Rapid technological change is causing market shifts, affecting businesses and transforming enterprise IT. Customer expectations are at an all-time high. Organizations need to deal with fast-changing business requirements or lose out to competitors. To stay competitive, it's crucial to have systems and applications that are capable of addressing current business needs.
Enterprises need highly-skilled tech professionals who can modify and upgrade existing systems and processes as well as design new solutions that align with business goals. This is where the solutions architect comes in.
A good solutions architect has the technical expertise, business knowledge, and strong interpersonal skills required to design and integrate solutions according to current requirements. A solutions architect plays a key role in an enterprise's business development effort and systems design and support.
Solutions architects design effective solutions and services to enable an enterprise to fulfil its business objectives. They assess a company's business needs and engineer solutions that align with the organization's business strategy.
Depending on the type of business of the company they work for, a solutions architect could be responsible for designing solutions only for his or her organization. Solutions architects can also be hired guns, tackling problems for clients of the company or organization that employs them.
Solutions architects usually function as part of an enterprise's software or system development team. They take leadership of a project and are responsible for the final outcome.
A solutions architect may be required to:
Design solutions for older systems that don't fulfil all current business needs: Some systems and procedures that were designed years ago may not be capable of processing a company's present business requirements. This is where a solutions architect can help by devising an effective and economical remedy. He or she needs to have an understanding of business realities, the company's strategy, and advanced technical knowledge and experience.
Evaluate in-house systems and technologies: A solutions architect might also be called on to take stock of systems and technologies that are working well but could be improved. This requires cultivating an awareness of new and emerging technology and figuring out how to integrate it.
Create and update technical documentation: It's necessary to document all changes to existing systems as well as create documentation for new solutions.
Improve outcomes for clients: A good solutions architects needs to understand the requirements and goals of business clients. Then, based on that understanding, he or she must develop and integrate systems that enable the customer to meet his business needs in the most efficient way.
Collaborate: A solutions architect might work with a systems analyst to define the concept of any proposed solution and facilitate the development of this vision into an appropriate solution. To this end, the solutions architect and systems analyst are required to systematize the development work and, if necessary, guide the project team over the development lifecycle.
Help to organize development, integration, and testing of applications and systems: A solutions architect may be called upon to identify the most suitable technology for any given solution, as well as work out a balance between the structural aspects of the development project and the business and financial objectives of the company. A skilled solutions architect is knowledgeable about various tools and technologies and understands business concerns.
Assess different solution options: The solutions architect may be required to present a comparative analysis of available solution options. What are the strong points offered by each, and where is pressure going to collapse the system.
Template for success: Once a solution has been outlined, the solution architect must create a detailed blueprint to demonstrate how the proposed solution will work.
Compatibility check: A solutions architect must also ensure that a proposed new solution is interoperable with other applications, platforms, and systems being used by the enterprise.
Predict and provide for potential project limitations: Software development projects can come up against various snags that may deter timely and successful conclusion of a project. Hindrances include difference between client expectations and the commitment made to the client, lack of clarity on or incomplete requirements, technical inadequacies, and security concerns.
The solutions architect is responsible for the final outcome and needs to be capable of addressing issues that might come up during the development stage and of bringing the project to a successful close.
Other responsibilities include ensuring that a new solution complies with necessary legal and industry regulations, and managing the transition from an existing system to a new or upgraded one.
Solutions architects must be familiar with the latest tools and technologies in order to be able to select the most appropriate software and processes for any given solution. This includes keeping track of rapidly evolving cybersecurity threats and current security solutions, IT services best practices, industry regulations, and company policies and procedures.
It's also necessary to understand how cloud computing and emerging technologies, such as AI, machine learning, and IoT are changing enterprise IT and market expectations.
This is not an entry-level role. It is a leadership role that necessitates a synthesis between technical know-how and business knowledge. To fulfil the responsibilities of a solutions architect, one typically requires several years of experience in software development, including testing and troubleshooting, and project management. A good candidate must be capable of assessing the impact of the systems and services they design on business outcomes.
Normally, the minimum academic qualification for this position is a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, computer science, or information technology. Companies may require solutions architects who hold a master's degree in business or software engineering or computer science for certain roles.
On-the-job training is an essential part of preparing for the role of a solutions architect. One not only learns to use a wide range of tools and technologies, but also develops project management skills, business knowledge, and the ability to apply technology to address business issues. A good solutions architect also hones the art of communicating effectively with clients, as well as with management and colleagues.
Strong communication skills are crucial because a solutions architect must be able to convey complex technical concepts in accessible language to business owners and other non-technical stakeholders. It takes precision and acumen to explain why a particular option is the most suitable solution for a specific business problem, as well as communicate with members of the project development team throughout the development phase.
Usually, solutions architects have experience working with agile methods, knowledge of design principles, and industry regulations. It's advisable to be familiar with the latest best practices relating to systems security.
Certifications are a means of validating expertise in a particular technology, platform, or IT best practices. Some companies provide financial assistance for continuing education programs so that their solutions architects can learn about the latest technologies, processes, and methodologies.
Industry certifications for solutions architects include:
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
ITIL is a globally recognized framework of best practices in IT service management, including improvement of IT support. Solutions architects might find this certification useful because it emphasizes aligning IT services with an organization's business objectives, whilst business goals change. ITIL is managed by AXELOS.
Additional details are available online.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect is available at two levels of proficiency: Associate and Professional. The Associate credential is designed for solutions architects who have one or more years of hands-on professional experience architecting and deploying systems on the AWS platform. The Professional certification is intended for solutions architects who have two or more years of practical work experience managing systems on the AWS platform.
Additional details are available online: Associate / Professional
Microsoft Certified Solutions Architect
Microsoft‘s solutions architect certification path progresses from fundamental to associate to expert level. The expert level certifications are designed for experienced IT professionals with specific subject-matter expertise. These are available in three tracks:
Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert
Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect Expert
Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 + Power Platform Solutions Architect Expert
Additional details are available online.
Demand for skilled solutions architects is robust. Enterprises need professionals with the right experience, expertise, and business sense to enable them to navigate a constantly changing technological and business environment.