According to the Pulse, only 62% of projects met original goals, 53% were completed within the original budget, and 49% were completed on time. In the case of enterprise software projects, these overruns may lead to huge financial losses.
That's why companies need IT solution architects to make sure the product will meet their requirements, and there won't be any time or budget overruns.
The role of solution architects is to provide technical guidance to help clients build solutions that are secure, reliable, cost-optimized, and fault-tolerant. In various ways, this person establishes relations between business problems and tech solutions and drafts every requirement needed to make that solution work.
What is a solutions architect, their roles and responsibilities, and how they're different from software engineers and Project managers — find out in this article.
What Is a Solution Architect?
A solution architect is a person who finds the best tech solution to clients’ business problems. They bridge business requirements and tech means developers need to use to meet these requirements. Architects speak both ‘technical’ language with developers and ‘business’ language with clients.
For example, a travel provider like Booking.com wants to create an app to let customers book flights, hotels, and cabs from mobile devices.
A solution architect's job here is to explain how this app can be built, what tools — programming languages, frameworks, APIs — should be used, and how much time this process will take. For that, architects do some solution architecture — draw diagrams to understand which components are required for this app. And what tools they’re going to use to implement them.
Here’s a simplified example of such a diagram:
Solution architect work: basic travel app concept
Besides picking the technologies, IT solution architects define the development stages the team will go through and help with calculating the product’s cost. As the solution architect knows the architecture components, they know what people — front end, back end, iOS, Android developers — they need to involve. They’re not Project Managers though; they’re project leaders.
- Project managers watch over software development process — monitor tasks, ensure the team meets deadlines, and report to clients.
- Solution architects lead the process — they make sure the software will work as stakeholders expect, meet their tech and non-tech requirements, won’t exceed budget, and will be released in time.
But solution architects aren’t the only architects when it comes to software development.
Types of Architects
There are three roles related to architecture:
- Enterprise architect — monitors how the solution is built in the enterprise's architecture and connected with its other components
- Solution architect — bridges the gap between business problems and technology solutions
- Software architect — mainly in charge of engineering problems and software architecture
They are similar, but not quite the same.
Solution architecture is focused on details and solution technologies to address a specific business problem. They are mediators between enterprise architecture (global business perspective) and software architecture (dealing with tech issues). Sometimes infrastructure architects are also mentioned. These people work in big organizations that maintain complex hardware infrastructure.
Solution architect in IT often works with both enterprise and software architects
Types of Solutions Architects: Specialization
Mainly, “solution architect” is a broad term used to define this expert. However, the title can vary depending on the SA's basic scope of activity and specialization:
- Infrastructure Architect
- Network Architect
- Data Architect
- Security Architect
- DevOps Architect
Infrastructure Solution Architect
Such experts deal with enterprise IT infrastructure. They’re in charge of creating and implementing the data center infrastructure that maintains network environments. Infrastructure SA gathers the business requirements and develops an infrastructure strategy that aligns with the business goals.
Network Solution Architect
Their primary responsibility is to design the computer network. Of course, all architect roles are crossed with other architect roles, but network SA should concentrate more on networking areas such as LAN, WAN, internet, intranet, VPN, IDS, IPS, Firewall, etc.
Data architects are mediators between business operations and IT. Business operations gather and employ the data, while IT obtains, stores, and derives that information from varied database resources. In other words, they answer for determining procedures and technologies to be applied in collecting, structuring, storing, and accessing enterprise information.
Security SA is the one who takes care of IT system security and businesses’ mandatory compliance regulations (e.g., SOC2, PCI-DSS, HIPAA). They’re responsible for:
- Designing network and computer security
- Guaranteeing the protection of the computers
- Maintaining security controls on the infrastructure
- Monitoring and approving the network configuration
- Testing the security across the enterprise
- Ensuring software and data compliances with the industry and security standards
These experts have recently been popular as CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous deployment) gets increasingly integrated into the business. They create the CI/CD pipeline not only for the software to be deployed but also for supplying infrastructures (especially in the cloud such as Infrastructure as Code).
Solution Architect Roles and Responsibilities
Let’s talk a bit more about solution architect responsibilities and roles before and during the development process.
Solution Architect Roles
The main role of a solution architect is to ensure the product meets business requirements and requirements from other stakeholders.
First, they create a technical vision to show how the software will cover business needs. Next, they pass their tech vision to the development team who starts working on the solution.
If the team follows the Agile methodology, the solution architect’s role is to support the development team, accompanying the project at the implementation stage. At the same time, they can create prototypes to identify tech limitations or delve into product design.
Let's say a hospital chain wants to expand its software and make a telehealth solution to keep in touch with its patients. What would the solutions architect role be?
First, business analysts collect requirements and provide solution architect with inputs like:
- Functional requirements (‘we need text and video chats’)
- Non-functional requirements (‘we need English and French localization’)
- Constraints (‘the app must comply with HIPAA’).
(We’re going to talk more about these requirements later on).
The architect then works out the tech vision of the product, explains what solution they need (website, desktop app, mobile apps, or all together). As well as how to build it and what technologies to use. Next, an IT solutions architect helps to assemble a development team — define how many developers they need, as well as where each of them should start.
After developing a product roadmap, the solution architect is engaged in estimating the budget and introducing it to the stakeholders. Once everything is approved, SA traces the process of development and keeps clients tabs on the progress. During the development stage, the solution architect delves into each of the product areas. They have to explain how to make each part of the software so that everything fits into a single product.
Role of a solution architect—to transform business requiremenets into a detailed tech guide
Solutions Architect Responsibilities
Now, let’s move to the responsibilities of a solution architect. We’ve selected four main processes architects are responsible for.
- Conduct an architectural system evaluation
Before embarking on product deployment, the role of a solution architect is to analyze your company's IT landscape to map business expectations with current IT capabilities. This will allow them to determine whether newly developed software will fit the existing enterprise environment. To carry out this task, a technology solution architect has to understand how all the processes, operating systems, and application architectures pull together. Knowing these aspects, they will be able to design a suited digital solution.
- Meeting functional requirements
Any requirement that specifies what software should do is a functional requirement. For example:
- The website does not support offline mode. Users can not use the website if there is no internet connection.
- The mobile app should have some function in an offline situation.
- When a new user signups, an email is sent to their email address
Among the responsibilities of solution architects is making sure the software they work on meets all functional requirements.
- Meeting non-functional requirements
There also are non-functional requirements that refer to how the software performs a certain action. For example, you want the team to create an admin panel and let your employees log in. Are you okay with a login that takes 20 minutes?
It's a solution architect's responsibility to ensure that the login process goes as fast and seamless and possible.
Examples of non-functional requirements:
- Use English, Russian, and Italian localization; default language — English
- Mobile app must support portrait mode only;
- Application supports native fonts only
Both functional and non-functional requirements are written down in a project specification. Click here to see how it looks like.
- Decide on a technology stack
The tech architecture strategy directly depends on the technology stack architects choose.
There are many different programming languages, frameworks, libraries, databases, architectural patterns, and standards. The responsibility of a solution architect is to pick the most suitable tools for a particular project. Which requires decent tech skills to assess and compare tools.
For example, here’s the tech stack we used while working on Blockbuster, a video streaming platform. Lots of languages, libraries, and tools.
- Deal with project constraints
Each project has constraints — time, money, limitations, risks, licensing.
If you’re making a healthcare app, it must comply with HIPAA. If you want to launch a streaming service, you must own the copyrights and content licenses. Or maybe you only have six months to spend on development.
These limitations may change the product a lot — and thus change its cost and time to market. What do solutions architects do in this case? As architects know the field, they're aware of these constraints and ways to deal with them. And the faster you deal with them, the faster and cheaper the product will be delivered.
Solution Architect Technical Skills, Experience, and Background
Solutions architect skills include technical knowledge, communication, and leadership skills. But their experience with commercial projects is the key to getting the job.
It’s like hiring a super-senior developer but with deep expertise in a specific field — healthcare, education, traveling, or any other. For solution architects, the business side of the product matters as much as the technical side.
Here’s the list of skills solution architect should have:
- Experience in software engineering and design architecture
- Practical experience with projects in relevant engineering domain
- Knowledge of cloud computing — Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services
- Knowledge of typical enterprise integration patterns
- Be familiar with principles of computer networks and IT security management
- Understanding of business analysis techniques and processes
- Strong organizational, analytical and system thinking skills
- Excellent interpersonal communication and negotiation skills
Often employers ask candidates to provide certifications like:
- AWS Certified Solution Architect
- Axelos ITIL Master Certification
- Google Professional Cloud Architect
- Microsoft Azure Architect
Usually, it’s senior developers, team leads, and project managers who have skills required for a solution architect. They have the needed tech background, business expertise, and are excellent communicators. Basically, as soon as a software engineer starts thinking about business needs, they are on their way to becoming a solution architect.
A roadmap to becoming a solutions architect:
How developers become solution architects
What is solution architect certification?
Certifications are aimed to confirm the skills and expertise of solution architects. They evaluate their knowledge, competencies, and experience. So, having one or more credentials demonstrates the candidate’s proficiency in particular skills.
From an employee's point of view, certification is mainly needed for a specific company. However, it’s the proven approach to become an IT solution architect, increase and acquire credibility. As for the business owners, it allows them to assess candidates’ tech knowledge and to define if they’re experienced enough to be involved in your project.
There are many solution architect certifications available to master a specific technology. Let’s overview the four most popular ones.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect program provides certifications depending on the candidate’s experience: associate and professional levels. Both are intended for specialists that deal with AWS technologies (which is considered the most widely used ones) to design and deploy applications and systems.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam holds 130 minutes, and it’s priced at $150.It’s recommended to have at least 1 year of experience before one attempts to take the test. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional exam targets senior IT solution architects (with 2+ years of experience and an associate certificate). The exam is 180 minutes long, with a registration fee of $300.
The credentials are valid for 3 years. After that, the experts must pass through recertification to confirm their continued expertise and knowledge of the modern AWS technologies and innovative practices.
Cleveroad always works to improve its skills and knowledge to keep up with latest technology solutions: Our Solution Architects is AWS certified
Microsoft offers numerous credentials for solution architects, but the most known one: Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert. It’s designed for specialists that build solutions running on Microsoft Azure and have intimate knowledge of Azure infrastructure.
The Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification can be acquired after taking a test: AZ-305: Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. The price varies depending on the country where the exam is taken ($165 in the United States, $100 in Estonia).
The AZ-305 exam is oriented on the following tasks:
- Implement and track an Azure infrastructure
- Implement management and security systems
- Implement solutions for applications
- Implement and administer data platforms
Google cloud architect certification
Google also has various role-based certifications. Professional Cloud Architect is one for professionals who apply Google Cloud technologies in their solutions. But it targets not only IT architects but any experts working with Google cloud architecture. It takes 2 hours to complete and costs $200. It’s better to have 3 years of hands-on experience before getting tested. It demands recertification every two years. The participants get access to an exam guide (including educational materials and sample questions) which lists the following aspects of the exam:
- Planning and creating a cloud solution architecture
- Handling and provisioning an IT infrastructure
- Designing for security and compliance
- Scrutinizing and streamlining technology and business processes
- Managing implementation
- Ensuring solution and operations steadiness
ITIL is the industry-accepted range of qualifications that contains 5 levels. The highest credential is the ITIL Master for those experts who deal with IT service management and have deep experience with ITIL practices. It’s not designed primarily for technical solution architects, but since ITIL is a widely applied management framework, the specialist that mastered its principles would be a valuable candidate for any managerial position.
The feature of this exam is that the candidates need to explain how they personally picked and applied a set of knowledge and methods from the ITIL framework and maintain management techniques to reach the desired business results. So, there is no training course for this exam since every specialist will be tested based on their individual experience.
When Do Companies Need a Solution Architect?
Of course, you don’t need a solution architect for each product. Companies look for people who perform solutions architect duties only when their projects become more complex and challenging.
If you build landing pages, integrate small modules, or make minor improvements, you don't need a solution architect. But if you aim at enterprise-level solutions or want to grow your existing product, you may want an IT solution architect to lead the process.
Solution architects position appeared in сompanies that create software on an industrial scale. They needed someone who could communicate with their clients while the contract is being prepared (solution architecture as a service). Or someone who would overlook the architecture from start to finish.
Here are the most popular cases when you need to involve a technology solutions architect:
- You need to fit new software into an existing system
Usually, a product never exists alone. It must fit into the current enterprise architecture — the software the company's been using before. For example, if you use legacy software, your brand-new admin plan should fit right in and communicate with that legacy system. Architects consider the existing company's architecture to make sure the new product will work in the existing ecosystem.
- You need to show a product roadmap
Having a full plan of future software and a list of technologies is always better than having a bare idea. You have more chances to impress investors if you know what product you’re making and what problem it’s going to solve. A solution architect will match product requirements with ways to implement them and explain everything in clear business terms.
- You have a large-scale project
If many teams are involved in the process, you may need an IT solution architect who'll manage software architects to produce a quality outcome.
Learn how DevOps services will allow you to achieve the enhanced frequency and reliability of your software releases
How Our Solution Architects Can Help You
Cleveroad is a professional software development company that helps startups, SMBs, and enterprises deliver custom digital solutions that improve their performance and customer experience.
Our IT solution architects have hands-on experience in the deployment of AWS systems and others, and cloud best practices across multiple industries: logistics, healthcare, retail, education, finance, and other business domains. In addition, the Cleveroad team continually sharps their knowledge in computing, networking, storage, and database services.
To demonstrate the high-level competency of our Solution Architects, let us demonstrate our latest case — Quality Management System (QMS) for Healthcare.
The number of the Customer’s clients was rapidly growing together with their needs, so our Customer needed to renew the system (compatible with core industry regulations) to deliver a better user experience, thus, increasing revenue. To meet these and other business requirements, the Customer needed their QMS modernized with properly managed back-end infrastructure, consistently monitored to ensure their services are highly available.
To solve customer business challenges, we’ve assembled a team of 9 experts, including DevOps practitioners with deep expertise in IT structure management and software development. Our team has conducted in-depth analysis and built a SaaS-based architecture initiating automation and switching to electronic document management, complying with FDA and ISO requirements.
The solution architecture was designed considering all the business requirements. We’ve considered a role-based access control (RBAC) with three different roles to enable access level management. Users' permissions can be configured via settings on User groups level. You can get acquainted with QMS Business Architecture. Our team has also implemented core logical modules, features, and logical layers such as management of Documents, Actions, Training Records, and Human Resources to bring more value to our Customer. The interconnection of modules and solution elements is presented on the detailed product scheme.
So far, our architects have helped our client:
- Built solid software architecture with sophisticated business logic aligning with business needs
- Created and configured a reliable environment for the development process
- Successfully migrated from on-premises to cloud with a refactoring strategy
- Reduced operating costs by implementing best DevOps practices
- Eliminated core systems bottlenecks that limit performance
As a result, our Client has received a responsive and user-friendly web-based QMS and easily integrated it into customer’s services. In addition, the processes became digitized and transparent, with improved usability for all parties.
This is one of the successfully fulfilled projects. Although each of our cases is unique, we adapt to the client’s business needs and financial capabilities. If you want to reinforce existing business processes, our Solution Architects will eagerly assist you in implementing digital technology across the company.
Need a solution architect?
Describe your product, and we’ll plan its architecture from the ground up.
The primary role of a solution architect is to ensure the product meets business requirements and requirements from other stakeholders.
A solution architect is a person who finds the best tech solution to clients’ business problems.
Solution architects make sure the product meets business requirements, will be delivered on time and within budget.
First, they create a technical vision to show how the software will cover business needs. Next, they pass their tech vision to the development team who starts working on the solution.
The role of a solution architect is to ensure the product meets business requirements and requirements from other stakeholders.
Their responsibilities include:
- Meeting functional and non-functional requirements
- Deciding on a technology stack
- Dealing with project constraints
Software architect should have knowledge of:
- IT architecture and cloud development (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services)
- Engineering and software architecture design
- Computer networks and IT security management
- Business analysis process, DevOps practices
There are a few reasons a company may need a solutions architect:
- They want to fit new software into an existing system
- Need a product roadmap to pitch to investors
- Need managers for a large-scale project with few development teams
Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics
Give us your impressions about this article
Give us your impressions about this article
Great piece of writing with immensely informative contents! I really liked the writing style and the whole process of the story building. Waiting for more posts! Cheers!!
Thanks for topic contents
A really good overview about the role which I was looking for
Got a brief idea about Solution Architect. Thanks.
Thanks for your information
Thank you for your information.