Every company has challenges for which there is more than one solution. For instance, reducing costs could happen as a result of increasing employee efficiency, finding less costly vendors, or a combination of the two. These solutions may require input from different roles within your organization, such as the CFO, HR team members, and management.
But if you’re looking for a technical solution to a problem, your best bet for finding a good resolution is to engage a solutions architect. These professionals create high-level technical solutions to specific business problems. Specifically, what does a solutions architect do? They examine problems, explore available options, develop plans and budgets, oversee custom software development if needed, and monitor progress. They interact with both technical and nontechnical stakeholders to implement the solution.
In the sections below, we explore more about the role of the solutions architect. But first, let’s take a look at how to know when you should hire one.
How to Know When to Hire a Solutions Architect
Is it time to hire a solutions architect? The answer may be yes if the following statements are true.
- You have a specific business problem that likely requires a technical solution.
- You need to integrate new software into your existing system but aren’t sure how to proceed.
- Your company can afford to hire or contract with a solutions architect, keeping in mind that the average annual salary for this position is around $125,000.
- Your company can afford to implement the technology solutions the solutions architect recommends.
- You have access to other personnel, such as software engineers, to help the solutions architect achieve their vision.
- Your team is skilled at working together on large projects to achieve transformative results.
Project Manager vs. Solutions Architect
While a solutions architect must perform some project management tasks, their role differs considerably from that of a project manager. The following responsibilities are typically assigned to a solutions architect.
- Analyze business challenges and explore possible technical solutions
- Identify possible obstacles to implementing proposed solutions and ways to overcome them
- Provide recommendations and detailed plans and budgets for possible solutions
- Document functional and nonfunctional requirements of each proposed solution
- Develop proofs of concept to justify proposed solutions
- Design, troubleshoot, and analyze the performance of proposed solutions
- Review and validate solution designs from other team members
- Share and document best practices for proposed solutions
- Identify possible process improvements and coach teams on how to implement them
- Lead the technical team throughout the project
- Communicate regularly with partners, customers, and other stakeholders
What Are the Skills Required for a Solutions Architect?
Now we know the specific tasks solutions architects are required to perform. But what are the skills required for a solutions architect? Successful solutions architects typically have at least six years in a senior development position and enjoy finding ways to use technology to solve business problems. They must be familiar with a wide variety of technical options to identify the best ones to address a range of business concerns. As a potential employer of a solutions architect, you should ask about applicants’ experience in the following areas.
- Business processes
- Certifications such as Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert or Google Professional Cloud Architect
- Cloud development
- Coding languages
- Computer hardware and software
- Database management
- DevOps practices
- IT architecture
- Network administration
- Operating systems
- Software design
- System and data security
- Web platforms
Solutions architects are not only expert engineers but also have business knowledge, are good problem solvers, and have excellent communication and people management skills. These professionals are often curious, analytical, and disciplined, all of which contribute to their success as well as that of the companies that hire them.
What Is the Role of an AWS Solutions Architect in a Company?
In addition to the certifications mentioned above, some solutions architects earn the AWS Certified Solutions Architect designation. An AWS solutions architect works specifically with AWS cloud services to build and maintain business applications and critical infrastructure. Like solutions architects who use a variety of solutions, these professionals look for technologies to help achieve business objectives. Processes might involve moving older systems into a cloud environment or building entirely new systems.
The following video describes the role of an AWS solutions architect.
Similar to other solutions architects, these professionals commonly exhibit curiosity, strong problem-solving, analytical acumen, and excellent communication skills. They must also be prepared to lead a team in implementing proposed solutions. To receive the designation, an interested professional must join an approved AWS training program and pass the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam.
Solutions Architect Use Cases
To close, let’s look at some typical business cases in which a solutions architect could be helpful.
Company A makes a software application that it sells to business customers. Seeing that many of its customers come to rely on the application, Company A identifies the potential for providing a Software as a Service (SaaS) version. It hires a solutions architect to determine the processes and methodologies needed to develop this version of the software. In this case, the solutions architect must consider scalability, service provision, security, and more.
In another scenario, a retail company, Company B, wants to create an online platform that will enable it to sell its products to customers around the globe. Company B’s solutions architect develops a plan to create a custom ecommerce platform with an advanced data analysis component to provide a robust recommendation feature as well as a world-class interface with an eye toward a highly regarded customer experience (CX).
If you’re an owner or manager at a mid- to large-size company, you can likely think of many other situations in your own operations that could use the attention of a highly trained technical and business expert. If that’s the case, it might be time to start seeking the services of a solutions architect.