Software Developer, Solutions Architect and Software Engineer

Software Engineering vs Software Development

Although both may seem very similar, there are actually many differences between the roles, functions, and responsibilities of software engineering and software development. 

For starters, software development tends to take an individual approach towards tasks and focuses primarily on developing applications with tools that are already available. On the other hand, software engineering generally involves more team-oriented tasks where a group of software engineers creates tools that are then used to build software. 

Software engineering:  Applies knowledge in engineering to create, design, maintain, and evaluate the software. 

Software development: Provides technical knowledge and project guidance throughout the development process to build software that runs across different types of operating systems.

Differences between Software Developer, Solutions Architect, and Software Engineer

As you probably well know, the software development life cycle (SDLC) is highly complex and involves many different roles and responsibilities. There are the software developers and engineers, of course, but there are several additional positions, such as project managers, user experience (UX) designers, QA engineers, and business analysts, to name a few.

Among them, a lesser-known but critical role in the SDLC is that of the solutions architect. Often a senior professional with deep knowledge of software engineering, a solutions architect is fundamental in bringing software to fruition and ensuring it meets user requirements. So, what, exactly, does a solutions architect do? And how does it compare to a software engineer and a software developer? 

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What Is a Software Developer?

A software developer works closely with different areas of a company in order to deploy the plan originally mapped out by software engineers. Aside from writing the code, software developers must constantly review and test the software before going live, looking for improvements and anticipating potential errors.

Additionally, a software developer combines technical expertise with creative and analytical skills in order to come up with ideas that solve a customer’s problem.  

What Is a Solutions Architect?

Another critical role in producing software is that of a solutions architect. Part software engineer, part project manager, part researcher, part designer, and part business manager, this all-encompassing job enters the software development process early on. Like it sounds, a solutions architect is responsible for devising the architecture for a project. In other words, they map out the structure of the project — a path for the engineers to follow.

What does this entail? From the beginning, solutions architects consider how best to solve a problem with software. They choose the right tools to build a given product, from the languages and frameworks to the platforms the engineers will use. They also create a plan for building the product most efficiently and identify potential risks, while still having the business’ mission and objectives in mind.

Solutions architects will provide guidance and instructions on how to translate their ideas into products throughout the SDLC.  They do so accounting for factors like scalability, adjustments, and updates that might need to be made in the future. 

These professionals need to coordinate and communicate with other members of the team to ensure that the moving pieces fit together according to the overall product vision. Ultimately, they oversee the successful construction and delivery of the software.

What Is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers must be able to understand and interpret the product requirements to build apps, systems, and solutions that satisfy the end user’s needs – as well as the client’s if they’re working for another business. They need to be able to research and resolve problems, addressing bugs and other issues that arise during the development process. 

They may specialize in various areas, such as front-end development, back-end development, systems, applications, mobile development, and others. But, at their core, software engineers must have certain knowledge and skills, such as having the ability to prioritize, all while working on multiple projects simultaneously. In order to meet expectations, they must have knowledge of methodologies and principles like Agile and DevOps, especially if they work on a large team

How do the roles compare?

There are certainly many overlapping skills, qualities, and characteristics needed for both software engineers and solutions architects. For example, they must have strong technical skills and expertise, as well as problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to communicate and collaborate with other team members.

In fact, many solutions architects start out as software engineers and advance to the more senior and experienced role of solutions architect — although some prefer to serve in other senior capacities, such as chief technology officer (CTO) or senior software engineer.

And while all 3 roles are critical in developing quality software, they ultimately serve different purposes. The solutions architect is responsible for formulating a vision for the product and devising a detailed plan for reaching those goals, keeping in mind the overall business priorities.  From there, the software developer works closely with different areas of a company in order to deploy the plan originally mapped out by software engineers. 

Meanwhile, software engineers carry out that vision, building the product according to the solutions architect’s specifications. The software engineer works within close detail, while the solutions architect is more of a big-picture thinker and strategic planner.

In addition to the overlapping skills discussed above, all 3 roles tend to possess:

  • Business acumen
  • Creativity 
  • Leadership skills
  • Project-management skills
  • Research skills

At BairesDev, our dedicated experts — the Top 1% of Tech Talent in their respective technology fields — work together to create quality software that will meet your needs and requirements, whether you’re the leader of a huge enterprise or a small but growing startup.

Contact us today to start building a custom software solution that meets your organization’s business objectives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Once again, many could consider both professions to be similar, however, they actually have many differences when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of each. 

Simply put, a web developer focuses on the development of applications that are web-based, which means websites, e-commerce stores, and web apps. Although these are shorter projects when compared to those tackled by software engineers, web developers must build websites and applications from scratch. They are creative professionals that still have to be highly proficient in programming languages such as JavaScript. 

As for software engineers, as previously mentioned, these are professionals who focus on building tools and optimizing software for operating systems through the use of engineering principles. Furthermore, software engineers primarily work on longer-term projects when compared to web developers.

Full stack developers work alongside software engineers to complete project goals and satisfy customer needs. There are differences in the collaboration model between them, though, as most of the time full stack developers have leadership roles to supervise the work of software engineers. 

A key difference is the fact that a full stack developer is generally known as a “jack of all trades”, handling front-end and back-end technologies, not to mention additional functions that deal with databases, servers, and customer interactions. While in a broad sense, a software engineer will work alongside team members to manage software development cycles and monitor system performance, among other tasks.

An application developer has high technical, analytical and creative skills, as well as the ability to problem solve quickly. Nowadays, you may immediately relate app development to mobile apps, however, it also includes software applications for computers and other digital devices. The work of application developers focus mainly on user experience and design, to create and test features that meet users demands. 

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