Over the past decade technology has transformed business processes, systems, and methods across various industries. And this is mainly done so that organizations can stay competitive. Organizations need to ensure that their core operations are transferred to the best tech solutions, otherwise they risk falling behind their competitors.
During the process of updating their tech solutions, it’s crucial that software applications, hardware and tech services perfectly align with the company's strategic goals. Therefore, organizations need to invest in experts, who have a solid knowledge of what tech solutions are available, and who possess strong business analysis skills, to do the job.
This is where the role of a Solutions Architect comes into play.
In this article, we’ll talk about what a Solutions Architect does, what the main requirements for this role are, how much these professionals typically earn, and how to become one of them.
What is a Solutions Architect?
To better understand the role of Solutions Architect in the software development process, we first need to clarify what ‘solution architecture’ means.
Solution architecture is the process of developing a set of tech products and services that solve a specific business problem. This takes into account functional requirements, cost, security, time and other factors. All of these products and services must then integrate with each other, fit into an existing enterprise architecture, and be able to scale up, if necessary to solve a problem.
‘Solution architecture’ lies between ‘enterprise architecture' and ‘technical architecture’. While solution architecture focuses on a solution for a particular business need, enterprise architecture oversees the entire organization's tech ecosystem and defines strategic directions that the company can take. Technical architecture, in turn, refers to the engineering aspects of developing applications and systems.
In some companies, the roles of a ‘solutions architect’, ‘enterprise architect’, and ‘technical architect’ can overlap.
A well-thought-out architecture can help teams to develop a high-quality product on time and within budget. That is why a Solutions Architect is irreplaceable when working on any complex project.
Now let's take a closer look at a Solution Architect’s duties and responsibilities.
What Does a Solutions Architect Do?
A Solutions Architect evaluates a business’ needs, comes up with an optimal solution for a particular business problem, describes how all the components in the solution will work together, and presents their vision to stakeholders.
In simple words, they are experts who evaluate the problems of their customers, and then they go ahead and create an actionable plan for resolving the issues found by using technology.
Solutions Architect Role in a Company
Solutions Architects get involved in a project when it's still in its early stages. They first identify a business’ pain points, then they look at what is required to solve the issue, and then they ask the customer about what outcomes they hope to achieve.
Further to this, they decide what products or services can solve the problem at hand, and they choose an appropriate technology stack (databases, architectural patterns, standards, etc). To describe complex systems that have many different modules and services, a solutions architect usually prepares a set of diagrams for customers and teams to look at.
Once the planning is done, they present their vision to the client. This is where the ability to explain complex and abstract technical concepts is crucial for these professionals. Solutions Architects also inform project managers and software engineers about the requirements of the project, and they remain involved in the whole development lifecycle.
So, what are the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of a Solutions Architect?
A Solutions Architect’s Responsibilities
Although a Solutions Architect’s responsibilities may vary slightly depending on the products they work with, or the company's size and structure, they usually revolve around ensuring that tech solutions align with the client's needs.
Here are the most common duties of a Solutions Architect:
- Scrutinize current technologies used by clients and identify opportunities for improvement(s).
- Evaluate a customer’s requirements and manage their expectations.
- Develop technical solutions according to the requirements and existing environment.
- Analyze the impact certain technical choices might have on a business.
- Prepare a detailed specifications and roadmap for the suggested solution.
- Evaluate possible project constraints and risks.
- Support development of prototypes.
- Provide guidance to software engineers.
- Update stakeholders on product development progress.
A Solutions Architect must collaborate with sales, marketing, project management, QA, and development teams. As well as, working closely with stakeholders to deliver the right solution.
Now let's discuss how you can become a Solutions Architect.
How to Become a Solutions Architect?
Anyone applying for the role of a Solutions Architect position must have a certain set of skills, education, certifications and relevant work experience. Here’s a brief overview of each of these elements.
Solutions Architect Education
Most Solutions Architects have a bachelor's or master's degree in information technology, computer science, software engineering, or another related area.
Solution Architect Background
To be able to assist engineering teams, or lead meaningful discussions with tech professionals from a client's company, Solutions Architects must have a technical background, with up to 5 to 10 years of experience in areas such as:
- Software development
- Database management
- Cloud development
- Network administration
- Tech security
- Product management.
Expertise in a specific field like travel, healthcare, or finance is also highly beneficial.
Solution Architect Skills
The role of a Solution Architect requires a mixture of both technical and business skills.
According to PayScale, knowledge of cloud computing, understanding of software architecture and system architecture’s best practices, familiarity with SAP Business Warehouse, and experience in database administration are among the most sought-after hard skills.
Soft skills are equally important for a Solutions Architect:
- Effective communication is a must, as a Solutions Architect constantly interacts with people. They need to be great active listeners in order to understand a business’ needs and to understand the customer’s expectations. In addition, a solution Architect is responsible for bridging the communication gap between technical and non-technical professionals, so the ability to express themselves clearly with different audiences is very valuable.
- Analytical thinking is another essential skill for Solutions Architects. This is because their job requires a deep understanding of how various parts within a business are connected. They need to know how different components of the suggested solution will work with the current structures, and what factors can impact the outcomes.
- Leadership skills are also important. A Solutions Architect ensures that all team activities lead to the successful implementation of the solution they have proposed. Therefore, they must be able to defend their point of view, as well as motivate and inspire people.
Other valuable soft skills like problem-solving, creative thinking, risk management, presentation, and decision-making are crucial for Solutions Architects.
Solution Architect Certification
Certifications help Solutions Architects to demonstrate their expertise in the tech field.
Here’s a list of the most popular certification programs:
- AWS Solutions Architect
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
- Google: Professional Cloud Architect Certification
- ITIL Certifications
- TOGAF Certification
What’s The Average Salary for a Solutions Architect?
According to PayScale, on average a Solutions Architect can earn up to $120,004 per year.
This salary can, however, range from $76,000 to $161,000 because location, experience level and company impact the figure.
The same report shows that San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta pay the highest salaries for Solutions Architects in the United States.
Solution architecture lies at the core of any tech project. And while small companies don’t necessarily need a dedicated specialist, because several people in a company can share the responsibilities, in large corporations and when a project is complex, it makes more sense to work with a dedicated and qualified Solutions Architect.
These professionals can help to prepare a work plan, so that the solution they have suggested aligns with the business’ goals, and they can ensure that a project is completed on time and within budget.
As companies rely more and more on technology, there will be more demand for Solutions Architects.