports, interactive dashboards, or algorithms. In this article, we consider the roles and responsibilities of the data architect (or DWH architect), the digital data revolution, the job profile, and key trends a data architect must consider.

Duties and responsibilities of the data warehouse architect

The main duties and responsibilities of the DWH architect or data architect include:

  • Ensuring that professionals can maintain the data properly, including the associated master data and metadata
  • Ensuring that systems store data securely so that no unauthorized persons can access it
  • Ensuring that employees can access the data quickly, reliably, and securely for everyone in the organization.

These are the essential things you can tell a data warehouse architect or data architect about. But there is of course much more to tell about what is important for the optimal design of your data architecture and the associated competencies and tools.

Is the data warehouse architect still necessary?

Developments in the field of data are happening quickly. There’s a strong tendency to fully automate the unlocking of sources in the data warehouse. Many self-service BI solutions have their own (in-memory) solutions to let users work with data quickly and simply. The solution to many Big Data questions is: throw it in a data lake, then we’ll decide what to do with the data and how to define it later. So the question is: do we still need a data warehouse architect?

The Data Architect & the digital data revolution

Passionned Group believes that a data warehouse architect is more essential than ever before. Careful consideration about the unlocking of data, singular definitions (metadata), and making data safely and securely accessible, are the keys to success for real data-driven organizations. Architects that think and work from data are more needed than ever. The data warehouse architects are caught in the middle of the digital data revolution.

The role of the DWH architect is changing

Role of a data warehouse architectBecause there is more and more data, as well as BI solutions, the role of the DWH architect is becoming more important. But it’s under an increasing amount of pressure because of the automation of many BI processes. We’re seeing the role of the data warehouse architect shift to that of a Data Architect. Which important factors should be considered?

  • What’s the new role of the Data Architect, and especially, what shouldn’t they do?
  • What expertise should the modern DWH architect possess or develop?
  • Which skills can you expect of a modern data architect?
  • How do you find the right data warehouse architects, and what should you look out for?
  • How can you demonstrate your success as a Data Architect?

Data that makes your organization more data-driven

There are many on-going developments, especially on a technological level. An ever-growing number of data sources is being automatically unlocked, and a growing number of sources have to be linked. More systems and processes need data faster and in greater volumes.

It still happens too many times that all this data is saved under the motto “just save it, maybe we’ll need it later.” The growth of data is enormous and the current data centers and storage solutions are still having difficulties handling the demand. The solution is in the Cloud. Unfortunately, this comes with its own caveats. How do you get the data there, does it fit in your data architecture, and what about privacy?

The Data Architect can make a difference

There’s still too little thought given to whether the data that people want to save will really be structurally necessary or relevant after x amount of years. The data warehouse architect is the one who makes the difference there, by looking critically at data. And they make the difference by saving data “neutrally”, and especially, together with the business, by looking at which insights are necessary at which points in the company process.

Collecting data is simple, but using it correctly is difficult. Only the modern data architect can make a difference in this.

How do you become a (modern) data warehouse architect

The data warehouse environment is changing quickly, and the data warehouse architect plays an increasingly important role in this. They have to cover not just the technical side, but also understand the business well and explain the concepts. That’s why Passionned Group developed a three-day Data Warehouse and Data Governance course. We also offer this as an in-company workshop. Contact us for more information.

Our knowledge base for the Data Architect

Aside from taking training courses, you can access our extensive knowledge base. Here, you can find information about the latest developments in data warehousing and data-driven working, among other things. There are also various books that discuss Business Analytics, Data Science, and information-driven working. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Technological and business developments sometimes go hand-in-hand and reinforce each other. The most important trends we’re seeing for a DWH architect include:

  • Self-service BI: end-users of BI solutions are purchasing their own BI tools and working with data independently. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but without knowledge and experience when it comes to Business Analytics, this can often lead to high expectations not being met.
  • DWH automation: it’s becoming easier and easier to automatically unlock sources, clean data, and fill data warehouses. These tools take a lot of repetitive work out of the hands of ETL programmers, for example. These solutions are still in their infancy, but the results are promising.
  • Increased data regulations: organizations have to comply with many regulations concerning security, privacy, and governance. The government, supervisors, and interest groups have drafted (external) guidelines for this. Organizations increasingly have to be able to demonstrate that they’re adequately controlling their data. If they’re not in compliance, they can face high fines, and their reputation can be irrevocably damaged.
  • New sources and their transient nature: traditionally, DWH environments are stable in terms of data. The definitions are clear and the goal is often clearly described. Big Data is changing all of that. The sources are fleeting, data quality can vary greatly, and the amount of sources is huge. You can only determine if Big Data sources provide new insight after the fact. By then the work has already been done. This is also the driver behind a lot of developments in the BI field that trend towards the Cloud.
  • Organizations doing data-driven steering: organizations are making decisions based on data more and more. This demands different competencies from management and a healthy dose of skepticism concerning the results presented on dashboards. The data warehouse architect has to be able to explain the origins and use of data.
  • Explosion of DWH tools: the amount of solutions for interpreting and processing data is growing rapidly. Whether it comes to automating ETL processes or purchasing BI tools, there’s a lot to consider. The tricky aspect here is that a lot of tools overlap in terms of functionality. That means a lot of work is being done twice. The DWH architect has to figure all this out.

It’s essential to make the right choices in data architecture and governance. Using the BI & Analytics Guide, we’ve been helping organizations to get a better understanding of the ETL and BI tools market for over 10 years.

Data Warehouse Training

Profile of the modern data warehouse architect

A data warehouse architect has to possess thorough technical know-how combined with ample communicative skills and persuasive power. The DWH architect being squirreled away in some corner of a department or stuck in an ivory tower is really a thing of the past now. The most important skills are:

  • Thorough knowledge of BI technologies and methods surrounding data warehousing, ETL tooling, data lakes, and advanced analytics.
  • Being creative and unconventional, but also having strong communication skills and persuasive power.
  • Knowledge of the principles, approach, and the various concepts and schools of thought within the BI field. These schools of thought can differ greatly, and it’s essential that the DWH architect makes the right choices.
  • The ability to test and defend choices made based on practical and conceptual arguments.
  • Strong abstract analytical thinking capacity.
  • Having deep knowledge of database languages, relational databases, and Big Data databases. They also have to be experienced using data models and Data Vaults.

With this foundation, the data warehouse architect is capable of helping organizations implement data provision correctly, securely, and in compliance with privacy laws.

Do you want to hire a Data Architect?

There are plenty of opportunities to hire Data architects. But Passionned Group only works with data warehouse architects with a broad range of experience with data modeling and countless data architectures. Data modeling has various schools of thought. We aren’t biased towards any one of them but work based on the information needs and maturity of the organization. What direction we go in depends on the outcome of the process and questions. We don’t assume anything. Our independence allows us to make the right choices with you better than anyone.

Our unique formula allows us to quickly introduce you to a DWH architect. After making a choice, we can usually complete the process within 48 hours. If you want to know more, or you have questions about an interim Data Architect, feel free to contact us.

Are you an interim DWH architect looking for work?

Passionned Group is regularly looking for experienced DWH architects to help its clients. Are you such a candidate, and do you want to broaden your horizon? We’d love to invite you for a conversation.

Do you have any lingering questions?

Do you have any questions as a data (warehouse) architect or the hiring of one? Are you unsure of how to broaden your knowledge? Or maybe you have a general question about analytics. Feel free to contact us and let us tell you what we have to offer.

About Passionned Group

Logo Passionned Group, the expert in Data ArchitectPassionned Group is a leading firm in designing and implementing Business Analytics. Our senior Data Scientists and consultants assist both large and small companies in becoming smarter enterprises. Every two years we organize the Dutch BI & Data Science Award™.

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Photo Rick Van der Linden - Senior Data Architect & Associate Partnerir. RICK VAN DER LINDENSenior Data Architect & Associate Partner
Photo Dick Pouw - Senior Datawarehouse ArchitectDICK POUW MBASenior Datawarehouse Architect

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