What is the Role of a Solution Architect in an Organization?

As companies increasingly embrace innovations, they start to experience the need to align the technological solutions with their business objectives and the unique requirements of their organizations. Surprisingly, though, many business leaders underestimate the significance of a solution architect, one of the key personas in the IT industry, whose role is to guide the company through the complex process of digital transformation. 

In this article, we will explain why the role of a solution architect in an organization is important in today’s fast-changing business environment, and why having a solution architect in a team is crucial to ensuring the overall success of a project. Read on to learn more!

What is solution architecture? 

Enterprise solution architecture is a set of integrated technologies and applications that help organizations resolve their business-specific issues and reach their objectives.

Another popular solution architecture definition describes it as a document containing the specifications for enterprise software which has to be built to propel the organization’s business goals. As these applications get developed, solutions architects ensure they are aligned with the listed requirements.

It’s also quite easy to confuse solutions architecture with the two closely interconnected concepts: enterprise architecture and technical architecture.

Enterprise architecture is, in essence, an entire organizational ecosystem: the way in which processes, applications, and technologies are interconnected to ensure the seamless performance of a company’s core functions. As such, enterprise architecture is the way the company ecosystem is organized in order to meet strategic business goals. As a broader concept, enterprise architecture encompasses both solutions architecture and technical architecture.

Technical architecture refers mainly to software architecture, technical engineering, and implementation practices. Thus, technical engineers work in close cooperation with development teams to make sure that they stick to the accepted development practices and communicate the enterprise strategy to developers. A solutions architect, on the other hand, focuses primarily on software architecture. 


A solution architect’s roles and responsibilities within the organization

A solutions architect is a person responsible for designing the specifications for enterprise software solutions and assisting the development team in their implementation and maintenance.

However, the role of a solutions architect covers a wider scope of job functions:

  • Identifying the right solution for meeting the organization’s goals. This task requires understanding the specifics of software solutions existing on the market in order to select exactly the ones that will meet the company’s needs and resolve pressing issues. 
  • Communicating the software characteristics to technical and non-technical stakeholders.   
  • Defining the software core features before describing them in detail in a software specification. 

Moreover, a solutions architect’s job presupposes proficiency in meeting a number of challenges inherent to selecting, building, and implementing enterprise-scale applications:

Integrating new enterprise solutions with legacy processes and infrastructures

Organizations usually have a set of established processes highly dependent on legacy technologies and running on top of legacy infrastructures. A solutions architect should have an in-depth understanding of how parts of a company ecosystem work together to select the solutions that will fit the company environment.


Choosing the tech stack

The characteristics of a company ecosystem will largely determine the optimal tech stack for the project in question. The solutions architect has to choose the optimal set of technologies to develop a particular solution. This choice will also have a decisive impact on the product’s technical architecture.

Ensuring that the solution meets the needs of all its stakeholders

A solutions architect usually acts as an intermediary between the technical and non-technical project stakeholders and finds means to meet all of their requirements during the application development process. Explaining technical details to the management team, informing the stakeholders about the development progress, costs, and timeline is also within the scope of a solutions architect’s job role. 

Resolving the project’s constraints

The word ‘constraints’ refers to numerous limitations typical to every software development project: resources, time, technology, scope, risks, budget, etc. The solutions architect has to be fully aware of these constraints and resolve them in order to build a product that would still meet business demands.

Ensuring compliance with non-functional requirements

Security, scalability, usability, and performance are the usual non-functional requirements, although they may vary, depending on the overall product characteristics and complexity. The solutions architect’s job is to oversee the software development process to ensure that the end product meets these basic quality attributes.

Yet, the solutions architect doesn’t substitute the Project Manager – rather, he assists the PM over the course of the development process.


So what does a solution architect do? Let’s briefly wrap up their typical responsibilities:

  1. Understanding the specifics of enterprise technology and its ecosystem
  2. Documenting requirements
  3. Establishing the collaborative environment and communicating with tech and non-tech stakeholders
  4. Taking part in selecting the optimal tech stack
  5. Creating a product prototype
  6. Supervising the solution development
  7. Assisting the PM in the development process

As you can see, the key skills of a solutions architect lie at the intersection of business and IT. Apart from the vast IT background, engineering and software design skills, the person you hire for this position should have expertise in project management and business analytics. Experience in DevOps, IT infrastructure, and cloud development is also highly desirable for this position.

The personality traits of such an individual should include the following:

Strong analytical skills

A solution architect is an analytical thinker capable of understanding how all facets of an organizational ecosystem interrelate while staying focused on strategic business goals. 

Advanced people skills

Being able to communicate the product vision to all parties involved and listening to their demands implies great communication skills. A solutions architect should be able to translate the business requirements into the technical language and vice versa, and act as a mediator between the development team and the project’s stakeholders. 

Project management skills

Although not a substitute for the PM role, the solution architect position requires strong management skills. A solution architect accounts for budget, resources, and deadlines, and should be result-oriented and business-focused. 

In a nutshell, a person you hire for this role should integrate technical expertise with strong leadership skills. Such highly versatile individuals can be hard to find, with recruitment cycles ranging from 6 to 12 weeks, and starting-level SA salaries averaging at $78, 484 per year.


When does your company need a solutions architect?

Some organizations don’t need to hire in-house experts and can leverage third-party solution architecture consulting services or have the solution architect functions split between other people on their team. At times though, the need for a dedicated SA specialist becomes paramount.

Let’s now list the typical cases when a company needs to hire an in-house solutions architect.

You need to enhance your enterprise ecosystem with a wide range of software solutions

This usually applies to large companies who want to integrate several enterprise-grade applications into their existing ecosystems. On top of that, they can afford zero downtime and need to ensure non-disruptive performance.

You are using legacy software products and need to completely replace them

The solution architect will decide whether it makes sense to rebuild your enterprise apps from scratch or introduce out-of-the-box solutions from other vendors. Further, the SA will supervise the implementation process.

You need to make a set of technological choices that will have a far-reaching impact

If your enterprise is undergoing a full-scale digital transformation involving a complete hardware and software refresh, or you need to align your technological assets with your strategic goals, then an in-house solution architect will guide your company through this complex and painstaking process.

As an integral part of an enterprise ecosystem, a solutions architecture has an immense impact on your company operations in general. An optimal, well-structured architecture of your enterprise solutions will account for excellent operational efficiency, increase time-to-value, and will give your company an indisputable competitive advantage. With this regard, the importance of a solution architect in an organization becomes paramount. 

Need a helping hand with building a top-notch enterprise solution architecture? Contact our expert team now for a free consultation!

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