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Solution Architect: When Does Your Company Need One?

To end all the dilemmas right now, we’ll explain what a solution architect is and what you could risk if you don’t have one, so you can decide if your company would benefit from employing one full time.
Daniel Zacharias

Ygor Ribeiro

January 24, 2023
solution architect

You might have come across a company trying to tell you that you need a solution architect for your projects. Looking at the long list of a solution architect’s skills and responsibilities, it may seem that you are in dire need of hiring one. But is that really the case? 

To end all the dilemmas right now, we’ll explain what a solution architect is and what you could risk if you don’t have one, so you can decide if your company would benefit from employing one full time.

Job description

A solution architect has such a name for all the right reasons. Namely, just like you need an architect when building an apartment building, you’ll discover you need an expert to plan your next software. 

A regular architect creates the blueprint and discusses the necessary budget with their clients. Similarly, a solution architect is responsible for the technical vision when solving an IT business challenge. Also, they translate all the technical talk into easy-to-understand business terms meant for investors.

A solution architect is a tech professional with at least four years of tech career experience. In a nutshell, they are experienced tech experts who bridge the gap between stakeholders and the tech department.

Solution architect vs. similar roles 

Let’s compare the solution architect to some similar positions to make matters even more clear. Perhaps you already have one of the positions in your team, but they certainly can’t fill in the shoes of a solution architect. 

To clear the air once and for all, a solution architect is:

  • Not a project manager — True, both deal with specific projects and supervise the software development process. Nevertheless, a solution architect is an expert of a higher rank. While the project manager oversees the specific tasks within the project, the solution architect observes the process as a whole, ensuring that the stakeholders are satisfied, the team meets the deadline, and everything is done within budget limits.
  • Not an enterprise architect — as the name suggests, solution architects ensure the outcome matches the company’s structure and all its components. The enterprise architect merely identifies the issue.
  • Not a software architect — their primary interest is the software itself as well as engineering challenges, while a solution architect looks at the bigger picture.

Main duties and responsibilities

So, what is it exactly that a solution architect does? They cover a broad spectrum of actions, and the job is brimming with versatility and action. Here’s a brief overview of some of the duties typical for a solution architect:

  • Creating the technical vision — let’s say you wish to develop a bank app. The solution architect will build a plan covering all the needed elements (overview of bills, payment methods, savings accounts, etc.). This person will also think about the looks that bank clients will enjoy the most (menu organization, easy access, clear overview), what they will use the most, and bear in mind the cybersecurity demands. 
  • Analyzing the system — they are good at estimating the company’s or team’s abilities. In contrast, overlooking a potential issue can prove critical in the middle of the software production process.
  • Adjusting the solutions to the situation — a good architect can find the right solution bearing in mind the (limited) resources they have. 
  • Being in charge of technical leadership — they’re the ones the team turns to for support and clarification.
  • Communicating with everybody — they discuss the project with the stakeholders, partners, and the development team. The hardest part is, of course, adjusting to different speakers by using the right language and sharing the data specific to that group.
  • Documenting the progress and proposing innovative solutions — they monitor the results regularly and try to think of improvements all the time.

If you feel you need an extra helping hand regarding the above, that’s probably a sign you need a solution architect.

Dangers of not hiring a solution architect

If you’re not confident whether you need a solution architect in your company, here are a couple of arguments for hiring one. Should anything from this list of potential problems sound familiar to you, then it’s probably high time you gave an architect a job in your company:

  • Most prominent stakeholders holding back from approving the key design decisions.
  • The suggested solution doesn’t emphasize the main advantages of the product.
  • Inefficient communication between departments, or even the appearance of information silos.
  • Project managers having difficulties with prioritizing tasks.
  • The enterprise vision doesn’t match the users’ expectations.

Consider all of the above to be red flags. Should some of them appear, you definitely need to analyze the business and potentially look for the architect for your team.

What to look for in a solution architect

Finally, here’s a brief list of qualifications or skills you can expect solution architects to mention in their CV:

  • Over four years of experience in software engineering.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Experience in business analysis.
  • Knowledge of IT architecture, infrastructure, and cloud development.
  • Experience in project and product management.

Is it necessary for a solution architect to have a degree in this field? Not really. Most important is that the person possesses the qualities your company particularly needs. As for the average solution architect salary, you may need to cash out $199,225 annually. 

A solution architect can be a valuable asset to your existing team, and we recommend hiring one if you’re planning to work on big projects.

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