Ubiquitous digitalization has revolutionized our life and is rapidly altering human society and the very world around us. One of the spheres undergoing the most significant transformations is our language. Just a few years ago, user interface, plugin, AWS, CRM, outsourcing, and other words and acronyms were known only to a limited number of high-fi specialists while today, the majority of laymen who own a gadget operate them quite easily.
But technical progress in the IT realm not only introduced new words into the vocabulary but has changed the meaning of the familiar ones. In the mind of most people of the early second millennium, a platform is hardly associated with railroads, cookies are never kept in a jar, a tool is something more than a hammer, and a cloud is what cannot be seen when you look at the sky above.
An Architect is one of such terms. When we hear that a solution architect and a technical architect were hired by the IT department, we do not imagine a person wearing a hard hat who argues with the construction foreman over a building project. Even if such architects have something to do with sites, the latter are never a place where a building is being erected.
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Software architects: What they are and what they are not
Software architecture is a skeleton of the respective infrastructure whose characteristics ensure flexibility, scalability, and security of the entire system that must function according to business and technical requirements. Like any other system, software architecture presupposes the existence of the elements and the structure that subsumes relations and connections. Thus, an IT or software architect is to translate all necessary characteristics into a solution blueprint shaping its components and defining communication and coordination between them. How do they go about it?
At first, the architect is to realize what the customers expect to get, that is functional and quality requirements to the finished product since it is crucial for the future structure of the solution they are to work on. Being aware of such data, the architect figures out what structural elements will compose the system and defines how they will collaborate. After that, all the components are united into a larger system and brought into line with major business goals. In case the qualified specialist does their job by the book but with a dash of creativity, the final product will be a top-notch solution where business risks are kept to a minimum and functionality lives up to the customer’s expectations.
Software architecture is sometimes confused with software design. While having a common overarching goal (that is, obtaining a robust solution that delivers), these two have their own role in reaching the ultimate destination. Anatomically speaking, software architecture provides a backbone to which muscles and ligaments are attached whereas software design focuses on the tissues that provide the adequate functioning of the whole organism.
Software designers deal closely with the structure and development of the elements, taking care of coding, integration, design per se, and subsequent testing. Thus, it is the designers who implement the blueprint compiled by architects in accordance with the customer’s requirements. While doing this, they:
- Produce software requirements specifications – a document that explicates how the system will behave when it interacts with hardware it is installed on, other software, and people who exploit it. These specifications must relate to business requirements forwarded by customers and agreed upon by architects.
- Provide high-level design. To attain it, the entire system is fragmented into subsystems and modules, with further implementation and projecting their connection with each other.
- Supply detailed design. At this stage, the organization of each module is handled with special attention to the scope of classes and the purposes of various functions.
As it transpires from the explanation, software architecture adumbrates the roadmap which is then implemented through detailed software design of the solution with a special focus on establishing algorithms and data structuring. Instead of juxtaposing the two procedures, it is more correct to consider the two stages of software development. Consequently, the functions of software architects and software designers often overlap, causing them to make decisions belonging to one another’s domains. Both domains are included in one system known as enterprise solution architecture.
The elements of enterprise solution architecture
Today, any enterprise poised for financial success and expansion must leverage digital technologies to stay abreast of the swift pace of progress in all contemporary industries. When employed to cater to the needs of a particular enterprise, such frameworks are called enterprise solutions. The latter normally consist of the information, technical, and business facets, united into a single architecture.
What are the components of modern enterprise solution architecture? Typically, they include ERP, CRM, SaaS, enterprise mobility, project and supply chain management, business intelligence, etc. Since our company has developed many business solutions, we know that their smooth integration and efficient functioning are expected to provide interoperability and sharing of information, the organization’s flexibility and agility, business and technology alignment. The result of such improvements is sure to tell upon the enterprise’s productivity and enhance customer relationships, bringing a regular inflow of revenues into the company coffers.
Solution architecture vs system architecture
It is important not to confuse enterprise solution architecture and system architecture. Their juxtaposition can be performed not only in terms of specialists responsible for handling them (i.e., system architect vs enterprise architect). They are different in essence, though closely related. While solution architecture refers to the organization of software systems leveraged by a company, the system architecture is understood as the physical placement of all software components on hardware.
Consequently, a system architect who understands the core relationships between IT system elements must take a crucial decision as to whether certain software should be located on the same or different servers (known as centralized and decentralized models). Organizations that have a high-speed server or solid storage facility may voice their preferences but the ultimate choice always lies with the system architect. The outcome of this choice will condition the selection of various types of software architecture, which affects the performance and reliability of the solution in question.
With the enterprise solution architecture being introduced on a large scale, the demand for software experts in the sphere displays a steady growing pattern conditioning division of responsibilities within this professional group. In this article, we will deal with showcasing the differences between technical architect vs solution architect vs enterprise architect, all of which nestle under a broad umbrella term of a software architect.
Solution architect roles and responsibilities
The solution architect is a visionary strategist. Having a broad understanding of technologies applied for various solutions and typically a degree in computer science, mathematics, or business (or several of them), they perform the functions of policymakers dealing with the task they are given. In military terms, they are generals who plan operations, producing guidelines to follow “from cradle to grave” for other parties to the process.
Having been assigned to a project, the solution architect assesses business requirements and offers the general concept of a technological solution that is to correspond to them. Then they develop the detailed life cycle of the solution, consisting of several building blocks. Once it is done, solution architects are in charge of managing all processes that are called to see the project through by translating their concept into palpable technical steps and coordinating activities of those who are involved in it.
Dealing with a project, solution architects should be able to consider a broad scope of related issues. To ensure the optimum result, they research the topic to expose possible positive and negative developments, assess the efficiency of the chosen methods and techniques, provide technical forecasts – in a word, they serve as chief consultants in strategic planning of the entire organization.
A matter of their special concern is the risks associated with the project. Solution architects must try to foresee the consequences of employing untested technologies, simultaneous usage of several tools, outsourcing the project to external developers, and shifting requirements on the part of the client.
In fact, a solution architect acts much like a project manager who is to make sure every involved stakeholder is on the same page and moving in the right direction at each stage of the solution development, thus providing the product consistency.
Before the project reaches the implementation phase, it should be submitted to an enterprise architect. What is the difference between solution and enterprise architect as far as their responsibilities are concerned?
Enterprise architect roles and responsibilities
The difference between solution architect and enterprise architect lies in the scope of responsibilities. While the solution architect’s authority is limited by the project they are assigned to, the enterprise architect (as the name suggests) must take a broader view and check whether the solution strategy chosen by the solution architect is in accord with the company’s mission. To do that, the enterprise architect should be aware not only of the organization’s internal policies and goals but of the environment as well.
The external factors that the enterprise architect keeps track of include the overall technological landscape in the world, current IT trends, and competitors’ advances in the field. Being in the know of such developments and having degrees in information systems or information technology, the enterprise architect determines how IoT, ML, or AI can be leveraged to give the organization a competitive edge and updates the IT department on the new frameworks, platforms, and practices of applying them.
Thus, if a CEO is contemplating what kind of software architect to hire, the opposition of enterprise architect vs solution architect is a faulty one. Each of them is a necessary summand of implementing the company’s IT strategy which renders the choice between enterprise vs solution architect non-existent since both are to do their bit for the well-being of the organization. What is common between these kinds of software experts is that both excel in seeing the entire picture, adopting a rather abstract view of structures and processes related to it. They hardly go into detail, which is the task of the third type of software specialists – technical architects.
Technical architect roles and responsibilities
Being strategically-oriented, both enterprise and solution architects delegate specific tasks to other specialists. So once the overall planning is over, technical architects come into play. But since every project is unique, solution architect and technical architect work in close cooperation to deliver the best result, providing a link between the strategic idea and its technical implementation. While executing an IT project, technical architects adopt a hands-on approach, which requires an exceptional level of in-depth proficiency. This requirement conditions two peculiarities of technical architect vs solution architect.
First, for technical architects, a degree in computer science, computer engineering, or software development is a must. Moreover, mastery of the major programming language is a good crutch in their activities welcomed by all companies.
The second difference between solution architect and technical architect is that the latter conventionally specializes in one technology (rarely two of them). They are covered by the umbrella term “domain architects” and receive names in accordance with the sphere they work in – Java architect, Net architect, Sparx architect, Python architect, etc.
The duties of any domain architect, say, application architect vs solution architect are very limited. Unlike the latter who performs the functions of a project managers, the former exercises supervision over development teams by defining standards they are to stick to in their work, estimating solution implementation costs, controlling project timelines, analyzing design specifications, envisaging potential risks and pitfalls, and ensuring the overall functionality of the finished solution. This effectively makes the technical architect a technical project manager.
Since the technology such specialists are well-versed in is likely to be employed across many projects of a company, technical architects tend to be involved in all those places thus, ensuring the overall smooth functioning of the IT framework around the entire venture.
The software engineer: Another stakeholder in the IT process
While comparing solution or enterprise architect vs technical architect some people tend to believe that the latter builds software products (such as computer games or apps) and runs network control systems. It is not true since a technical architect acts as a manager supervising people who do this. Such people are called software engineers (or developers). Alongside the enumerated responsibilities, their scope of activities encompasses designing, coding, unit and code regression testing, debugging, improving operation ability, performing logical configurations, upgrading, modeling – in a word, everything that relates to the implementation of a concept developed by a technical architect.
As people’s reliance on IT technologies grows, the demand for software engineers grows as well and is likely to manifest a 22% boost within the next 10 years. Such a trend conditioned specification among software engineers who fall into two broad categories with various sets of skills in the field.
System software developers are mostly concerned with back-end development, working as a part of a development team in close cooperation with systems architects and data science professionals. These experts are responsible for both hardware and software, building operating systems and networks, designing and introducing IT standards, maintaining respective documentation which must be constantly updated to new technologies, and integrating various software products into one platform.
Applications software developers build new apps (like what we do at DICEUS) and update the existing ones. Being more client-oriented and consequently accountable to customer success personnel, such experts deal with both back- and front-end issues, collaborating with graphic designers and project managers to eventually market a high-quality product.
How much do IT professionals earn?
Being a wanted category on the contemporary job market, any kind of IT specialists – either architects or engineers – is sure to get a highly paid job if their qualifications and skills are adequate for the position in question. Since the USA is a Mecca and a trailblazer in the modern IT industry where software experts can hope to earn the highest salaries in the world, it is sensible to analyze how much different categories of IT specialists are paid there. Of course, the offered figures are ballpark estimations that depend on numerous factors, such as the nature of the business, the company’s location, whether you are a contract employee or a part-time freelancer. However, some general conclusions can be made.
Being rank and file of any digital army, software engineers get lower salaries than other IT professionals, but they are still quite high compared to the average ones. Thus, this type of expert may earn anything between $70,000 and $155,000 a year. Higher rates can be found at richer employers like Google that offers annual salaries up to $220,000. Within this group, there is a gradation, depending on whether you build apps or create systems. Typically, systems engineers get more money than app developers. On balance, the yearly salary of a software developer around $105,000 is considered to be a very decent one.
Architects are a kind of top brass in such armies, so their salaries tend to be higher. The lowest one of a technical architect starts at about $90,000 per year, although some of them (like Java architects) may get about $10,000 less. Solution architects are a notch higher in the organizational hierarchy, so they typically get approximately $116,000 a year. On top of this pyramid are enterprise architects whose annual earnings start at $126,000. Having the greatest potential for career advancement, these specialists can grow to become senior or principal enterprise architects who can get up to $135,000 a year.
The IT experts working at DICEUS cannot boast of a similar rate of salaries. Yet, they can provide you with top-notch consultation and development services to add value to your business and turn it into a thriving one.
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With digitalization penetrating ever deeper into all spheres of our life, the number of specialists who deal with software at different levels is only likely to increase. Suppose you are an entrepreneur who wants your firm not just to survive precariously but enter the major league of business. In that case, you should know what experts your company needs and be aware of their different responsibilities. Being armed with the respective knowledge, you would be able to make well-judged decisions that will open new vistas before your company.