What is a solutions architect? Know the roles and responsibilities

Sudeep Srivastava May 3, 2022
What is a solutions architect

With the technology space constantly evolving, businesses have started getting inclined towards bringing adjustments in their operating methods. An inclination that would prepare them to meet emerging challenges and the constantly changing customer demands.

Another side of this fast-evolving world has been that businesses have started migrating their manual operations to software solutions – all under the “digital transformation” efforts.

This change, although necessary, can prove to be very complicated, which is why businesses look for experts who hold the essential proficiency and skill set for balancing business needs with distinct technological solutions.

This is where solutions architects come into the picture.

In layman’s terms, the true success of an IT project would depend heavily on the inputs that a solutions architect gives through their:

But who are these solutions architects, and what role do they play in businesses’ success? We will dive into that in this article which is all about what is a solutions architect and his/her role.

What is a solutions architect?

Solutions architects

A solutions architect is responsible for the evaluation of the business needs and identifying how the IT system can support those needs using hardware, software, and infrastructure. They help determine, develop, and improve the technical solutions that are aligned with business objectives.

They also link business and IT teams, ensuring that everyone is aligned with developing and implementing technical solutions for business.

Now when we talk about IT architects, there are three terms that are interchangeably used. Let’s look into them next.

Overview of different IT architecture roles

In the IT world, there are three primary architecture roles – Solutions Architect, Enterprise Architect, and Technical Architect.

Now since this article is focused on IT solutions architects, let us look into the other two roles here for the time being.

Enterprise Architect

They are individuals who look over the complete enterprise in terms of properties, business entities, relationships, and external ecosystems. They work on creating solutions that address critical business issues.

Typically, an Enterprise Architect supervises and delegates tasks to specialists. Their main involvement is in ensuring that the company has a streamlined application lifecycle and is using the best technology set for every use case.

Technical Architect

They offer guidance and leadership to the development teams. These individuals are responsible for engineering, creating software architecture, and implementing technology.

Technical Architect also plays a leadership role in defining practices and standards which must be followed throughout the project by working closely with the technical development teams.

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IT solutions architect roles and responsibilities

This far, we have established how a solutions architect helps IT and business teams with building products on time and on budget while ensuring that problems get solved. But when it comes to day-to-day operations, what tasks do they perform? Here’s what the solution architect roles entail.

solutions architect roles

Match solutions with the business environment

Generally, businesses have operating systems, information context, and integration facilities. A solutions architect ensures that any new system that gets introduced fits into the current business environment. S/he carries an understanding of how the different elements of the business model works in unison and how to design a solution that would best meet this mix of operating system, processes, and architecture.

Meet stakeholders requirements

One of the primary set of tasks that answers what a solution architect does is meeting the individual stakeholders’ requirements. Typically, these requirements come in from both technical and non-technical stakeholders where both have to be accounted for in the project.

A part of this job role is that the stakeholders have to be constantly updated about products – its development, process, and budget – something that requires translating technical details into layman language.

Account for project constraints

Every software comes with its own set of limitations. They can be:

  • scope
  • technology
  • quality
  • time
  • cost
  • unanticipated risks
  • resources

While these elements are “constraints”, they come with their own set of limitations. It comes down to the solution architect to understand them, look at their priority, and make managerial, technical decisions to solve these issues well within the business goals.

Select technology stack

A key part of building an architecture is to select the best technologies needed for product development. There are a number of approaches to choosing the best tools, platforms, APIs, and programming languages.

One of the solution architect roles is to identify which combination would be best for which project – something that they can gauge on the basis of in-depth technological assessment and comparisons.

Comply with non-functional needs

All the software projects should meet a set number of non-functional requirements which define the system’s characteristics.

Although the true list of non-technical elements depends on the software complexity, a general one would consist of performance, maintainability, security, usability, and scalability. The responsibility of someone in a solutions architect role is to ensure that all the non-functional requirements get met by the product engineers.

The roles and responsibilities that answer what solution architects do, as you would have reckoned, is fairly wide. In order to meet them, they would need to have the best skill sets in place. Let us look into what those skills are next.

Solutions architect skill sets

As the answer to what is the role of a solution architect, these individuals wear many hats. A variety that calls for multifaceted skills.

Technical expertise

Since typically the role is technical in nature, a solutions architect should have an extensive experience in IT sectors, specifically in domains like –

The solutions architects should take a look at the entire business picture to gauge how the different processes are working in sync. Plus, they should connect the business vision with the technical side of the project while keeping the corporate strategy in mind.

Project management

Even though project development is not a part of a solutions architect’s role, they are held accountable when deadlines and resource management are brought into consideration. They are required to select the best solution and discard the one that does not fit in the process or business goals, well within time.

In addition to this, they must maintain a long-term view of the software in terms of scalability and change management.

Risk management

The solutions architects should be able to gauge not just the technical and business implications of the solution they are proposing but also the kind of risk it may add and the impact which the risk would carry.

Moreover, they should have the best risk mitigation plans in place. Considering how nimble and agile the modern day enterprises have become, risk management has become one of the most crucial solution architect responsibilities of the current time. An individual who has been able to ace this skill will be able to best meet the “fail-fast” mindset of the modern day startups.

Superior communication

While the skill sets that we have mentioned above are crucial in nature, the solutions architects will also need to have a knack for clear communication. As a part of everyday activities, they will have to interact with developers, managers, project teams, and software architects plus the different stakeholders. For this level of extensive collaboration, it is crucial that they are able to share the vision and updates around the project in a way that every individual stakeholder understands and responds to.

When does a company need a solutions architect?

Once a business’s software becomes complicated and starts getting introduced with risks and processes, know it’s time for hiring a solutions architect.

Let’s have a look at the top cases where it is recommended to have a solutions architect:

When does a company need a solutions architect

You are unsure of which solution would fit in the enterprise. When you have to add a link between the current enterprise and the specific project, business solution architects would be able to help you with the best solution.

You are running a digital transformation task. Digital transformation needs businesses to think over what value they are delivering to their customer today and what they will have to deliver later. Now these decisions cannot be taken by keeping business and technology in silos. This is also where you will need the help of a technical solutions architect.

You are facing multiple risks. Someone will be needed for projects where there are a lot of uncertainties and multiple risks, and different products have to be implemented. That someone can be a business solution architect with his/her advanced technical skill set.

Multiple teams are a part of the project. You might be working on a complex project that needs someone to manage the technical, design, and architecture teams. This is where technical solutions architects come into the picture. They will play a role in talking to the stakeholders as well, converting technical information into layman’s.

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Conclusion

In the time to come, the need for solution architects roles is only going to grow. However, this remains a dynamic, work in progress role where new responsibilities are getting added as we speak.

While solutions architects are valuable assets in any business, their importance remains impactful only till the time they are learning and delivering their best. A highly skilled solutions architect can be introduced to a company’s enterprise structure through IT consulting services. Talk to our experts today to know how your business can start benefiting from the expertise of a solution architect.

THE AUTHOR
Sudeep Srivastava
DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER
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