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What is a Solution Architect: Responsibilities and Role on a Project

  • Rating — 5 (3 voices)
  • by Ivanna Denys
  • Updated on April 30, 2019
  • Read —
    8-9 minutes
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It’s not a secret that to successfully complete a software development project, you need a whole team of professionals. The roles and responsibilities of most of the team members are straightforward and self-explained. For example, we all know that programmers write code, quality assurance specialists test if the requirements are met and if everything works as it’s supposed to, and a project manager manages the entire process.

  1. What is the solution architecture?
  2. What does a solution architect do?
  3. Solution architect vs Enterprise & Software architects
  4. Why you need a solution architect on your project?
  5. What kind of projects needs a solution architect

Yet, some software development projects also require a solution architect. If you try to google what tasks this person performs, you’ll probably find a bunch of different answers. However, it’s still not that easy to understand exactly how your project can benefit from the development and implementation of the solution architecture.  

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what solution architects do, how their role is different from other similar positions, and what kind of projects requires input from these specialists.

What is the solution architecture?

Simply put, solution architecture is a high-level description of a software product in the context of the problems it solves. In other words, solution architecture shows how a system and its specific features help a company reach its determined business goals.

Solution architecture is usually implemented as a part of enterprise architecture. The latter determines what business structure, processes, and operations allow a company to meet its strategic objectives. Alternatively, we may say, that enterprise architecture defines how a company’s business strategy can be executed in the most efficient way. At the same time, solution architecture is responsible for the technological support of such execution.

What does a solution architect do?

In general, a solution architect is a person who is responsible for designing a solution architecture and implementing it in practice. He or she has a clear vision of a product and understands how this product should benefit a business. A solution architect also translates this vision to a coding team so they can build a product that is highly-tailored to the enterprise’s needs and requirements.

It’s also worth mentioning that the role of a solution architect is not limited just to ideation. This person takes part in all stages of the product development process. To make it clearer, let’s look at tasks a solution architect performs.

Ideation

Ideation

At the very first stage of a project, a solution architect gathers the requirements to a software solution from stakeholders. Specifically, it communicates an idea of a product with business owners, top executives, and possibly customers to understand their pain points and requirements and to define the right vision of the future system.

Implementation

Implementation

The implementation stage covers the entire process of software development, including writing specification and quality assurance. At first, a software architect works with the tech team to elaborate on all possible options of how the idea can be made a reality.

After that, he or she cooperates with a business analyst to help the latter properly translate stakeholders’ requirements into functional and nonfunctional requirements to a product.

Finally, a solution architect participates in making the most crucial technical decision that may impact the ultimate results of the project (for example, technology stack and integration with third-party systems).

Maintenance

Maintenance

A solution architect is also responsible for the continuous maintenance of a system developed. This person makes sure that there is a secure and stable IT environment for a software solution to work properly. Solution architects also ensure that such a solution will keep being relevant in terms of the business value it should deliver.

Solution architect vs Enterprise & Software architects

A solution architect is sometimes confused with enterprise architect and software architect. This is because not only their positions sound similar, the responsibilities partially overlap as well. Yet, each role is essential for the success of a project and could not be substituted by another position. Let’s look at their differences more precisely.

Role of a solution architect

Enterprise architect vs solution architect

We already discussed the correlation between the terms “enterprise architecture” and “solution architecture”. So you might have already guessed that the main difference between the role of an enterprise architect and the role of a solution architect lies in the scale of the view.

The former sees the entire enterprise ecosystem from the bird’s-eye view. This person also resolves the global challenges a business faces. He or she is mainly responsible for building a proper infrastructure to support a company’s business strategy.

The role of solution architects is much more practical. Basically, they take separate requirements to the global company’s infrastructure and work on turning these requirements into real solutions. In other words, solution architects create a bridge between planning at the enterprise level and development of specific software products that will help a company make these plans a reality.

Solution architect vs software architect

A software architect is another crucial person for most development projects. He or she provides technical leadership and makes decisions regarding the most crucial elements of a system being created. Usually, those are the elements that would be hard to change after they are implemented, as well as elements that may be related to failure risks.

The main difference between the role of solution architect and the role of a software architect is that the latter deals with engineering issues only. At the same time, a solution architect is in charge of ensuring that a software product will solve a particular business problem within a company’s business strategy.

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For more detailed information about the role and responsibilities of a software architect, read our article:
Why You Need a Software Architect For Your Project

Why you need a solution architect on your project?

Now, let’s talk about the most essential advantages of having a solution architect on the development project.

A perfect fit

Perfect fit

If a solution architect is involved in product development, you may be sure that a new system will address the right business issues. This means that you’ll get not just a working application at the end of the day. You’ll get the application that will help your company move towards achieving its determined business goals.

On top of that, a solution architect is responsible for ensuring that software to be developed will be compatible with the existing IT ecosystem of an enterprise.

Effective communication

Effective communication

Business owners and programmers usually speak different languages. The former ones often think about effectiveness, productivity, cutting costs, optimization, etc. At the same time, software engineers worry more about specific engineering challenges. In this context, a solution architect acts as a translator.

As a rule, this person has industry-specific expertise so he or she understands what stakeholders want and why they want it. A solution architect also possesses strong technical skills which help him or her communicate a product vision to a development team.

Better management of resources

Better management of resources and constraints  

There are no projects without constraints. Whether it’s budget, deadlines or technologies, to create a stunning solution for your business you need to manage them all. A solution architect is able to see the big picture. He or she takes into account different factors to choose the best possible options for a project. Solution architects also provide project management support in the course of software development to adjust the process to the changing circumstances.

A lower risk of a project failure

Lower risk of a project failure

If a solution architect participates in product development, the risk that a project will fail is much lower. This is because proper software architecture creates a solid foundation for a project. So even if something unplanned happens, it won’t lead to the “lethal” consequences. Also, all solution architect responsibilities are aimed at the successful completion of a project for all sides of the process. By overseeing software development, this person can spot the issues which other participants of a project missed.

What projects require a solution architect

Of course, you don’t need to design and implement a solution architecture on all software development projects. For instance, if you want to create a simple one-page website, a coding team together with a project manager will be able to do this without additional guidance from a solution architect’s side. But to sort things out, let’s take a look at the types of projects that usually require the involvement of these specialists:

  • A high level of complexity: if a system you are to develop will have advanced functionality, you need high-level management of the development process
  • Digital transformation: if your enterprise is undergoing digital transformation, all new solutions must be in line with the global digital strategy.
  • Many risks are involved: if you know that there are many constraints and uncertainties related to a project, consider engaging a solution architect to avoid failure.

Putting it all together

Even the most sophisticated software product is worth investing in it only if it can bring real business value. A software architect is a person who ensures that you spend money on tech solutions wisely instead of taking the shot in the dark. Specifically, he or she is responsible for bridging the gap between a company’s business strategy and technical solutions it purchases or builds.

On top of that, a solution architect is a so-called middleman between different stakeholders and programmers. In particular, this person explains business requirements to a coding team so they can develop a product that solves real business problems. Hence, if you plan to create a complex solution for your enterprise, be sure to have a proper solution architecture in place.

Want to complete your next development project with a team of skillful programmers?

Ivanna is a Content Marketing Manager of GBKSOFT passionate about tech advancements, marketing, and startups. Her dream is to make the virtual world a better place with the help of a written word.


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