Architect or Architecting?

A discussion has arisen on one of the IBM forums about whether the verb that describes what architects do (as in “to architect” or “architecting”) is valid English or not. The recommendation in the IBM word usage database has apparently always been that when you need a verb to describe what an architect does use “design,” “plan,” or “structure”. Needless to say this has generated quite a bit of comment (145 at the last count) including:

  • Police are policing, judges are judging, dancers are dancing, why then aren’t architects architecting?
  • Architects are not “architecting” because they design.
  •  I feel a need to defend the term ‘architecting’. Engineers do engineering, architects do architecting. We have the role of software or system architecture and the term describes what they do. There is a subtle but useful distinction between a software designer and a software architect that was identified about 30 years ago by the then IBMer Fred Brooks in his foundational text, The Mythical Man Month.
  • From a grammatical point of view use of “architecting” as a verb or gerund is as poor as using leverage as a verb… and as far as meaning is concerned, as poor as any platitude used when knowledge of precise content and detail is lacking.

As someone who has co-authored a book called The Process of Software Architecting I should probably declare more than a passing interest in this and feel that the verb ‘architecting’ or ‘to architect’ is perfectly valid. Whether it is strictly correct English or not I will leave to others far better qualified to pass judgment on. My defence of using architect as a verb is that there is a, sometimes subtle, difference between architecture and design (Grady Booch says “all architecture is design but not all design is architecture”) and although architects do perform elements of design, that is not all they do. I, for one, would not wish to see the two confused.

The definition of architecting we use in the book  The Process of Software Architecting comes from the IEEE standard 1471-2000 which defines architecting as:

The activities of defining, documenting, maintaining, improving, and certifying proper implementation of an architecture.

As a related aside on whether adding ‘ing’ to a noun to turn int into a verb is correct English or not it is interesting to see that the ‘verbing’ of nouns is picking up pace at the London Olympics where we now seem to have ‘medaling’ and ‘platforming’ entering the English language.

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3 thoughts on “Architect or Architecting?

  1. Hi Pete. I have recently read your book (a very good read!) and also have been reviewing the references. I thought other readers may be interested to know that the international standard for architecture description IEEE 1471-2000 has now been superseeded by an updated and ISO-IEC-IEEE 42010 (2011)…which i see also references your book! This updated standard adds some some additional words to the definition of architecting:

    “process of conceiving, defining, expressing, documenting, communicating, certifying proper implementation of, maintaining and improving an architecture throughout a system’s life cycle”

  2. Peter, Many thanks for your comment and for updating us on the new spec. I shall be taking a look at it and see whether there are any blog entries worth making about it. Thanks.

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