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A solution architect, in information technology, is a practitioner of solution architecture. Typically part of the solution development team, the solution architect translates requirements created by functional analysts into the architecture for that solution and describing it through architecture and design artifacts. The rest of the development team then uses those artifacts to implement the solution. The solution architect's process typically involves selecting the most appropriate technology for the problem.
Overview of the role
An individual performing the role of a solution architect focuses on converting requirements into the architecture and design that ultimately constitute the blueprint for the solution. In that process, the solution architect usually relies on design patterns from their previous engagements, published reference architectures, and on guidance from enterprise architecture. In their efforts, solution architects balance architectural concerns of the projects with the concerns of the enterprise.
The solution architect is often the development team leader. As such, they are often expected to provide motivation and guidance to the entire development team during the systems development life cycle. The solution architect must ensure buy-in from the development team, so that the team is motivated to match the detailed design of the solution to the higher-level architecture.
Solution architects play an important role in ensuring that the solution architecture aligns with the roadmaps established by the enterprise architecture, and that it adheres to the enterprise architecture principles. Solution architects are both a consumer and contributor to enterprise architecture collateral. Often, the patterns and guidance solution architects develop becomes reusable in a broader enterprise architecture context.
Solution architects vs. enterprise architects
An enterprise architect's deliverables are usually more abstract than a solution architect's, but not always. The main distinction between the two lies in their different goals. The enterprise architect is primarily employed to design, plan, and govern strategic and cross-organisational rationalisation or optimisation of an enterprise's services, processes, or components. The solution architect primarily helps programme and project managers in the design, planning, and governance of projects of any kind.
A solution architect may have a reporting line to an enterprise architect, but the influence the enterprise architect team has on solution architects depends on an organisation's policies and management structure. So, the extent to which a solution architect's work derives from an enterprise architect's road maps vary from 0 to 100 percent.
When the solution architect starts and stops depends on the funding model for the process of solution identification and delivery. For example, an enterprise may employ a solution architect on a feasibility study, or to prepare a solution vision or solution outline for an invitation to tender. A supplier may employ a solution architect at bid time, before any implementation project is costed or resourced. Both may employ a solution architect to govern an implementation project, or play a leading role within it.
- Breaking Down Software Development Roles, an Internet.com Developer eBook, 2006 Jupitermedia Corp.
- R. Bogue Anatomy of a Software Development Role: Solution Architect, [online] Available: http://www.developer.com/mgmt/article.php/3504496
- Mistrík Ivan, Antony Tang, Rami Bahsoon, Judith A. Stafford. (2013), Aligning Enterprise, System, and Software Architectures. Business Science Reference.