In English or Spanish, the term "technique", "technic", "técnica" holds a central feature: it refers to applied knowledge, and while it might refer to scientific knowledge, it is properly referred to theoretical knowledge. "Technique" is just applied theoretical knowledge, which is equivalent to say "using the hands with some theoretical background".

The technique of playing the piano is the application of knowledge to the process of playing piano. I can play a piano, but given that I don't know (or I don't have) the "technique", surely I will play horribly. Even if I have the theoretical knowledge (e.g. I know the musical theory), lacking the capability of applying such knowledge prevents me from playing. So, ok for the concept.

But in French informatics, there's a particular type of document that has a bizarre title: le "Document d'Architecture Technique" (see here), which is part of a documentary set of systemic descriptions. However, this document refers to... infrastructure. What??

Such name is completely counterintuitive: "technique" is understood here as material or physical.

In addition, ALL documents describing a system need to be technical, that is, should be the application of theoretical knowledge in the concerned domain (e.g. l'Architecture Fonctionnelle is necessary a technical document which refers to the functional description of the system).

I assume that, as it happens sometimes, I'm missing something here. Why is "technique" here associated with physical or material? Or it is just the informatics community use the language in the wrong manner?

Update: From a discussion with French colleagues, this is useful: outside the IT domain, théorique is equivalent to savoir as technique is equivalent to savoir faire. This misuse "technique" = "physique" seems only present in the IT domain.

  • 2
    Here "Technique" is the opposite of "fonctionnel". In IT projects, you have the business part (métier/fonctionnel), i.e. what to do opposed to the technical part (how to do it).
    – XouDo
    Jul 5 at 15:16
  • 1
    @XouDo Exactly. The "Fonctionnel" side is "the client must be able to see their balance, in their own currency", and "technique" side is "I must query the database with the correct filters and display the results in the interface". The physical side would be the physically setting up and maintaining the servers etc. "Infrastructure" is not literal and refers to the computer infrastructure (databases etc) Jul 5 at 15:21
  • @XouDo "Technique" can be related to HOW-TO, but this is not what a Document d'Architecture Technique is about, far from it! "How to do it" is not a systems architecture concern, but of systems engineering (see some examples of HOWTOs... see? rien a voir avec l'architecture!). The four types of docs (fonctionnel, operative, applicatif, deployment="technical") are descriptions of the same object from different perspectives, not HOWTOs, that's why this term feels so badly, used in the "physical" sense.
    – RodolfoAP
    Jul 6 at 6:56
  • 1
    "technical assignment"? I'd argue that "technique/technical" has multiple meanings in English as well. Jul 8 at 6:55
  • 2
    @RodolfoAP where in the article you linked to is it written that architecture technique is "par rapport au déploiement physique"? It's one of its components, but definitely not the whole thing. Jul 8 at 13:15

5 Answers 5


Your assumptions are not wrong, very close to the truth, because in French "Document d'architecture technique" means "A document containing technical informations". Normally "Technique" is an adjective that describes the noun "Document", but in this particular case, it is likely telling about the nature of the things the document contains, and reading here "Documents technique", I immediately know that it contains things that are not abstract, things that can be implemented into "Actions". And so, it is a "Document technique" (A document of practical things) in opposition to "Document théorique ou spéculatif" (A speculative document containing abstract things such as formula, analysis, interpretations of evens). In a word, "Technique" here is an adjective describing not the subject "Document", but rather describes what it contains (which is for now encapsulated, unknown).

  • 1
    Much like a fiche technique, or in English a spec sheet. The specifications of what we don't know, but we will if we read it.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 5 at 21:45
  • 2
    In my understanding, technique refers to the architecture (of the software or considered system) rather than the document itself.
    – XouDo
    Jul 6 at 5:42
  • Yeah @XouDo, we're saying the same thing, for I said "Technique" refers not to "Document", but to what the document tells about, and here the document tells about "Architecture". That said, "Technique" refers to "Architecture" in some practical ways, not in some speculative ways. And just like Luke Sawczak said, we practically know what is said about the architecture, if we read the doc, like a spec sheet.
    – Himmels DJ
    Jul 6 at 11:55
  • 1
    @XouDo "technique refers to the architecture": wrong. Technical means applied (also savoir faire), and its is the counterpart to theoretical (savoir). Technical (savoir faire) not only refers to the the architecture (conception) but also to the engineering (construction).
    – RodolfoAP
    Jul 7 at 7:08
  • 1
    @RodolfoAP I think you misinterpreted. Technique can apply to anything you want. My point is, in the sentence "document d'architecture -technique", technique is an adjective for architecture.
    – XouDo
    Jul 7 at 7:40

Consider a project : building a bridge.

The fonctionnel is What the system should do:

The demandes fonctionnelles (ou métier), i.e. what the business asks for:

  • must cross the river
  • must be able to support 35t vehicles
  • must keep a clearance of 3m underneath for boats to pass.

The technique is how to do it:

Now the engineering team could come up with any of the following solutions techniques to satisfy those demands:

  • a suspension bridge.
  • a bow-string bridge.
  • a cable-stayed bridge.
  • etc.

As you see, for one (or several) demands, the engineering team makes an architectural and technical choice.

My Example was purposely not in the IT fields, to show you that the fonctionnel vs technique consideration are not specific to IT.

You have the same opposition in Maîtrise d'ouvrage vs Maîtrise d’œuvre

Finally, concerning technique meaning material or physical, It seems to me it's a subtle sliding from the original meaning from non-theoretical, practical to concrete, thus material, physical.

  • 1
    Although definitions are not bad, this doesn't address the question. How is "technique" = "physique"? The contradiction is clear even in french (in this random search, fonctionnel is part of technique, as in english/spanish; it is not "physical").
    – RodolfoAP
    Jul 7 at 5:48
  • @RodolfoAP No, you can't say "technique"="physique" in french, even in the IT field. Why? because physique/matériel is also the opposite of logiciel (adj. software). So you won't call "architecture physique/matérielle" a document detailing (among other things) software module or it would misinterpreted as a description of the physical infrastructure only (servers, machines).
    – XouDo
    Jul 8 at 13:37

From your link:

Le DAT (document d’architecture technique) est un document réalisé par un architecte technique.

This is not my field, but when I looked at architecte technique, I found the following comment:

Dans le terme architecte technique, l'adjectif technique ne se rapporte pas à proprement parler à l'architecte, mais plutôt aux composantes matérielles et logicielles du système informatique sur lequel il travaille. Cette figure de style appelée hypallage consiste à accoler un adjectif à un terme auquel il ne convient pas logiquement, sans qu'il soit possible pour autant de se méprendre sur le sens du terme ainsi formé.[...] (GDT)

An hypallage is « a construction in which a modifier with meaning associated with one word appears grammatically applied to another, often used as a literary device » (Wiktionary) ; the dictionary provides examples, such as "drunk driving - it is a driver not the "driving" that is drunk" (Wiktionary). So I would argue that the modifier technique doesn't apply to architecture nor to document but rather refers to the "composantes matérielles et logicielles du système informatique" involved. I don't believe there is anything wrong with that.

  • "I don't believe there is anything wrong with that". That is completely WRONG for any technician. In any technical discipline, precise language is the only mean to communicate complex ideas. For example, in philosophy, there's an opposition between metaphysical (non-physical) and physical/material. If you don't see anything wrong, you can use metaphysical as the counterpart of technical (physical/material, as presented), which is a complete aberration, the problem addressed by the question.
    – RodolfoAP
    Jul 7 at 11:56
  • I sort of hear you, but I don't believe the language lacks any precision here, just you're unfamiliar with it which is normal since you're a learner, and you want it to fit what you know about English or Spanish. It doesn't and need not to. I don't see it as different than drunk driving. Precision is not about everything being literal or mathematical, this is language. If anything, French is more precise than anything else imho. Jul 8 at 21:12

You might be mistaking what is really an IT industry vocabulary quirk for a French language problem.

The French Wikipedia page for IT architecture mentions architecture technique as one of the different kinds of architecture, however that paragraph cites English language books as sources. I didn't check what these books say, but chances are there is a strict English equivalent to architecture technique.

Actually, IT management frameworks such as ITIL, TOGAF also seem to have a concept of "business architecture" vs "technology" or "technical" architecture... https://medium.com/@arindey/enterprise-architecture-frameworks-togaf-itil-cobit-pmbok-88a3e4dca82c

  • It might even be a vocabulary quirk from a particular website, not the (french?) IT industry.
    – XouDo
    Jul 8 at 14:16

The adjective technique doesn't necessarily mean matérielle. It is essentially the opposite of non-technique.


I.- D. − [Par opposition à général, commun, courant] Qui relève d'une activité ou d'une discipline spécialisée, et suppose des connaissances spécifiques. Dictionnaire, ouvrage, revue technique; discussion technique. La presse technique. Il y a tout de même des gens qui ont misé toute leur passion sur une technique et pour qui s'édite une presse technique fort abondante (Civilis. écr., 1939, p. 36-13). Ces cours s'adressent à des auditeurs qui possèdent une solide culture générale et technique (Encyclop. éduc., 1960, p. 178).

In the MWD, the second definition of "Nontechnical" is:

b: not being or using technical or specialized terminology.
// The doctor explained the effects of the disease in nontechnical terms.
// Most of the writing in this book is nontechnical, meaning that it can be understood by the 99.7 percent of the public who are trained in neither science nor engineering.

The opposite of "nontechnical" would then be: "something that might not be easily understood by someone who does not have a science or engineering background".

That's close to what a document d'architecture technique can be. It describes what is "under the hood", how things are done (whether hardware or not). On the opposite, the document d'architecture fonctionnelle describes the high level functions of the system, i.e. what the end-users expect described in a way that does not require scientific or technical expertise1. We also call these documents the documentation métier, meaning targeted to the user, not the builder. Two different layers of competencies are addressed.

The architecture technique often encompasses the architecture matérielle but is not limited to it and might even not include anything material (a piece of software has a technical architecture too, security is immaterial but still part of the architecture technique).

I don't see any fundamental difference between the French expression document d'architecture technique and what can be referred to as technical documentation in English or arquitectura técnica in Spanish. However, I agree technique is not used the same way as matérielle or fonctionnelle. Technique applies to document d'architecture as a whole while matérielle and fonctionnelle only apply to architecture. We can say, c'est un document technique but not c'est un document fonctionnel or c'est un document matériel. Nevertheless, architecture technique might be used alone.

"Technical" and "functional" are used to qualify "architecture" in this wikipedia page the same way their word by word translations in French would be:

In the case of a so-called technical architecture, the architecture must be communicated to software developers; a functional architecture is communicated to various stakeholders and users.

You wrote: In addition, ALL documents describing a system need to be technical, that is, should be the application of theoretical knowledge in the concerned domain (e.g. l'Architecture Fonctionnelle is necessary a technical document which refers to the functional description of the system).

You are right but the difference is the that the architecture fonctionnelle target readers will necessarily understand these documents because they use the vocabulary of their métier. On the opposite, a developer might be confortable with the architecture technique but have no clue about what functionalities the overall system will provide to the end users.

1 Of course, there are cases where the end user has a scientific and technical expertise anyway but that would generally be in a different domain.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.