A solutions architect in Information Technology is a practitioner of solution architecture. Typically, part of the solution development team, the solutions architect is responsible for translating the requirements created by functional analysts into the architecture for that solution and describing it through the set of architecture and design artifacts. Those artifacts are then used by the rest of the development team to implement the solution. The process of defining architecture by the solutions architect often involves selection of the most appropriate technology for the problem being solved.
Overview of Solutions Architect
An individual performing the role of a solutions architect focuses on the conversion of certain requirements into the architecture and design that ultimately constitute the blueprint for the solution being developed. In that process, the solution architect usually relies on design patterns known from their previous engagements, published reference architectures and on the guidance provided by enterprise architecture. In their efforts, solutions architect balances the architectural concerns of the projects with the concerns of the enterprise under which the project is being executed.
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 entire development team during the systems development life cycle. The solutions architect needs to 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.
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:
- Focused on operational services rather than implementation programme/projects, where understanding managed operations is important.
- Responsible for coordinating all services provided to one organisation by way of strategy, business consulting, projects and operational services.
- 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.
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 control of 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
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|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2008)|
- 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.