Have you noticed how fast construction sites spring up around us? One day you see a plot of land with earthmovers and bulldozers busy at work,the next day a sparkling new building stands ready to greet you. Now, this happening overnight might be a slight exaggeration, but by following a specific process, construction companies have reduced the time and cost that would be involved in a venture. The magical ingredient? A phase-by-phase incremental “building on what is already built” approach.
In the tech industry, a solution architect plays a similar role. Over the past couple of years, tech trends like cloud migrations and service-oriented software applications have created many new market opportunities for enterprises across sectors and verticals. With the world around us evolving rapidly, these market opportunities have arisen to combat the unique challenges both enterprises and individuals face today.
A solution architect is essential to every development initiative right from the first stage. Here, he is tasked with formulating business objectives and incorporating them into the software architecture he designs.
When tech solutions are not tailored to enterprises and their customers’ unique needs, sub-optimal outcomes and avoidable problems can quickly arise. Digital products need to be closely scrutinized throughout the SDLC so that they match the client’s requirements. An ideal tech solution should push the benchmark of industry standards and adhere to established best practices and guidelines. In short, it must synergize with the client’s business interests.
Here is where the need for Solution Architecture (SA) makes an appearance. At its core, solution architecture is an architectural representation of the software product being developed. It is based on vetted and time-tested processes. As one of the first steps to creating an enterprise-grade tech asset/software solution, solution architecture as a procedure and job role is deployed to ensure that the software meets the client’s needs. He facilitates seamless assimilation of the software into the client’s enterprise architecture as well.
From the high ground, solutions architects can be clearly seen as the links between enterprise and technical architects. Together, they aim to create the perfect IT asset that resolves a client’s pain points.
According to Statista, An 11.3% CAGR rise in deployment of enterprise software is estimated to drive the market growth to $421 billion by 2025.
But who is a Solution Architect? What role does he play in the software development lifecycle , and can an enterprise do without one? In this comprehensive guide detailing everything you need to know about a Solution Architect, you will find your answers. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
The Role of a Solution Architect
Given that the tech landscape is evolving rapidly, defining the role of a solution architect can lack consensus. Similar to the functional scope of an enterprise architect, solution architecture as a job role involves certain levels of abstraction, especially hard to pinpoint when viewed through a theoretical or non-technical lens.
Many enterprises make the mistake of merely hiring an enterprise architecture specialist who delegates tasks to the development teams. They do this in a bid to cut out the middle-man, i.e., the solution architect. However, this manoeuvre can prove risky, given that having a solution architect in the fray, is essential to ensure the correct implementation of the solution being developed.
Now, comes the question of a clear demarcation of the role a solution architect plays. The skills required for the position, and how a solution architect can assist in managing a software development project.
- Concept Model Creation
- Procedural Management
The main role of a solution architect is to come up with the best possible solution to technical problems and roadblocks. Solution architecture best practices detail this process. When creating a conceptual model, a solution architect uses established industry standards and process patterns, most often in the form of a written doc or a solution architecture diagram.
Contrary to what most believe, a solution architect does not hang up his gloves and retire to the bleachers once he has handed out instructions. The role of a solutions architect is hands-on and requires him to work closely with technical architects to manage procedures imperative for project success.
A solution architect presides over schedules and deadlines and oversees core development tasks. He also ensures that every action aligns with the client’s business requirements.
At the first glance, many similarities can be noted between the role of a solution architect and that of a technical project manager. Both are responsible for keeping track of project progress throughout the phases of the SDLC.
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- Ecosystem Awareness
- Enhancing Credibility
An ideal solution architect should have a large variety of technical skills as well as vetted experience in his field. The reason for this is straightforward- Solution architects function as essential links between IT operations and business strategy teams.
A solution architect must therefore have in-depth knowledge of the client organization’s tech architecture ecosystem as well as the technical solutions the client already owns.
The role of a solution architect incorporates the responsibility of establishing credibility between IT teams and business decision-makers (This is why great communication skills that extend to both technical and non-technical audiences is a desirable trait in a solution architect).
What Does a Solutions Architect Do?
A solution architect must clearly understand concepts like target audiences, future development and extension plans for the software, plausible integrations with existing tech, and knowledge of business processes and the company’s IT environment.
- Project Management
- Technical Issue Resolution
- Support and Maintenance
- Proposal Drafting
- Technology Implementation
- Team Coordination
Solution architects work in tandem with product managers, and in some teams, these roles often rest on one person. In others, the solution architect’s role leans a little more towards the actual engineering facets of the solution’s development process.
A solution architect also holds the responsibility of taking a call on various technical issues incorporated in the SDLC. From choosing the technology stack and programming language to the choice of frameworks and security protocols, a solution architect oversees the entire infrastructure of the software product development.
The solution architect plays a crucial role in the SDLC. His influence only increases as questions of support, maintenance and upgradation arise. In simple terms, the solution architect is tasked with evaluating all business pre-requisites and delivering answers to business problems in the form of software products/services.
Once a solution architect is presented with a need gap, a solution architect must deliver answers to business issues. He must also proactively lead the development process to synergized success.
Solution architecture incorporates numerous processes and sub-processes of varying complexity. A solution architect plays a pivotal role in successfully introducing and implementing a new technology solution for the client.
1. The first step requires the solution architect to scrutinize the various elements of the client’s business. He must expend efforts looking for opportunities where the implementation of technology can add value or be applied to resolve existing issues.
2. The next step involves the solution architect sending forward a proposal detailing the building blocks required for an optimal fix. This process is very detailed and serves as a connection between enterprise architects and technical architects. Therefore, a solution architect must have significant knowledge of the technical and business gears of the client’s company.
Once a solution architect has designed a solution for a pressing issue, now his job is to manage implementation tasks and activities. A solution architect must oversee all associated risks throughout the implementation process. He must ensure that the proposed solution is aligned with the client’s requirements.
The coordination of ongoing activities and the translation of design concepts to working software is also part of the job role of a solution architect. As mentioned earlier, a solution architect is very similar to a project manager. An SA specialist must ensure that everyone is involved, on the same page, and moving in the right direction.
The Benefits of Solutions Architect
In the previous sections, we have spoken about how important the role of a solution architect is during the software development process. We have also covered how he can drive high-value digital transformation powered by aligned tech solutions through carefully managed IT implementations. But there happen to be a large number of other benefits of including a solution architect in your development initiative.
Here is a rundown of the benefits of hiring an SA specialist –
1. Enhanced ROI
An efficient solution architect can greatly impact the client’s ROI concerning the development initiative. An SA specialist keeps up the latest market trends and technologies, allowing him to settle on the best possible tech ingredients and business logic to incorporate. This is crucial to achieving project success and ensuring sustainable growth of the solution provided.
With the help of a solution architect, the client can measure results in solid numbers. Since solution architects don’t just think about product performance but also business factors like cost and viability, the client can achieve optimal ROIs.
2. Achievement of Client Goals
A solution architect curates an aligned solution for a business tech need-gap while focusing not only on selecting aligned technology but also on stakeholder requirements. A solution architect can transform business goals into a real-world tech solution that can be rapidly and successfully delivered by following solution architecture’s best practices.
3. No More Missed Deadlines
A solution architect not only possesses wide tech know-how and development team management capabilities, but he also works seamlessly with business. Sometimes he even works directly with the client on deciding schedules. These abilities of an SA specialist help in aligning the solution being developed with the client’s objectives while remaining well within the project launch deadline.?
4. Competitive Advantage
The technology sphere is in constant constructive flux, and every year new innovations flood the market. With a solution architect, the client can stay abreast of optimal solutions to problems they might be facing and effectively evaluate the latest tech trends for inclusion viability. This allows the client to release a product on the very cutting-edge technology and sporting a strong competitive advantage.
5. Budget Management
Solution architects offer up architectural descriptions which detail all info pertaining to the cost of the development initiative and the resources required through the SDLC. This allows the client to set up better budgets for their digital transformation aspirations and avoid fine-print costs that may arise along the way.
6. Project Timeline
It is very common for costs to build up if the development project’s implementation takes more time than previously settled upon. A solution architect can easily determine the right amount of effort and resources required for successful project completion, thus establishing an accurate project timeline.
A solutions architect breaches the gap between the enterprise and tech assets by creating and maintaining software solutions to solve business problems.
Core Solutions Architect Skills
Here is a closer look at the requirements that solution architects must fulfil. He must have the following skillset to successfully create, design, and vanguard the development process-
1. Lucid Communication
For a solution architect, lucid communication skills are a necessity. He must constantly interact with stakeholders, managers, developers, and vendors involved in the development initiative. The solution architect plays a central role in a development project. He must therefore effectively communicate, state his views and defend his stance. Ineffective communication can result in bottlenecks. Therefore, a solution architect must possess skills to comprehend different views while being able to influence and provide advice.
2. Project Management
Even though a solution architect is not a direct cog in the project development machine, he still needs to ensure that every resource is used optimally and effectively.
A solution architect should be a cross between a technical expert and a business executive capable of providing effective solutions across stages of the development initiative. From focussing on business goals to hiring new resources, an SA specialist should be an effective manager. A solution architect must possess effective project management skills to achieve client requirements without overstepping timeframes and budgets.
3. Analytical Mindset
System integrations in a software development initiative come with complex details that need to be cohesively implemented. A solution architect must pay attention to the smallest detail, given that a single misstep can throw a wrench into the development process, leading to breakdowns or an adverse effect on the efficiency of the product.
An understanding of the technical specifications of proposed software and hardware assets also proves beneficial. A solution architect must be able to analyze all the different layers that a development initiative comprises. An analytical mindset becomes imperative given that a solutions architect is responsible for maintaining project context and details. He must also be able to validate and approve changes and additions or conversely strip away unwanted add-ons.
Enterprise Architect vs. Technical Architect vs. Solution Architect
The IT sphere sports three separate roles when it comes to architecture. Though with a certain amount of amalgamation, each role is distinct and carries its own requirements and responsibilities. Here is a comparative analysis of the three architecture roles, Enterprise Architect Vs. Technical Architect Vs. Solutions Architect
1. Enterprise Architect
An enterprise architect holds the responsibility of presiding over the company’s business environment. His major focus is on creating and managing technology solutions that are leveraged to resolve strategic and business issues. The primary goal of an enterprise architect is to facilitate a flawless SDLC while efficiently using available resources to build a robust enterprise architecture for each tech asset.
2. Technical Architect
Seamless implementation of new tech assets, technical evolution, and the building of a robust software architecture fall under the premise of technical architects. The main task of a technical architect is to take decisive action while presiding over critical components of the software being developed.
A technical architect works in close association with the development team and evaluates IT strategies. It is his responsibility to detail practices to be followed throughout the development project. The major differentiator between a technical and solution architect is that a technical architect is more focused on core engineering.
3. Solution Architect
Solution architects are more hands-on than their enterprise and technical counterparts. Their responsibility is to transform business requirements into working software while utilizing the latest in technology and keeping aligned with upcoming and established trends of the tech ecosystem.
It is noteworthy that all architectural roles are connected, and many companies even combine two or even three of these roles in a single position. Currently, architects do not have a clear bifurcation of responsibilities. They usually perform in a capacity that combines the roles of technical, solutions, and enterprise architecture.
Importance of Solutions Architect in a Company
Having a solutions architect as part of your software development initiative is crucial. He contributes and sometimes single-handedly influences the successful completion of the design and development of solutions. Solutions architects also effectively fill the communication gap between tech and non-tech teams involved in the project.
The development process is not an easy task, given the level of coordination and attention to detail it requires. A solutions architect is critical to the successful implementation and scaling of new solutions.
Drawing from the info above, it is clear that a solution architect shoulders the responsibility of building and implementing tech architecture solutions aligned with client requirements. Beginning from requirement gathering, specification comprehension, evaluation of current systems, and working with stakeholders, the responsibilities and criticality of a solution architect spans the entire SDLC.
With over two decades of experience in deploying tech solutions that have led to phenomenal success and high-value digital transformation for our clients, Radixweb stands a class apart. We at Radixweb, sport hyper-effective teams, replete with solution architects, ready to be deployed to your project. With vetted expertise in custom software development and software architecture consulting, Radixweb is your partner of choice if you are looking for a team comprising of the top 1% of tech talent. In combination with our expert teams, our solution architects leverage transformational tech resources for you to achieve your business goals.
So, if you too wish to build a software product that defies the limits of the market while assuring massive ROI and an unmatched competitive edge, then Radixweb is at your service.