Before we dive into talking about what is a solution architect, let’s start by defining a solution. Quite simply, a solution is an answer to a problem. For a solution to have value, it must provide a measurable improvement to the situation at hand. A good solution will be the result of a collaborative effort, agreed upon by all decision makers involved.
What Is Solution Architecture?
In business, solution architecture is the translation of a project’s desired outcome into a solution document. The solution document identifies all the relevant technical components, roles, processes, and tasks that the project demands.
Each of these relevant domains (such as business, data, application, technology, integration, and security) must be addressed. This means identifying the unique demands and desired deliverables of each domain.
For example, imagine you are building an app for users to sell antiques to strangers. A proper solution document will in part, address:
The user experience — What does a typical buyer or seller do on the app? What is the flow of their activity? How does the app look and respond to their motives?
- The technology used in development — Is the app designed for Android, iOS, or both? What 3rd-party integrations are used? Location services? Mobile payments? Messaging? How do users authenticate their products as legitimate?
- The security features — Fingerprint reader? User accounts and passwords?
- The data — Where is the user information stored? How does the app interact with the data for listed items?
As you can see, there are numerous moving pieces to address. Even a simple app, in theory, can demand the skills of a dozen experienced experts. A proper approach to a solution will leave no technical area left untouched.
What Is The Role Of A Solution Architect?
The solution architect puts together the master plan. Like an architect of real estate, they create a document that serves as a master guide for creating a service or product. Their broad range of technical expertise and experience in numerous disciplines allows them to view the project from a bird’s eye view.
Their work can include ideation, research, design, and implementation of the proposed solution. During ideation, the context for a solution is considered. The desired outcome is seen in light of the current environment. A client says to the architect “This is where we are, and this is where we want to be”. The vision is given, and the solution can begin to take shape.
The solution architect elaborates potential options for moving forward. Research is done to help discover which path is best. If any extra information is needed, the architect can reach out to 3rd parties for relevant details.
The solution architect then selects the optimal strategy and develops the roadmap for the selected solution. The roadmap guides the development team responsible for implementing the plan.
Benefits Of Utilizing A Solution Architect:
In 2009, a study analyzed the value of solution architecture on software development (1). Usage of solution architecture within software development projects was found to be correlated with the following effects:
- 19% decrease in project budget overrun
- Increased predictability of project budget planning
- 40% decrease in project time overrun
- Increased customer satisfaction
- 10% increase of results delivered
- Increased technical fit of the project results
Ultimately, in a world where only 16% of custom software development projects deliver their results according to plan (2), the use of solution architecture can help overcome the biggest roadblocks faced.