The Strategic Role of a Solution Architect
Let’s kickstart this article with how all good things start, right from the beginning. Before we delve into the depths of what a Solution Architect does, let us shed some light on what Solution Architecture is.
Solution Architecture is the process of creating a set of “enterprise solutions, applications, and processes that integrate with each other in order to address specific needs and requirements.” Another straight-to-the-point definition, Solution Architecture “is an architectural description of a specific solution.”
Pretty simple, right? In short, Solution Architecture is the process of designing solutions that meet a company’s set of needs. Normally, the solution architecture is overseen and directed by a Solution Architect, and here is where we go deep.
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What is the difference between a software product and a software solution?
What is a software solution? How is it different from a software product or an IT product?
Generally speaking, a software product's goal is aimed at solving a particular collection of tasks. Traditionally, this would be a niche application that adequately solves issues and meets user needs in terms of calculations, storage, and data processing.
In stark contrast, a software solution takes more broad yet domain-specific tasks, and solves them. The software solution covers both primary needs as well as a comprehensive scope of tasks based on software products, applications, cloud systems, and more.
Software solutions help businesses access a toolkit of instruments that offer end-to-end task management and IT support, both for internal and external processes, customers, and services. Of course, each organization is different which means that solutions need to be tailored to meet the unique business needs of an organization, making it possible to quickly and reliably address specific tasks.
What does a Solution Architect do?
In recent years, the concept of a Solution Architect has been floating around all over the software development world, but it's done without a clear sense of direction.
The Solution Architect has the strategic role of designing and planning solutions in a technology environment. Essentially, this individual leads processes that help develop solutions for enterprise architecture in the sense of the business, information, and a technical standpoint.
Solution Architects have skills that make it incredibly easy to design, build, and lead the execution of a solution with accuracy and efficiency. Next, we'll dissect the anatomy of a proficient Solution Architect.
The anatomy of a Solution Architect
Solution Architects don't necessarily have standard anatomy but there are shared traits that distinctively set them apart from other roles.
In their core, Solution Architects have the valuable ability to run with a set of requirements and transform them into a full-fledged architecture that will serve as the blueprint of the solution's success. Solution Architects are capable of making complex tasks seem relatively simple, and it's all thanks to their robust knowledge in all things tools, techniques, technologies, and field expertise.
If you're wondering the skills that a Solution Architect must possess, search no more:
- Expert communication: Ability to communicate technical aspects, risks, challenges, and selling points of the solution with ease and clarity. As orchestratators of the solution, the Solution Architect oversees and nurtures the relationships between business analysts, project managers, vendors, developers, and any other party involved. Additionally, the Solution Architect can provide advice, explanations, empathy, influence, and negotiation skills to expertly navigate the solution.
- Risk management and identification: Solution Architects must identify, evaluate, and assess risks to mitigate them and eliminate any factor that might hinder the successful delivery of the solution. Solution Architects know how to identify and reduce the threat of risks via tests in performance, security, user experience, and more.
- Mastery of the software development process and technical skills: Solution Architects must possess vast knowledge in technical aspects of the project to be able to provide guidance, identify risks, and assess the technology infrastructure of the solution. Because Solution Architects deal with many technical disciplines, it’s important that they are well informed about all the elements that play a role in the solution. While Solution Architects aren’t in the driver’s seat, technical knowledge provides them with the confidence, credibility, and expertise to advise and guide the solution in the right path.
- Detail-oriented: The Solution Architect must be a detail-oriented individual. There are many components that influence and affect the solution, which is why the Solution Architect must ensure constant and consistent evaluation of every aspect, as minor as it may seem, to understand what is valuable and discard what may be insignificant.
- Solution construction and management: Solution Architects are capable of shaping, designing and managing a solution from beginning to end. To achieve this, Solution Architects must be assertive, responsible, and be multi-taskers to ensure the solution is satisfactorily built and managed.
- People skills: Solution Architects must maneuver and manage business requirements and expected outcomes from numerous groups that work in the solution. Without people skills, Solution Architects don’t have the confidence and credibility to solve problems or to have the team trust their guidance.
- Resource management: Solution Architects must be capable of using resources efficiently and effectively. Resource management is crucial to staying within the budget, meeting deadlines, and providing a well-rounded solution without hiccups, which is why Solution Architects are critical in this area.
Technical background and experience
Given the strategic place that Solution Architects hold, their technical background and experience prior to entering this role must be evaluated and meet a specific set of needs.
Solution Architects are often considered consultants who examine a system’s architecture, as well as business and technical aspects to suggest a solution. Thus, it’s important that Solution Architects hold a degree, certifications or provable IT experience.
As far as technical background, Solution Architects come from a variety of fields including computer science, information technology, software engineering, and other areas related to technology.
For experience, Solution Architects are required to have practical skills and knowledge in:
- Computer and operating systems.
- Infrastructure and engineering design.
- System security measures.
- Business analysis.
- Database management.
- Cloud development.
- Web platforms.
- Hardware and software management.
- Network administration.
- Project and product management.
Solution Architect Soft Skills
Often overlooked but equally important as technical or hard skills, soft skills play a crucial role in the world of Software Architecture.
Typically, Solution Architects work with the many moving parts of a whole solution, which is why it's critically important that Solution Architects communicate with domain experts and stakeholders, manage the IT team's performance, and possess the right mix of soft skills that help set projects apart.
Here are the key soft skills needed by Solution Architect roles:
- Leadership skills. Have a sense of the correct strategy and the ability to lead the whole team.
- Verbal and written communication. Correctly explain one's standing and current status, negotiate with clients, stakeholders, and the team, and communicate problems and tasks concisely and clearly.
- Results-oriented workflow. Put results first without sacrificing the architecture.
- Responsive to new conditions. Rapidly respond to changes in external environments and rebuild in the direction of solving new problems.
- Analytical thinking & critical-oriented skills. Think critically, question your decisions, approach problem solving analytically, correctly formulate questions are important characteristic skills for a solution architect, which saved a lot of projects from collapse.
- Problem-solving skills. Focus on primary tasks, providing quick and high-quality solutions to issues that are necessary for primary business. These qualities are very important for a solution architect, especially for beginners.
Solution Architect roles
There are several Solution Architect can wear many hats; here's a list of some of the most prominent Solution Architect roles:
- Design solutions that mesh ideally with an enterprise environment.
- Recommend best practices for the entire solution.
- Comply with all technical and business requirements.
- Scrutinize project constraints to analyze alternatives, mitigate risks, and conduct process re-engineering as necessary.
- Select the technology stack and perform a resource evaluation.
- Act as a liaison between the technical and sales teams to convert requirements into outcomes.
Solutions Architect responsibilities
The Solutions Architect responsibilities include:
- Conduct an architectural system evaluation.
- Analyze the technology environment.
- Define a collaboration framework.
- Analyze technical and business requirements.
- Define a procedure and process to ensure solution delivery.
- Create a solution prototype.
- Take part in the technology selection.
- Comply with strategic guidelines and architecture.
- Control the solution development.
- Collaborate with project management and IT development teams.
These are the top challenges that Solution Architects face:
- Technology is constantly changing: Solution Architects must stay on top of the latest technologies, techniques, and tools, which can be daunting and time-consuming.
- Accountability: If a project fails, the Solution Architect is usually at the top of the list of people who are responsible for its shortcomings.
- Balance: Because there are so many factors that affect a solution, the Solution Architect must be diligent about covering all of them in a balanced and accurate way.
- Requirements: A company’s initially defined functional, technical, and business requirements may not always be necessary or well-documented. Thus, it is a challenge for Solution Architects to identify the listed requirements that are non-essential and that can be discarded given the sheer volume of requirements involved in solution architecture.
- Catering to stakeholders: Stakeholders have concerns and key needs that must be addressed while also balancing the needs of the technical development team. Solution Architects are at the heart of this crossroad.
Overview of the different architecture roles
There are a number of architecture roles in the IT market, but the three roles with the biggest resonance are Enterprise Solution Architect, Solution Architect, and Technical Architect.
This article focuses on the Solution Architect role, but for clarity, here’s a brief explanation of the other two roles and how they compare to the Solution Architect role.
Enterprise Solution Architect role description
The Enterprise Solution Architect oversees the IT infrastructure of an entire enterprise in terms of business entities, properties, external ecosystems, relationships, and more. Enterprise Architects focus on building robust solutions that solve a critical strategic issue.
Usually, Enterprise Architects supervise and take a back seat role by delegating specific tasks to specialists in particular areas. The principal involvement of Enterprise Architects is ensuring the company, as an entity, has streamlined IT application lifecycles and uses the technologies best suited for each application.
Technical Architect role description
To put it simply, Technical Architects provide leadership and guidance to IT development teams. Technical Architects are in charge of a specific engineering, software architecture or implementation technology.
Technical Architects play a technical leadership role to define standards and practices that should be followed throughout a solution project. Technical Architects work closely with technical development teams and executives to communicate information technology strategies, design overviews, applications, and more.
How do companies benefit from leveraging the expertise of a Solution Architect?
Over the past couple of years, the demand for solution architects has grown dramatically due to the ability to solve a wide range of problems in companies.
While it is a challenging role, it is also a role born out of experience, which helps bear the burden of an entire solution deployment.
Solution Architects are individuals who can deal with complex environments while delivering value. Their relevance is increasing in a world where solutions are the conjunction of technology, resources, skills, and business goals.
Companies benefit from using a solution architect as they have to work on increasingly complex and difficult projects. This is because Solution Architects, as we previously mentioned, carry a toolbelt of skills and expertise that help identify processes, risks, technologies, and business outcomes involved in delivering a top-notch solution.
In the near future, the role of a Solution Architect will continue to evolve. It is not a static role and that is why it is still a work in progress. With this transformation and the opportunity for growth, more and more professionals are setting their sights on this promising position that is already one of the highest-paid jobs in the IT industry.
Solution Architects are highly valuable assets in any enterprise, but their significance becomes more distinct in large-sized companies that require a robust solution architecture framework. In a challenging technology environment, Solution Architects are some of the best allies to have on your team to align business requirements with technology solutions.
Svitla Systems takes the complexity out of your hands and builds your company’s software architecture from the ground up. With the right combination of people, tools, and technology, we orchestrate the best strategies to achieve the best degree of operational efficiency through a robust software solution.
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