And what incentive is there for them to accept it?
Mike Walker has an interesting post comparing the architect roles across the building and software industries, entitled The Nemesis of Software Architecture. Comparisons aside, there's one point that I really wanted to pick up on.
4. Accountability Inherent - Building architects are accountable for there work when their specification fail while software architects are not. An example of this is the case of an architect stealing a design for the Freedom Tower or the example of MIT that sued well known architect for defective structures. There is clear accountability whereas I still haven't heard of someone getting sued for copy & paste...
I'm a big proponent of software architects having the responsibility and authority to ensure that the projects they are working on come to a successful conclusion, but it does raise an interesting question of why project sponsors don't typically hold software architects accountable. Perhaps it's because the dynamics and roles of everybody on the project team aren't well understood in most cases. For example, what's the working relationship between a project manager and an architect; or the developers and an architect? Or maybe it's because our agile approaches tend to favour sharing the responsibility throughout the entire team, which can end up with the project lacking a single coherent and consistent direction.
In order to address this, maybe we need to go back to basics. Why aren't software architects explicitly given accountability at the outset of a project and what incentive is there for them to accept it?