Part 4 of 9

In this blog, we’re unpacking the Data Architect role. Traditionally a job only open to pure computer science or maths graduates, the new environment demands someone with skills of understanding the user, enabling individuals from a broad range of backgrounds the opportunity to enter the field.

Data Architects have been likened to inventors because they are tasked with inventing solutions to problems users may only realise they have in months from now. Requiring individuals with both innovation and forward-thinking and the ability to focus on the task today, a Data Architect is expected to consider what users are likely to ask and to create data models and user-interfaces that will deliver the answer to those questions.

Role Overview

Data Architects create blueprints for data management systems and are also responsible for their integration, centralisation, protection and maintenance. By developing a means to assess and provide access to critical information (both internal and external) the Data Architect ensures that employees have access to the right information at the right time and place.

A complex and difficult job, Data Architects are usually senior employees who would take care of the following:

  • Collaborates with IT teams and management to determine organisational goals and to devise a data strategy that addresses industry requirements

  • Building an inventory of data to implement the architecture, including researching new opportunities for data acquisition

  • Identifying and evaluating data management technologies to ensure clear end-to-end processes for information flow throughout the organisation

  • Designing, documenting, constructing and deploying database architectures and applications

  • Integrating technical functionality and implementing measures to ensure data accuracy and accessibility

  • Producing and enforcing database development standards to ensure a corporate repository of all data architecture artifacts and procedures are maintained

  • Produce and enforce database development standards, melding new systems and ensuring effective integration with existing structures


This highly technical job requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering or a related field. Most employers would look to see subjects including data management, programming, systems analysis and technology architectures.

Given the highly practical nature of this job, most important to prospective employers is experience. Typically, employers would look for a minimum of five years exposure to application architecture and network management.


Analytical Problem-solving

High-level data challenges require a keen eye on what’s important – employing the right methods to make maximum use of time and human resources.

Technical Skills

In a dynamic environment such as this, technical skill competence can change rapidly, and this therefore serves as a guideline.

  • Application server software (e.g. Oracle)

  • Database management system software (e.g. Microsoft SQL Server)

  • User interface and query software (e.g. IBM DB2)

  • Enterprise application integration software (e.g. XML)

  • Development environment software

  • Backup/archival software

  • Agile methodologies and ERP implementation

  • Predictive modeling, NLP and text analysis

  • Data modeling tools (e.g. ERWin, Enterprise Architect and Visio)

  • Data mining

  • UML

  • ETL tools

  • Python, C/C++ Java, Perl

  • UNIX, Linux, Solaris and MS Windows

  • Hadoop and NoSQL databases

  • Machine learning

  • Data visualisation

Effective Communication

Active listening to management and other staff members to understand their needs and come up with the best data design as well as the ability to explain complex concepts to non-technical colleagues

Effective Project (and People) Management

Ability to direct and advise a team of data modelers, data engineers, database administrators and junior architects, often to tight timeframes and with limited budget/resources

Industry Knowledge

Knowledge and understanding of what drives business in the chosen sector/industry and how effectively to capture, analyse and store information, whilst maintaining flexibility in the face of big data developments.

Career Pathway

Most Data Architects begin their careers as Database Administrators or entry-level programmers. The day-to-day experience of handling data management tasks means these individuals gain a thorough understanding of how data is stored and utilised.

Similar to Data Engineers, Data Architects are not involved in the analysis of information, but rather the provision of said information to others for analysis.

Remuneration Trends

Just like many technical professions, remuneration is linked to the experience, seniority and skill set of an individual. The complexity of the industry/environment can also have a bearing on the remuneration offered. Currently Data Architects are earning between R600k and R1m per annum. In exceptional circumstances, some individuals with specific/scarce skills may earn upwards of R1 million per annum.

Outlook: Future of Work

The need for Data Architects is growing as every organisation, no matter how big or small, gets to grips with the deluge of information coming at it daily. Whereas data management systems of the past were relatively straightforward – setting up a structure, consolidating information and then making specific information to individual departments at regular reporting periods, today’s flood of real-time information has changed the game.

Unstructured data (e.g. audio, video, text, social media streams) is being utilised to make business decisions and this means that Data Architects now to mix new technology, such as Hadoop, with existing relational databases to create flexible, cost-effective and secure infrastructure.

Perhaps, most tricky of all, figuring out how to have access to all the information, all the time, but creating access to the right people in the business to have just enough information to be able to make timely, accurate decisions without being overwhelmed by the noise big data often creates.

Our Data & Analytics Expertise

Look out for the other installments in this 9-part series, where we unpack each of the 8 core roles within the Data & Analytics environment. Visit to view our blog and make sure you follow us on our TSR social media platforms to access each part in the series.

If you’re looking for an opportunity within the Data & Analytics space and would like to have a confidential career conversation, please get in touch with our expert recruiter, Sheila Mtakwa ( And if you’re looking to enhance your organisation’s data or analytical capability, look no further. We’d be delighted to meet with you for a no-obligation consultation on how to boost your chances of securing the best talent available in the market.