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A solutions architect in Information Technology is a practitioner of solution architecture. The solutions architect is typically part of the development team and is responsible for transforming the requirements created by functional analysts into a set of architecture and design documents that can be used by the rest of the development team to create the solution. The solutions architect is typically responsible for matching technologies to the problem being solved.
Overview of Solutions Architect
The essence of the solutions architect role is the conversion of particular requirements into an architecture and design that will become the blueprint for the solution being created. This conversion is based on several factors: previous, successful design patterns that the solutions architect has been involved with, reference architectures and enterprise architecture guidance. It involves careful balance of project concerns with enterprise concerns.
The solutions architect is often considered the leader of the development team. As such, he/she is expected to provide motivation and guidance to the development team during the systems development life cycle. The development team therefore needs to buy into and accept the architecture developed by the solutions architect to implement how the pieces will fit together at a high level. The team must then match the detailed design to higher-level architecture for the solution to be cohesive.
Solutions 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. Solutions architects are both a consumer and contributor to enterprise architecture collateral. Often, the patterns and guidance that are developed by solutions architects become reusable in a broader enterprise architecture context.
Positioning solutions architects in relation to enterprise architects
An enterprise architect’s deliverables are usually more abstract than a solution architect's, but that is not always the case. The main distinction between the enterprise architect and the solutions architect lies in their different motivations. The enterprise architect is primarily employed in the design, planning and governance of strategic and cross-organisational rationalisation or optimisation of an enterprise’s services, processes or components. The solutions architect is primarily employed to help programme and project managers in the design, planning, and governance of implementation projects of any kind.
A solutions architect may have a reporting line to an enterprise architect, but the influence the enterprise architect team has on solutions architects depends on an organisation’s policies and management structure. So, the extent to which a solutions architect’s work derives from enterprise architect’s road maps will vary from 0 to 100 percent.
When the solutions architect starts and stops depends on the funding model for the process of solution identification and delivery. E.g. An enterprise may employ a solutions 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 solutions architect to govern an implementation project, or play a leading role within it.
An IT services provider may employ a solutions architect in a role that reports to a senior architect who is: 1. focused on operational services rather than implementation programme/projects, where understanding managed operations is important. 2. responsible for coordinating all services provided to one organisation by way of strategy, business consulting, projects and operational services. 3. working on a bid to supply one organisation with all the services above, or a framework bid that covers more than one customer organization at a more strategic level. In cases 2 and 3, the senior architect is a kin to an enterprise architect, but (in the UK at least) is more likely to be called Solution Director, Service Director, Technical Director or CTO.
Solutions Architect topics
The Solutions Architect has several essential duties and responsibilities, which include all or some combination of the following:
Business Planning and General Management
- Take ownership of a particular solution offering
- Develop and execute a solution strategy and business plan that support product growth
- Shape, design, and plan specific service lines in product area
- Spearhead product marketing and product development
Subject Matter Expertise
- Act as visionary and strategist for solution product area
- Survey market landscape for solution insights, direction, vendors, and methods
- Provides expertise to identify and translate system requirements into software design documentation,
- Work with technical writers to ensure quality internal and external client-oriented documentation
- Speak at trade conferences and seek authorship opportunities in trade publications
- Help marketing departments develop marketing materials and position strategies for product area, in conjunction with overall marketing message framework
- Help business development life cycle by serving as a product SME to help identify and qualify business development opportunities
- Manages sales and marketing activities for the service offering
- With Channel Development team, develop and maintain vendor relationships within the product
- Provide end to end solution and design details
Methodology and Quality Assurance
- Lead development of formalized solution methodologies
- Build and maintain repository for deliverables, methodologies, and business development documents
- Interface and coordinate tasks with internal and external technical resources. Collaborates with Project Managers and technical directors to provision estimates, develop overall implementation solution plan, and serve as a lead as required, to implement the installation, customization, and integration efforts
- Oversee aspects of project life cycle, from initial kickoff through requirements analysis, design and implementation phases for projects within the solution area
- Provide quality assurance for services within the solution area
- Write, or direct the writing of white papers that add further insight and thought in the solution area
Work Force Management, Supervision and Mentoring
- Manages a team of direct reports who drive service lines in the solution area
- Assists staffing coordinators who define project team requirements for projects in solution area
- Work with Delivery Services Director to define overall recruiting needs and expertise in solution area
- Work with Director of Delivery Services to establish professional development needs for practitioners in solution area
- Mentor and guide more junior technical resources
- Feed the overall project status to the senior management.
- International SA appreciation day falls on the 1st Tuesday of May. For example in 2015 the day will be celebrated on Tuesday May 5th.
- Breaking Down Software Development Roles, an Internet.com Developer eBook, 2006 Jupitermedia Corp.
- Mistrík Ivan, Antony Tang, Rami Bahsoon, Judith A. Stafford. (2013), Aligning Enterprise, System, and Software Architectures. Business Science Reference.
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