Dealing with technical decisions and their impact on business outcomes, understanding the concerns of key stakeholders, and balancing a range of colleague needs, a Solutions Architect has some major responsibilities to deal with.
With the help of insights from Solution Architects across differing sectors, we’ll delve into the world of solution architecture, touching on the necessary soft skills, key skills and experience, the qualifications you’ll, and some other top tips for landing that Solutions Architect role.
A Solutions Architect plays a key role in dealing with a business’ problems. By evaluating a company’s business needs, they then set about determining the ways in which IT can support these needs. After identifying these solutions, a Solutions Architect then outlines each of the phases and requirements to ensure the best possible outcomes.
To carry out the above, a Solutions Architect must look at the current lay of the land, including what technologies are available to them, as well as any new software products that may need to be developed.
Once they’ve got a clearer picture of the existing IT environment – and the business’ needs – they’ll then create an overall strategic vision, including a budget for producing a software product based on that vision.
When they’ve got the go ahead from stakeholders, a Solutions Architect must then monitor the process, keeping stakeholders updated on its progress along the way. Not all of these stakeholders will be well-versed with technical matters, so the Solutions Architect will also have to consider their needs when factoring them into the process too.
Involved in the assessment, design and business case mapping of products focused on virtualisation, cloud, data centre efficiency and smarter working, Kyle Davies is a solutions architect at IT solutions and services business, CDW UK.
In terms of soft skills, Kyle notes that: “Being a Solutions Architect is about listening to the business requirements and commercial limitations, and ensuring that those are met whilst technically delivering the best solution. Anyone looking to become a Solutions Architect needs to have a self-driven attitude and be able to turn their hand to anything, understanding how it can add value to an overall solution stack.”
Likewise, Marcin Pajdzik, a Consulting Solutions Architect and Technology Advisor specialising in cloud technologies says: “A Solutions Architect has to establish how software solutions fit into the organisation’s technological landscape and ensure that they meet the business requirements. This means that being able to communicate with both technical and business stakeholders is essential. Other soft skills such as presentation skills, rapport building, networking and decision making are also highly desired.”
When applying for Solutions Architect roles, you should expect the job description to feature the following duties and responsibilities:
– Creating and leading IT system integration processes that meet the needs of the organisation
– Conducting regular evaluations of current system architecture, and collaborating with project management teams in order to improve them
– Evaluating any project constraints and suggesting alternatives to reduce risks
– Keeping stakeholders up to date on project development status and budgets, and notifying them of issues immediately
– Analysing and finding any impacts that may arise as a result of any technical changes
– Supervising and leading development teams
– Carrying out continuous research on new technologies so that existing architecture remains up to date as regularly as possible
What can you expect from a Solutions Architect salary?
According to Reed.co.uk’s average salary checker, the average salary a Solutions Architect can expect to make comes in at £95,924.
Talent.com, meanwhile, states that those in entry level positions can make £60,014 at the beginning of their Solutions Architect careers.
There’s no one one-size-fits-all approach to become a Solutions Architect. They come from a variety of different backgrounds, although their education does tend to have commonalities of some sort.
Typically, a bachelor’s degree or higher in a field related to information technology, software engineering or computer science will stand you in good stead, since these areas cover different operating systems and hardware compatibility training.
Extra certifications will be beneficial too, with those from QA, IBM or Microsoft helping applicants to glean fundamental understandings and concepts, as well as key terminology and emerging trends in the modern workplace.
Kyle notes: “Being able to articulate solutions at a technical level and a management level is key – it’s essential to be able to gauge your audience and refine your approach depending on who is in the room, so as not to alienate them.
“I feel that a well-rounded Solutions Architect is someone who has come from a support background and worked their way up, as this allows for multiple viewpoints that can be used as examples.”
It’s important to have a deep breadth of awareness and expertise at your disposal, too. Marcin says: “Having a broad knowledge of various technologies and knowing how they can be applied in a business environment is extremely important. If you come from an application development background, you should focus on learning more about infrastructure. If you have mostly worked with Microsoft technologies, you should learn more about open source and Linux.
“Technology changes rapidly and a part of your job will be to keep up with it. Newer technological concepts such as cloud computing, blockchain, or machine learning change how organisations work and have a large impact on their competitiveness. To be successful and valued by the business, you should keep an open mind and always look out for new technologies that could positively influence business performance.”
After gaining experiencing as a Solutions Architect, many SAs may choose to become enterprise architects.
The top level of the architect hierarchy, Enterprise Architects have more responsibilities than Solutions Architects. While solutions architecture focuses more on the solution, an Enterprise Architect takes a more holistic view of a company as a whole. As such, their duties are more concerned with the business side of operations.
Enterprise Architects, therefore, integrate technological advancements with business strategy, using IT as way of achieving a competitive advantage by reducing costs, increasing flexibility and regulating technology environments, among other methods. As such, they have a huge degree of responsibility, and have to report directly to the chief information officer (CIO).
The Solutions Architect interview process generally involves a mix of interview questions. Like the role itself, expect things to be varied and diverse, blending technical queries with more behavioural based questions.
So, on the tech side of things, you may be asked things that are designed to test your knowledge of specific technical concepts, such as:
– What are the benefits of using APIs?
– What is a DNS?
– What is cloud computing?
– What are the differences between NoSQL and SQL?
As for behavioural questions, you might be asked things such as:
– Describe a time when you solved a particular issue using an innovative solution
– Tell me about a time when you worked on a project outside of your scope
– Tell me about a skill you recently learned. What did this involve?
Other general tips for getting ahead
Kyle says: “As a Solutions Architect, you must get used to assuming some aspects of your solution response and refining it as the detail becomes known. Most businesses and customers that I deal with cannot provide you with all the required detail at times, so clearly noting your assumptions, risks, constraints, dependencies, and requirements is critical – as these become the backbone to your solution response.
“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel – the best answer is usually the simplest”. Since your solution is being delivered to a range of managers, developers and even other Solution Architects, it has to be synthesised and streamlined in a way that everyone can understand what’s being said. Far from dumbing things down, the process of simplifying your answer is one of clarity and specificity. Once you’re at a point when everyone is on the same page, you’ll have saved time and effort in the long run.
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