We live in an era of rapidly evolving technological advancements. Nowadays, it’s impossible to imagine a successful business without a solid software foundation. Therefore, more and more organizations and companies all over the world are facing the ultimate need to go digital and adopt innovations and high-end software to multiply their efforts and keep growing.
However, it goes without saying that a comprehensive digital transformation also requires specific skills and professional expertise to ensure the business needs are aligned with the technological solutions envisaged. Therefore, this expert is integral to making it all happen.
To clarify this topic, it is necessary to define solution architecture. In the context of software development, an architecture represents both the structure of the future software product and the plan of building it in order to meet client’s requirements and solve their specific problem. This definition may seem vague and generic, but only because customers’ problems are different, so they demand different solutions, usually with a unique approach.
The concept of a solution architecture is rather complex and includes many aspects required to create a custom software solution with a specific purpose. That’s why there are several subtypes of architecture that handle various functional and non-functional requirements and aspects. For example, they include business, information, security, system, technology, and so on.
In this article, we will explain in-depth what a solutions architect’s role is, what the required skills and responsibilities are, their average salary, as well as why having a solutions architect is critical for organizations and projects.
What is a Solutions Architect?
Before we dive into the topic, let’s clarify who is a solutions architect in general.
An architect is one of the most significant and client-facing roles in the IT industry. Its importance is nonetheless often overlooked or even completely ignored by companies at both ends.
For a software solution to work effectively, scale, and meet the set business needs, it must have a well-thought-out solution architecture that accounts for numerous technical and customer nuances. Put simply, the long-term success of any IT project relies on the input from a solution design architect, who needs to have:
- Wide-ranging technical expertise
- Business analysis skills
- Project management skills, etc.
Having a clear vision for the project and a clear understanding of the client’s business needs, a solutions architect maps out the parts that will constitute the software solution and how they are going to work together.
These specialists start very early in the project, laying out what is to come. Their tasks usually begin with choosing the right technology for the business problem(s) and managing architectural concerns to ensure more productive and effective outcomes.
An architect is responsible for translating the vision for the project to the development team and plays a pivotal part throughout the entire systems development lifecycle. They are also involved in future updates to the solution.
One of the main reasons why a company should employ this expert is to successfully design and develop new technology solutions that align with its business needs, as well as fill in the communication gap between technical and non-technical experts involved in an IT project.
As the process is always heavy on the budget and highly risky, every company should have an architect to implement new solutions and scale them successfully. This specialist can be introduced to a company’s enterprise structure through software architecture consulting services.
Solutions Architect vs. Enterprise Architect vs. Technical Architect
There are three main types of specialists that are in charge of architecture in the IT industry. These roles or specializations determine the focus and scope of an architect’s tasks:
- Solutions Architect or Infrastructure Architect
- Enterprise Architect
- Technical Architect or Software Architect
Let’s look at the differences between these three architect types.
What is an Infrastructure Architect?
Usually, when someone mentions infrastructure architects, they refer to solutions architects with all the responsibilities that were described in the previous section of this article. The name “infrastructure architect” usually highlights the fact that this specialist designs and implements software solutions based on the current infrastructure of the customer’s business.
In many cases, the necessity to fit within the existing infrastructure is a crucial requirement that determines the choices and adds certain restrictions to a project. So, the primary task of an infrastructure architect is to ensure that the software solution will have a certain structure, tech stack, and other features that will enable its seamless integration into the current system.
What is an Enterprise Architect?
An enterprise architect has a much larger scope of work compared to other architect specializations. This specialist develops and proposes strategic technological initiatives to the business’s top executives and explains their benefits. Based on strategic plans, an enterprise architect designs complex enterprise ecosystems. Overall, the work of these specialists is much more business-oriented than the tasks of their solution and technical counterparts.
What is a Technical Architect (Software Architect)?
As the name suggests, a technical architect focuses on engineering aspects of architecture and usually does not make financial or strategic decisions, unlike infrastructure or enterprise architects. These specialists determine how exactly software technologies should be used to meet the customer’s demands. So, if enterprise architects use strategic thinking and decide what needs to be done, then technical architects are tacticians who decide how things should be done.
Here is an image that illustrates the focus areas of three architect types:
Solutions Architect Role and Responsibilities
A solutions architect is responsible for creating a comprehensive architecture for a software solution and providing strategic direction throughout the development process.
This person needs to ensure that the new solution fits into the existing enterprise architecture from technical, business, user, and other perspectives.
They cooperate with all the teams involved in the development process and need to know how every product and service works in solution architecture. These professionals need all their knowledge to oversee the successful delivery of a quality end product to its end users.
As the job title implies, this specialist primarily focuses on solution-level decisions and evaluation of their impact on a client’s overarching business objectives and outcomes.
In most cases, a solutions architect’s responsibilities revolve around ensuring that the software solutions align with a client company’s resources, risk identification, and planning. Here are some of the main responsibilities of a solutions architect:
- Creates and leads the process of integrating IT systems for them to meet an organization’s requirements.
- Conducts a system architecture evaluation and collaborates with project management and IT development teams to improve the architecture.
- Evaluates project constraints to find alternatives, alleviate risks, and perform process re-engineering if required.
- Updates stakeholders on the status of product development processes and budgets.
- Notifies stakeholders about any issues connected to the architecture.
- Fixes technical issues as they arise.
- Analyzes the business impact that certain technical choices may have on a client’s business processes.
- Supervises and guides development teams.
- Continuously researches emerging technologies and proposes changes to the existing architecture.
What Skills and Experience Should a Solutions Architect Have?
To successfully design, create, and lead the development of a software solution, an architect needs to have a certain skill set. Let’s take a closer look at the most important skills of a solutions architect below.
Being able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, project managers, developers, and software vendors involved in the software development process is essential for a solutions architect. As an architect has a central role in any project and leads every team on it, ineffective communication can lead to big bottlenecks. So, this specialist should be able to clearly explain, understand everyone’s point of view, listen, advise, and influence.
Project and Resource Management
Although solutions architects are not directly involved in project development, they still need to ensure that project resources are being used efficiently and impactfully. They should be business-minded and capable of identifying the most effective solution at every turn for every part of the architecture. It is their responsibility to focus on business goals, including hiring new people, and understand how to achieve them in the set timeframe and within the given budget.
Software architecture and systems integrated into it are numerous details that work together. An architect needs to be very attentive to those details, as overlooking something may hinder the development process, lead to breakdowns, or make the software solution inefficient. They also should be able to understand the technical specifications of many different software solutions and hardware and perform analysis of different business layers. Architects are also responsible for the project context from the very beginning to the current moment. They need to remember all the details of the projects and ideas to validate and approve them on time.
Risk Identification and Management
An architect must be capable of analyzing and identifying potential short and long-term risks that may cause technical issues and impede business operations in the future.
Expectedly, the role of a solutions architect requires technical education and hands-on experience across all major areas of the software development process, as well as hardware engineering expertise (for software projects that rely on hardware).
Thus, a solutions architect should have at least 6 to 8 years of experience in the following areas:
- Business analysis
- IT infrastructure
- Software architecture design
- Cloud development
Solutions Architect Certification
One crucial thing that we also want to mention related to the IT solutions architect is their certifications, which are needed to validate their skills and qualifications. The certifications are aimed at assessing the overall knowledge, abilities, and experience of specialists and at proving their proficiency.
There is a wide variety of certification platforms available that offer training, access to plenty of learning materials, tests to practice the knowledge, etc. Nevertheless, the exam can be taken without any previous preparation in case a professional has a deep understanding of the architecture principles along with solid experience in the IT industry.
It’s worth noting that there are different certifications available for IT solutions architects. Here is a brief overview of the most popular ones:
AWS Solution Architect Certification
This certification targets professionals of different levels of seniority who work with AWS technologies while developing apps and systems. The exam lasts 130 minutes and requires a registration fee, depending on the exam type. The minimum experience needed for this test is at least 1 year working in the field. The certificate is valid for 3 years and requires recertification once it expires.
Azure Solutions Architect Certification
This specific exam will be suitable for specialists working with Microsoft Azure and possessing advanced knowledge of Azure infrastructure. The price for the certification varies from one country to another.
Google Cloud Architect Certification
This exam will be suitable not only for solutions architects but also for any experts dealing with Google Cloud technologies. The exam lasts 2 hours and requires a registration fee. According to Google’s recommendation, it’s better to take this exam with at least 3 years of experience. In addition, it’s also crucial to do the recertification every 2 years.
It’s a well-recognized set of qualifications that consists of 5 different levels to fit different experiences and seniority levels. This exam will be suitable not only for IT solution architects but also for people who want to obtain managerial positions in the IT field. The costs for this exam, as well as for training, depend on the country.
Key Processes in Solution Architecture
In terms of software solutions, architecture involves multiple processes performed either simultaneously or in stages. These processes are mainly correlated with the duties of solutions architects described above in this article. Let’s quickly recap the most important of them:
- Analysis. It is vital to define and understand business requirements, existing infrastructure, and the overall purpose of the future solution.
- Evaluation. An architect evaluates the feasibility of applicable software technologies and determines the most appropriate choice.
- Design. Being the essential task of an architect, designing a solution architecture involves creating the outline of the future solution and mapping the steps for its building and integration.
- Supervision. This process partially doubles or complements the similar task of a project manager and ensures that the development team follows the design and business requirements.
- Documenting. The architect’s design must be properly documented so that the development team can follow it. Detailed technical documentation is invaluable during the development process and after the product’s release, as it benefits both developers and customers.
When Do You Need Solution Architecture Consulting?
When it comes to building from scratch, changing, or upgrading your software solution – the earlier, the better.
- At the ideation stage. A solution architect plays a vital role in creating and implementing software architectures that both meet the client’s business requirements and make software or the entire infrastructure function at its top capacity and efficiency. For this reason, an architect should be engaged in the project right from the very beginning, before the designing and development processes even begin. This specialist analyzes and estimates the initial requirements, evaluates the technical aspect of the future project, makes the specifications clear, communicates with stakeholders, and more to make sure the client receives the most efficient solution.
- When creating an MVP or PoC to present to your investors. A solution architect suggests the most efficient set of tools and technologies that would fit the budget. Also, this specialist will help to translate the complicated technical language into the one that is clear and understandable to the investors who operate in business, i.e., into the “money” language.
- When starting the development process. In addition to designing the architecture, a solutions architect needs to make sure the entire development team fully understands the requirements and their tasks. Moreover, as the most crucial team member, an architect needs to do everything in their expertise and power to lead the product-building process and make it as smooth as possible. The position of an architect is highly demanding and requires an extensive set of knowledge and expertise in multiple IT-related fields. Such specialists will be in even bigger demand in the future because of continuously emerging new technologies and industry trends.
Here at Intellectsoft, we have delivered over 600 digital solutions of different types and complexity to businesses, from startups to Fortune 500 enterprises like Mitsubishi, Harley Davidson, Melco, Intel, and many others. We have 15+ years of experience in providing business solutions for multiple industries like fintech, healthcare, construction, logistics, eCommerce, and others. Over these years, we have gathered a top-skilled team of prominent experts, including software architects.
Our software development services include web and mobile solutions development, product engineering, UI/UX design, as well as QA and testing. Additionally, we offer comprehensive IT consulting and outstaffing services like dedicated teams.
If you want to learn more about the solutions we have already delivered, we welcome you to check our top client cases and see the level of our expertise in various industries, including yours.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to get the top-quality, effective, and cost-efficient solution from our solution architects and other software development professionals working here at Intellectsoft.
Who is an IT solution architect?
An IT solution architect is a professional in charge of developing a comprehensive architecture for a future software solution. They also have to provide a clear strategy throughout the whole software development process.
This specialist is responsible for making sure the future solution will perfectly fit all business requirements and end-user needs. They are the ones who oversee the successful implementation of the quality solution. Therefore, they have to possess a clear understanding of the client’s vision and goals to achieve productive and effective outcomes.
What does a solutions architect do?
A solutions architect designs and implements IT systems architectures that meet the set business requirements. Their role starts with gathering the requirements, understanding the specifications, evaluating the systems that are in place, and working closely with stakeholders to deliver the right solution.
In general, the solutions architect’s role is to explain the business requirements to the development team and lead them in building a product that can solve real business issues effectively. The position is very responsible and requires wide-ranging IT skills and knowledge. With companies increasingly relying on software and emerging technologies, the role of this expert will continue to gain weight.
What is the average salary of a solutions architect?
The salary of a solutions architect varies a lot and depends on multiple factors. First of all, the location of a specialist plays an integral role. For example, in the US, an expert can get between $142K – 238K yearly, whereas in Ukraine, a professional with the same qualifications can get between $68K – 90K per year. Moreover, the salary is also based on years of experience, technical skills, seniority, and soft skills as well.
How to find a qualified solution architect?
It’s not really easy to find and hire a well-matching solution architect, as the market demand for accomplished specialists is enormous. If you want to hire an in-house member, the search process will take a while as you have limited access to professionals in your area. However, if you are open to new opportunities and can consider hiring a remote team member, you will increase your chances of hiring the right person.
We highly recommend you turn to a trusted outsourcing vendor with years of experience hiring software development professionals. First of all, they will grant you access to a vast talent pool of experts. In addition, you can channel all your energy into your business needs, and your vendor will take care of the recruitment process and will offer you the best specialists to choose from.