Software Architects are not Developers!
Architecture is crucial for all SW development activities. Without a long term view and a strategy for dealing with change that provides a flexible generic platform SW development will always get to a point where the accumulation of technical debt causes a complete collapse of productivity or even worse the need to throw away the existing system and start again.
I have seen this happen so many times because of the lack of understanding of the value of Architecture.
This particular problem is growing with the adoption of Agile development techniques as many of the proponents of Agile deny the need for Architecture or simply ignore it all together. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a passionate evangelical advocate of Agile development and all that it brings to the table. But, it is my view that we need to bring the maturity of the Architects view of the world to define and deliver the platform, environmental and developmental constraints that form the framework from which the Agile development practices can be utilized.
In my view it should not just be the simplest possible solution. It should be the simplest APPROPRIATE solution.
All of the above, IMO, is why an Architect should not be a glorified senior developer. Architects should be the guardians of the enterprise aligned with the business product development activities and a key stakeholder with specific business requirements that need to seen as being equal to the functional requirements by the development organization.
Architecture is a business function that needs unique individuals that have a deep breadth of technical knowledge AND an ability to converse with the business on their terms and to understand the business values in everything they do. If, on top of that , you are also expected to be a developer who can jump in an help with the code then the business does not understand the value a good Architect can bring.
I absolutely disagree with you that ‘.. architecture is not a full time activity’. IMO it very much is a full time activity, especially in today’s market where the rate of change and the potential growth expectations are so high. In this environment, in order to keep competitive, Architecture is much more important and must be a continual, full time evolutionary activity to keep ahead of the requirements that are coming down the pipeline.