A career as a solution architect is a multifaceted one. If you're considering becoming a solution architect but unsure what exactly the job entails, you're in the right place.
Here's everything you need to know about what a solution architect does and how to become one yourself.
What Is a Solution Architect?
According to Techopedia, "solution architecture is the process of developing solutions
based on predefined processes, guidelines and best practices with the objective that the developed solution fits within the enterprise architecture in terms of information architecture, system portfolios, integration requirements and many more."
A solution architect job, Techopedia explains, can be a combination of roles intended to address business needs and requirements, as well as tackle business problems, through the design and development of applications and information systems.
Often times, a business already has operating systems in place, but it might need to advance existing systems or add new systems that can integrate and seamlessly communicate with the existing systems.
"Usually, companies already have operating systems, an information context, and integration requirements — the solution architecture helps ensure that a new system will fit the existing enterprise environment," according to AltexSoft, Inc., a technology and solution consulting company. "To perform this task, a solution architect has to understand how all parts of the business model
work together including processes, operating systems and application architectures. Understanding these processes, they will be able to design a specific solution that fits the environment best."
Therefore, a solution architect is the person helming the introduction of the overall technical visions for a particular solution, recommending solutions for more effective systems and integrating software and hardware that best meets the purposes of the business.
In an article for Equinox It, solution architect Kosta Hahladakis added that "a major part of defining the solution architecture is understanding and addressing the concerns of the key stakeholders." For him personally, he's found that stakeholders and their needs can be roughly summarised as such:
- Enabling greater productivity or lowering cost (senior management)
- Streamlining day to day activities (business users)
- Providing a secure, stable and supportable environment (IT Support)
"So the solution architect assumes primary responsibly for making some of the bigger decisions around the nature of the solution," Hahladkis explains. "Throughout a project I am making choices (or providing recommendations) that impact the selection and use of technology, such as should we build or buy a solution, what technology platform should we use, how will the solution scale to meet expected user demand, how should the solution components be deployed, and how will the solution integrate with the other systems we have. This all leads to defining and establishing the solution architecture, starting from an initial conceptual ‘vision’ and evolving into a more concrete software architecture specification."
According to Sokanu, a career matching platform that helps people find their ideal career, solution architects, therefore, focus on the following:
- The ways in which technology can be used to solve business problems
- The varying frameworks, platforms or tech-stacks that can be used to create solutions to problems
- The ways in which applications will look, including the modules involved and how they interact with one another
- How solutions will scale for the future
- How solutions will be maintained going forward
- The potential risks for third-party frameworks or platforms
There are different types of solution architects. For example, you might be wondering more specifically, what is a software solution architect? or what do IT architects do? A software solution architect is focusing on the software (as opposed to the hardware) that a company uses or should be using, while an IT architect designs information technology solutions and services for businesses.
The job is a nuanced one, which might leave you wondering: How much does a solutions architect earn?
An experienced solutions architect (which includes employees with 10 to 20 years of experience) can expect to earn an average of $131,000, according to PayScale. The average is based on 1,548 salaries, which means that some solution architects may earn more or less.
Depending on the company, a solution architect may earn more, as well. What types of companies hire this role? Well, pretty much all of them. Any company that's big enough to have systems in place needs a solution architect to maintain those systems. While smaller companies and start-up businesses might not have the infrastructure that requires much analysis, those looking to advance their services or grow their businesses will likely need to employ a solution architect to help them navigate the process.
So how do you become a solutions architect? Because a solution architect is responsible for the design of one or more applications or services for a business, he or she must have a mix of technical and business skills, according to Sokanu. This means process and people skills, as well as the ability to effectively communicate their assessments and recommendations before management.
As for specific certifications and educational requirements, solution architects usually have undergraduate degrees in computer sciences, information technology or an engineering discipline. Many also have advanced degrees in these fields.
Certifications, however, aren't always necessary."While these seasoned IT professionals may have picked up throughout the years a number of certifications that verify their competency for particular technology products, they usually learn about so many new products that gaining certifications in them all becomes impractical," according to Computer Science Degree Hub.
According to Study.com, however, while certification is not mandatory, some certificates showcase that a solutions architect has expertise in certain fields. As such, there are specific programs that certify professionals in systems architecture — and some employers might even require their solutions architects to participate in these programs or other forms of periodic training.
"Some organizations, such as The Open Group's IT Architect Certification Program, don't require traditional exams; candidates could be required to submit a skills-based resume for review or participate in an individual or team project," according to Study.com. "A private consulting firm, iCMG Enterprise Architecture has a two-tier certification process consisting of an architecture course followed by a two-hour online exam and a second tier based on a case study. The resulting certification is the Certified Software architect."Regardless of education and certifications, solutions architects typically have years of experience within software or system development teams before they land leadership roles as architects. Many of them might start out as software developers, analysts or project managers.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.