Solution Architect Job Description
A solution architect plays an important role in the software development cycle, gathering requirements and directing the activities of the rest of the design team. This role requires excellent attention to detail, as the solution architect frequently needs to examine functional specifications and translate them into system guidelines that shape project development as well as find ways to align projects with enterprise-level systems.
In addition to guiding development teams, a solution architect is frequently responsible for conducting research on existing systems and devising solutions that work within those systems. They may also meet directly with clients to demonstrate solutions, answer questions regarding software capabilities and requirements, and work to resolve issues that arise during the development cycle.
Solution Architect Duties and Responsibilities
In the information technology field, solution architects typically work as part of a solution development team. We analyzed recent job postings to compile the following list of core responsibilities of a solution architect:
Gather Functional Requirements
One of the first duties of the solution architect during the project development lifecycle is to gather requirements and specifications from clients and users. This aspect of the role may require working closely with sales team members and enterprise architects to gain a complete sense of client expectations and limitations before undertaking a major development project. As part of this process, the solution architect may examine existing systems and programs to identify areas for improvement and integration.
Before developers can begin work on a project, a solution architect uses their familiarity with functional requirements and existing systems to develop project specifications. They may develop schedules and test plans, prepare documentation based on analyst reports, and assemble documents presenting project guidelines and milestones to team members. At the same time, solution architects may identify potential issues between systems and client specifications and propose new solutions to work around these limitations.
Determine Project Scope
A solution architect is also responsible for determining a project’s scope before developers begin any major work. They may conduct extra research on a client’s existing systems and configurations to determine whether added time and work is necessary to align the project with enterprise-level systems. They also identify areas where implementation may require more solutions to be successful. Throughout this process, the solution architect communicates directly with enterprise architects, developers, and clients.
Lead Development Teams
Throughout the development lifecycle, a solution architect directs and oversees the activities of a team of developers, answering questions or helping to resolve issues as they arise. This aspect of the role requires the solution architect to ensure that specifications and requirements are clearly articulated to their development teams. They monitor timelines and progress to ensure that team members are adhering to these specifications. The solution architect may also serve as a liaison between client-facing personnel and developers.
Interface Directly with Clients
From the initial conversations to determine project scope and specifications to the final presentation of software solutions, a solution architect meets directly with clients to provide feedback and updates on development projects. They may prepare reports and presentations, as well as demonstrations, to keep the client informed about issues that arise during development and report on integration and deployment. They may also receive updated specifications and requirements from clients throughout the development lifecycle.
Manage External Vendors
For many projects, solution architects work with outside vendors to develop and implement specific aspects of the software solution. This aspect of the role may require the solution architect to consider costs and timelines and ensure that vendors meet deadlines for deliverables and project elements. They may review proposals and estimates from these vendors and determine whether they fit into existing budgetary and time restrictions and ensure that external solutions work with internal development projects.
Solution Architect Skills and Qualifications
Solution architects need to be highly technical and able to translate functional requirements into robust software solutions. Companies typically hire individuals for this role who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, along with the following skills:
- Technical Literacy – Solution architects possess a high level of technical literacy, which helps them determine how a software solution fits into an organization’s current structure and assists in the development of specifications and requirements
- Analytical Assessment – This role requires a high level of analysis since solution architects need to examine a client’s current systems and determine overall project needs and scope
- Schedule Management – Solution architects need extensive time management skills to determine development schedules and milestones and ensure that deliverables are completed on time
- Team Leadership – Because solution architects oversee and direct development teams throughout the project development lifecycle, experience with team leadership and motivation is essential
- Communication – In this role, solution architects are responsible for communicating with team members, clients, and external vendors, so they exhibit excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Problem-Solving – Solution architects need to be excellent problem-solvers, able to quickly change direction based on updated client specifications or system limitations
Tools of the Trade
Solution architects generally work in office settings, so they need some familiarity with standard office programs and equipment, in addition to:
- Architecture Frameworks – (ToGAG, DoDAF, FEAF)
- Unified Modeling Language
Solution Architect Education and Training
Solution architects need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as computer science. Additionally, they should have significant experience in the IT field. Many solution architects start out as developers before becoming development leads and then advance based on successful completion of projects and solutions.
Solution Architect Salary and Outlook
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide specific salary estimates for solution architects, both Glassdoor and PayScale provide similar estimates. Glassdoor estimates that solution architects earn an average annual salary of $116,171 per year, while PayScale estimates annual earnings of $115,231.
If you’re interested in learning more about a career as a solution architect, check out the following websites, books, and resources:
“From Developer to Solution Architect: Essential Skills for Climbing the IT Professional Ladder” – Read about how to successfully move from a software developer role to a career in solution architecture in this blog article offered by SAP.
Agile Data Warehousing for the Enterprise: A Guide for Solution Architects and Project Leaders – Find out more about best practices in data management, a major topic of interest for solution architects, with this book by Ralph Hughes.
“Anatomy of a Software Development Role: Solution Architect” – This blog post presents a more extensive look at the solution architect’s role, exploring responsibilities, duties, and qualifications.
Architecting the Industrial Internet: The Architect’s Guide to Designing Industrial Internet Solutions – In this book by Shyam Nath, Robert Stackowiak, and Carla Romano, read about the solution architect role in developing projects for the emerging “Internet of Things” field.
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