One of the biggest challenges facing tech companies these days is failing projects due to the inability to competently map out trends and innovations that would actually work. This is why we have seen surveys that indicate nearly half of new projects failing within a year. The solution to this is solution architecture, which inevitably involves an architect.
In this article, the main topics of discussion will be the main obstacles of tech companies are experiencing, what a solutions architect can do to alleviate the issues, and what the role of a solution architect entails.
At the end of the discussion, the goal is to impress the importance of such a role in pretty much any tech group or project and how a company can best take advantage of such a solution.
According to studies done with regard to emerging projects by tech companies both good and small, an average of nearly 50% of projects tends to fail within a few months of inception. This means that about half of new enterprises end up being a waste of time and money.
A new solution needed to be introduced in order to curb such losses of resources, particularly in a field as competitive and as volatile as the tech industry. Being delayed can mean a lot of money lost for bigger entities while for smaller ones, it can mean complete failure.
The solution that was thought up to address this problem is someone who is capable of charting the path that a company was going to take with the highest likelihood of success. On top of that, this role needed to make sure that a project will actually put the company ahead of competitors.
Thus, the position of solution architecture was born.
What is Solution Architecture?
Solution architecture is exactly what it sounds. It’s the creation of a framework that will solve problems and plot a course toward success after taking the issues into consideration. It’s a specialized job that involves quite a bit of analysis, internal and external investigations, surveys, studies, and so much more.
This is pretty much what you are going to find if you take a look at a typical solutions architect job description.
The idea behind solution architecture is fairly straightforward; have someone who is good at finding problems and then have that person figure out a way to make that problem go away. Better yet, have that person turn that problem into an advantage if it is at all possible.
Naturally, quite a bit of trust is placed on the person who will be fulfilling this role since he/she will be affecting the direction that the company will be taking going forward. They will have a considerable level of power to affect not only the employees but also the board of directors, the executives, and of course, the stakeholders.
As such, it can’t be done by just anyone and requires a substantial level of specialization, expertise, and most importantly, a solid reputation.
What is a Solution Architect?
What is a solution architect? A solution architect is a person placed in charge of identifying problems within a company, a particular project, or a group that is affecting the entity’s bottom line. Depending on the arrangement made by the individual companies, the job can be anywhere from simple investigation to full-on overhaul.
It’s worth pointing that a solution architect is not the same as an enterprise architect or a technical architect. Those three sound the same, so they are often mistaken for each other and are even used interchangeably in discussions.
Suffice it to say, this is just not the case. Just to provide more context, the differences are summarized below:
- Solution Architect - This particular job basically rides the fence between corporate and tech solutions. It has a narrow purview in terms of what the person in charge will be focusing on and it mixes entrepreneurial goals and technological ones.
It does not necessarily change how a company will do business. Rather, it is a role that is meant to influence some of the projects that will eventually make the company a lot of money.
More than that, it is also intended to find specific issues that will have short to medium-term consequences rather than broader ones that will come to fruition decades down the line.
- Enterprise Architect - A more generalized role for fixing company problems, an enterprise architect concerns business models, management, executive functions, coming up with effective corporate strategies, and the like.
If there is a major shift in how personnel and business practices are done, it is likely that this was done under the advice of an enterprise architect.
- Technical Architect - The most specific position of the bunch, this particular job involves engineering and tech problems. That is to say, if there is a problem that only impacts software, hardware, and electronic products, this is the person to turn to.
While the solutions presented by this personnel might eventually influence the company’s bottom line, it does not necessarily focus on that. It’s like fixing a particular bug in a program and have it run regardless of whether it is good or bad.
On the matter of the specifics as to what are the roles and responsibilities of a solution architect, it can cover a large number of jobs. Again, this comes down to what the company wants. However, the general solutions architect roles and responsibilities can include the following:
- Analyzing the problem thoroughly from every angle
- Coming up with the best tech solutions among a bunch of other solutions
- Providing adequate details and explanation with regard to the problem and the solution
- Outlining the requirements needed to achieve the ideal outcome
- Laying down specifics as to steps that will allow the achievement of that outcome
To that end, there are two main points that a solution architect must absolutely keep in mind:
- Understand the corporate environment and come up with a solution that fits neatly into it
- Provide solutions that the stakeholders will be happy with
At the end of the day, however, the specifics regarding what a solution architect is expected to do will hinge largely on what the company wants or needs. This role can encompass as wide or as narrow an area as is needed in order to address the present concerns.
The authority given to the solution architect will vary, as well. In many cases, it all comes down to being an advisory role. In others, the word of the architect is the law - particularly if said architect has built up a reputation of being the best at what they do.
Roles and Responsibilities of Solution Architect
It’s important to understand exactly what does a solutions architect do once they arrive at the company. Once one has been brought on board, that person will then:
- Analyze the company’s technological capability and environment
- Analyze the company’s business model and practices
- Read and compile relevant documents for analysis
- Creating the framework for collaboration, management, and execution
- Working on a prototype for the solution
- Selecting the technology that will be used or developed
- Managing the development of the solution chosen
- Providing support for the development and management of the project
Over the course of trying to assume these responsibilities, the solution architect will have a few key areas that they will need to focus on when they arrive at the company to look at particular projects. These are:
- Technological capabilities, limits and potential
- Risks, liabilities, and benefits
- Width and breadth of the projects
- Projected costs and expense details
- Prototype and final product quality
- Supplies, personnel, tools, expertise, etc.
Read also about the Difference Between Developer and Architect.
It would also help if the solution architect has the right traits that will help them perform as expected. As for what is a solution architect skill set is meant to look like, they are basically expected to be able to:
- Communicate effectively
- Conduct deep analysis
- Manage resources and projects
- Collaborate with existing and new personnel
- Smoothly navigate corporate environments, negotiate effectively, and influence decisions
Now, it’s worth pointing out that a solution architect is not as well-defined as other roles in a corporate environment. As such, different architects will have different approaches, experiences, expertise, philosophies, and management styles.
However, as long as the listed responsibilities, areas of focus and characteristics are present, those differences will ultimately come down to compatibility. Will the architect be able to fit with the company culture and goals or will they not?
In many cases, the solution architect will just act as a support for the existing project manager leading a team. As such, how well they can do their job will involve a careful balancing act that juggles different personalities, goals, origins, and viewpoints.
How Solution Architects Affect Company Success
The whole point to a solution architect is to fix any problems that may already exist in any given tech project regardless of whether those involved are aware of them or not. Considering just how often projects fail, it would not be hard to guess that this is not an uncommon occurrence.
A solution architect helps a project succeed by the simple virtue of making those problems go away. If the project is a success, this can only be good for the company’s bottom line. However, this also hinges on the viability of the project, to begin with.
It was already mentioned that in many cases, a solution architect will act as support for project managers. In such cases, the architect will need to influence decisions made by the manager, which can include objecting to technology uses when necessary.
To that end, the impact that a solution architect would usually have on a company comes down to:
- Successful project launch
- Preventing unnecessary waste of time, money, and effort
- Guiding projects to the correct or a better path
- Smoothing over wrinkles both technical and interpersonal
- Finding the best ways to accomplish tasks and goals
- Assuring stakeholders of the success of the project
- Ensuring a smoother communication between the team and executives
- Providing necessary advice and insight to project leaders
- Identifying new technology or trends worth focusing on
- Recommending termination of projects that are unlikely to succeed
- Potential launch boost via name-recognition
There are so many ways that a solution architect can influence the success or failure of a project. This is why it is also necessary for companies to know when they need a solution architect and where to get them.
When Solution Architects are Needed
Companies typically bring in solution architects for a few key reasons. The biggest of this is when they lack the kind of expertise that an architect brings, which would boost the chance of a successful launch. Other reasons can also include situations where there is:
- Uncertainty regarding the integration of the enterprise ecosystem with the project
- A need for projects that involve a digital transformation
- A considerable amount of risk involved
- A smoother level of communication between technical personnel and stakeholders is needed
- A project that spans multiple teams, personnel, and project managers that require better communication
In our experience, solution architects can only be a benefit to companies who are struggling with projects that need to take off from the ground. A competent architect will be able to spot problem areas, find solutions, and facilitate effective communication.
While a solution architect might not be able to guarantee that everything will go right, at the very least, fewer things will go wrong. This is also why a solution architect salary can be quite substantial.
Solution architects take charge when there are problems with technology projects that companies are trying to launch. They do this by analyzing the project, working with project managers, communicating with stakeholders, and keeping track of new tech trends.
With a solution architect, a project has a much higher chance of seeing a successful launch than not. This goes doubly true for companies that are still new when it comes to integrating tech projects into their business models. With foodservice being a good example of this.