Industry 4.0 that is propelling our world into the high-tech tomorrow has brought forth a whole gamut of novel technologies and concepts. The Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain systems, augmented reality, and other state-of-the-art know-how are contributing much to the digital transformation drive symptomatic of contemporary business practices.
Yet, the broad range of existing software may play Old Harry with businessmen taken away by the vision of mouth-watering opportunities their implementation opens. Sometimes, they may fall for a cutting-edge technology that is totally irrelevant to the business goal they have in mind for it. Or, having chosen the software wisely, they can’t have it aligned with the scope of tasks it is meant to fulfill. This is where a solutions architect steps in.
What does a solutions architect do?
A solutions architect definition quite naturally describes this person as a specialist dealing with solution architecture – an activity of defining, designing, and managing software engineering called to solve specific business needs. And an IT solutions architect is in charge of such practices in their entirety.
To have a clearer understanding of a solution architect role and responsibilities, let’s compare them with other birds of the same feather – different types of software architects, namely an enterprise architect and a technical architect.
Enterprise architects are strategists in their essence. Coordinating their efforts with major decision-makers, they take stock of the current technical situation of the organization’s ecosystems and overarching target goals to shape the vision of the necessary changes and draw a general outline of facilities needed to implement them.
A technical architect is an expert responsible for the nitty-gritty of the software building and deployment in each particular use case. Working in close cooperation with development crews, these guys are also charged with the support and maintenance of the solutions the creation of which they supervise.
A solutions architect description places them somewhere in between the above-mentioned specialists. After the enterprise architect has determined what has to be done, the software solution architect specifies how it has to be done to address a certain business challenge. Unlike a technical architect who has nothing to do with managerial and financial aspects, a solutions architect takes them into account providing a liaison link between the enterprise and the technical architecture development.
When do you need to hire a solution architect?
Being generally an extremely useful summand of success in any sector of the modern economy, solutions architects are must-haves in the following industries.
It would be strange indeed if the sphere that generated the very profession wouldn’t make extensive use of solution architect deliverables. Here, these specialists make sure the product and the development personnel are on the same page as to the effective implementation and subsequent functioning of a new software solution.
With a huge part of sales inexorably moving online, solution architect skills will face growing demand in this sector. Retail will need an ever-waxing number of new solutions (as well as updating of the existing ones) to conduct online sales and solutions architects are responsible for identifying, developing, and maintaining them.
This sphere encompasses a whole variety of production endeavors – from food and drink to machines and pharmaceuticals. Solution architects are involved in streamlining the products’ lifecycles and supporting seamless manufacturing operations by providing constant availability of relevant software.
As patients become increasingly reliant on telemedicine and electronic health records, solutions architects will have their hands full with designing effective medical data management systems that involve huge amounts of processed information and developing interfaces to ensure smooth rapport between healthcare services providers and consumers.
With autonomous vehicles and smart city technologies gathering momentum, solutions architects are to provide the digital control of physical devices utilized in this domain.
Yet, whatever industry solutions architects are involved in, the common overarching objective of aligning technical and business aspects of an enterprise’s software conditions their similar roster of responsibilities.
Solutions architect responsibilities scrutinized
Solutions architects’ role is comparable to a managerial one since these experts have to attend to a plethora of various errands.
- Analyzing the existing technology environment. They must obtain a clear comprehensive picture of both software and hardware an organization is using to realize which elements need improvement and which must be totally replaced.
- Keeping abreast with the current know-how advancements. Solutions architects should conduct regular researches looking for disruptive technologies to see how they can be instrumental in solving tasks they are assigned to.
- Assessing the viability of new solutions. Architects should be able to predict how the software they suggest adopting will integrate with the current one and the infrastructure where it runs.
- Estimating the business feasibility of new solutions. Not only technological impact must be considered but the new solution’s impact on the key business processes as well.
- Analyzing the enterprise’s peculiarities. These experts should understand the brass tacks of the company’s workflow and target audience it works with as well as current market trends in the niche.
- Defining and documenting solution specifications and requirements. Solutions architects outline the features of the future solution and map out the phases of its development and implementation.
- Surveying project constraints. The specialists must realize what limitations they will have to comply with to mitigate possible risks and identify alternative approaches to have the job done.
- Devising a solution prototype. They create a model of the solution they plan to implement with a view to its imminent upscaling and maintenance.
- Advising on tech stack selection. Solution architects should be well-versed in the technologies leveraged to solve the task they face.
- Forestalling risks. Solutions architects should not only anticipate bottlenecks but also know how to avoid them and fix the problems in case they do pop up.
- Communicating all aspects of the project to stakeholders. CEOs and project team members should be kept in the know of what is going on at the moment and what is going to happen next.
- Supervising the project implementation. Solutions architects must exercise general control of the solution development starting from establishing the collaboration framework to fixing technical issues that arise.
Such immensity of tasks calls for a broad scope of competencies and skills a solutions architect must possess.
Solutions architect requirements
What should a solutions architect be good at to do their job well?
Being essentially a high-tech pro, a solutions architect must have substantial (six years minimum) hands-on experience in the basic IT domains, including:
- Computer systems and OS
- Software architecture design
- Infrastructure design and network administration
- Web platforms
- Cloud computing
- Hardware management
- Database management
- DevOps practices
- Product management
- System and data security
Excellent analytical skills
Solutions architects must be able to take a broad look at the entire picture to see how different summands and business processes work together. Not a single detail should escape their searching glance to find its place among other important elements. Plus, solutions architects ought to constantly keep in mind the overall corporate strategy and goals the organization aims to achieve. And they should reconcile this vision with the technical side of the project.
Resource and project management skills
Project development per se is outside the solution architect’s area of responsibility but they are held accountable for meeting deadlines and using resources (financial, technical, and human) effectively. Focusing on business results, they are supposed to choose the most adequate solution brushing away those that aren’t likely to yield the expected outcome. Besides, solutions architects should maintain a long-term view of the project to envisage its upscaling opportunities as well as the attainability of introducing minor and major changes.
Risk management savvy
Solutions architects are to be able to assess not only the business and technical implications of the solution they offer but also any kinds of risk it may incur – security, compatibility, operational, financial, etc.
Superior communication knack
However important the above-mentioned skills might be, they won’t help a solution architect to reach their goals unless (s)he can efficiently interact with other people involved in the project. Solutions architects collaborate with managers, developers, project teams, enterprise and software architects, and a slew of other stakeholders each with their own tasks, visions, preferences, and values. Consequently, solutions architects must be able to communicate the adopted policies to them and be ready to listen to the feedback, explain, and persuade.
Naturally, the efforts of such multi-faceted specialists deserve an adequate remuneration.
Solutions architect salary
How much do solutions architects earn? You can’t have a precise answer to this question that will give you an exact amount down to a penny. Why? Because the hourly rate as a benchmark unit for calculation is conditioned by many factors, primarily by the location of the specialist.
Since the USA is rightly considered to be the modern IT hub, it is sensible to look at the standards existing there. The salary scale applied there varies depending on the qualification and position level of the expert. Thus, starting level architects are hired at about $37 per hour and the rate progressively increases with each new level – from approximately $41 for the junior level to $91 for the top level.
On average, a solution architect in the US earns $64 an hour which makes the annual total of over $133,000 – a pretty solid sum. What can you do if your company can’t afford to splurge such outrageous money on the services of a solution architect? Look for the workforce elsewhere. If you fish for a solution architect in areas with a lower payment threshold, you can save prodigious sums. What about the quality of services, you may ask? Well, it all depends on the wise choice of an outsourcer. By enlisting the help of IT experts from Eastern Europe (notably, Ukraine and Poland) you can get top-notch expertise at a reasonable price.
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Modern enterprises extensively employ state-of-the-art software to provide effective workflow and satisfy the needs of their target audience. Solutions architects are to balance the business objectives of a specific company with various aspects of software leveraged to that end.