Skill sets, Career Paths, and Must-Haves of

Solution Architect

A solution architect is a specialized role within a company tailoring IT solutions to specific business needs. Explore the skill sets and required career paths to become a successful SA.

► Compare SA's role to other IT architects!

Introduction

A solution architect is a specialized role providing the groundwork for software development projects by tailoring IT solutions to specific business needs. The role consists of many subprocesses that draw from various other IT viewpoints.

Solution architecture is one of the most important processes when redesigning your IT landscape. A solution is a way to describe an answer to a problem, however, in the corporate world, a solution means evaluating a client's needs or problems and addressing them with systems that replace or improve what already exists.

A solution architect's role differs from enterprise architects and technical architects. This page will explain the roles and responsibilities of a solutions architect, their career path, and how they differentiate from other IT roles.

 

Who is a solution architect?

The solution architect position evaluates all business requirements within an organization to come up with the technical vision to solve business problems.

Solutions architecture requires both technical and interpersonal skills to design, describe, and manage solutions. They evaluate the existing environment and examine how different elements of business, information, and technology can be applied to solve a specific problem.

They will also propose detailed building blocks that provide the best possible fix and serve as the bridge between enterprise architects and technical architects.

After solution architects have designed the correct solution, it’s their job to manage the various activities that are involved for a successful implementation.

enterprise architect vs solution architect vs technical architect

Role

Broadly speaking, a solution architect’s task is to evaluate all business requirements and come up with solutions in the form of products or services. SAs are not only in charge of finding answers but also of actively leading the technical vision to success.

The solution architecture discipline consists of several complex processes and sub-processes. Therefore, SAs plays a central role in an organization’s efforts to introduce and successfully implement new technology solutions.

First, SAs look closely at how the different elements of business, information, and technology can be applied to solve a specific problem.

Next, they propose a combination of building blocks that provides the best possible solution.

This process is very detail-oriented and serves as a connecting piece between enterprise architecture and technical architecture. It also requires a breadth of knowledge in the technical and business inner workings of the company. 

Day-to-day

Solution architect day-to-day work involves designing and providing recommendations and roadmaps for proposed solutions. It also involves debugging and creating performance analysis on implemented solutions.

They will also need to document and share best practices and advocate for process improvements. Other daily tasks include communication with teams, customers, and project stakeholders, as well as providing technical leadership throughout the project lifecycle.

Myths

  • Solution's architect role is that it is an exclusively technical role: In many cases, SA’s will assume both an architecture role and that of a business analyst. They will be tasked with suggesting technological solutions but also teach their team to work with microservices or review code.
  • Solution architects need to know everything about their field or technology to be successful: In reality, they should be willing to expand their knowledge to continue producing effective solutions.
  • SAs will always be involved in new projects and cutting-edge technologies: This is not always the case – the majority of an SA’s work will be documenting the design and architecture of solutions used on the project. 

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Skills & qualifications

Successful solutions architects need a strong combination of hard and soft skills to achieve competency in the role. Hard skills include a deep knowledge of business processes and solutions, while soft skills include good communication.

Skills

Solution architect skills are:

  • Experience in various software designs, languages, and architecture.
  • Solution definition and problem-solving skills.
  • Practical experience in project management.
  • Familiarity with computer networks and IT security management.
  • Experience and knowledge of cloud computing. Good understanding of business processes. Strong organizational skills. Strong understanding of analytical skills and techniques. Excellent interpersonal, communication, and negotiation skills.

Qualifications

To begin a career as a solutions architect, employees will need to have the following qualifications:

  • A Bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in IT, computer science, software engineering, or equivalent.
  • Knowledgeable about all phases of the software development life cycle and solution delivery for web, client-server, and cloud-based systems.
  • Subject matter expertise in the field of work.
  • Good knowledge of modern software engineering principles and best practices.
  • Proven track record of work experience as an architect, project manager, or developer.
  • Certificates to demonstrate knowledge and competency. 

Responsibilities & deliverables

Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a solutions architect involve understanding potentially complex problems and finding all the possible solutions – accurately defining the issue and the requirement.

In many cases, the business will not recognize the full extent of the challenge. It is the SA’s responsibility to set engagement objectives and scope, develop work plans and coordinate activities across multiple project workstreams.

They will also need to assess the technical needs and capabilities during implementation. With analytical approach, solutions architects need to understand all of the technologies and topics related to a business to have a deep enough understanding to create a solution.

Another responsibility of a solutions architect is to invest time into their craft; researching and understanding new technologies and solutions.

Solutions architects will also be in regular communication with IT specialists and enterprise architects to develop and implement complex technology and business solutions.

Deliverables

Some of the deliverables solutions architects will produce include:

  • Produce test plans that prove project feasibility and keep them updated. 
  • Develop proofs of concept that validate the solution.
  • Identify project risks and present alternatives to solve the issue.
  • Document client-user stories and technical constraints/requirements.
  • Produce detailed component specifications.
  • Create detailed designs for implementation.

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Salary

The average salary for a solutions architect can range between $91,000 to $172,000 annually, depending on the experience the candidate has. The average technical architecture salary in the United States is currently around $124,960.

A solution architect’s salary expectations will range based on experience, achieved certifications, and qualifications. As it’s a critical technical and leadership role within a company, the position is well-paid and highly sought-after.

Level Average Salary Time in Role
Experienced Solution Architect $175,000 10+ years
Solution Architect $125,000 5-9 years
Entry-level Solution Architect $75,000 1-4 years

Career path

There is no set career path to becoming a solutions architect, however many candidates enter the position from a background in software development.

Most solutions architects hold some kind of bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or software development. An MBA in information systems would also be a good fit for those pursuing a role in solutions architecture.

Most will already have several years (5-10) of hands-on experience in software development, network administration, or information technology. It helps them develop a strong understanding of the tools and technologies involved in designing solutions.

Many SAs will have the tools to move into corporate or business planning, other senior IT positions, different architecture roles, or even a CTO. Consulting is also an option for competent solutions architects.

Certifications

Many employers will require their solutions architects to have achieved certain certifications which prove proficiency in various areas of the role. The most important solutions architecture certifications are:

Tools

Solutions architects will use various tools to develop their designs and diagrams. These tools – such as the LeanIX EAM – help SA’s map design IT infrastructure, produce diagrams and facilitate the to-be architecture. Therefore, selecting the best solutions architect tool can be essential to the success of the solution.

The enterprise architecture tool is designed to help solutions architects manage the transformation and risk of an organization’s IT landscape. This tool leverages technology to make decisions quickly, map designs, and manage possible outcomes and risks of the chosen solution.

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What are the must-haves for a successful solution architect?

Solutions architects require both technical knowledge and people skills to be an asset in the position. Solutions architects value the following skills, qualifications, and experience:

  • A Bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in IT, computer science, software engineering, or equivalent.
  • Certificates in solutions architecture-related fields to demonstrate competency.
  • At least five years of hands-on experience in software development or related fields.
  • Subject matter expertise in the field of work.
  • Good understanding of business processes.
  • Strong organizational and analytical skills.
  • Experts in communication and negotiation.

 

Comparison to other roles

Solution architect vs. software architect

The main difference between a solutions architect and a software architect is their main focus. The solution architect's focus is on developing and documenting solutions for specific architectural issues intended to enable a particular business outcome.

Alternatively, a software architect will be involved in the build phase of the project. Their job is to define and document software structures based on known functional and non-functional requirements. This will enable software engineers to produce the solution as defined, reviewed, and approved by the solution architect.

Solution architect vs. AWS cloud practitioner

AWS (Amazon Web Services) is a cloud computing platform that most IT professionals will have some experience with. An AWS cloud practitioner is someone who has achieved a certificate of AWS competency.
Most solutions architects will hold one of the many AWS cloud practitioner certifications but also work with other cloud systems and technologies. Solutions architects will leverage their knowledge of AWS to produce solutions.

Solution architect vs. software engineer

While a solutions architect is responsible for designing solutions for a project, the software engineer is the one who makes it happen.

Along with developers, engineers need to understand and interpret the product requirements to build the apps, systems, and solutions to achieve the desired outcome. They also need to be able to resolve problems and address bugs that might arise during the development process.

EN_Enterprise Integration Patterns

Solution architect vs. application architect

An application architect is similar to a software architect. They are monitoring a single application to understand the various interactions between the different components, and other business apps and can define limitations and requirements for source code.

Like solutions architecture, it is one of the many pillars of enterprise architecture. Solutions architects will work with the whole application landscape, but not exclusively.

Solution architect vs. cloud architect

A cloud architect is responsible for overseeing a company's cloud computing strategy. SAs need a strong knowledge of cloud computing systems and work with cloud architects to develop solutions related to the systems in place.

On the other hand, a cloud architect will adopt plans, develop cloud application designs, and monitor cloud management. They oversee the application architecture and deployment within cloud environments (public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud).

 

Conclusion

Solution architects are one of several domains that form the pillars of IT. As one of a few IT experts and leaders whose goal it is to develop enterprise-wide infrastructure plans and projects to achieve goals, improve systems and manage solutions.

They will work directly with EAs, TAs, business architects, etc. to achieve future state architecture. IT architects and their respective teams work through various aspects of a project life cycle; devising, planning, and designing the implementation of improved processes, business capabilities, and applications.

The synergy between these roles is key in building a long-lasting, effective enterprise architecture.

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The core competencies of IT architecture

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How to become an Enterprise Architect

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How to become a Solution Architect

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How to become a Technical Architect

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The daily use cases tackled by each role

Frequently asked questions on solution architects

What is a solution architect?

A solutions architect is a senior technical position tasked with devising the technical vision to solve business problems.

What does a solution architect do?

A solutions architect works with an organization to understand their problems and provide various solutions to change or improve architecture to alleviate the issue. They play a central role in an organization’s efforts to introduce and successfully implement new technology solutions.

What are the duties of a solution architect?

Produce test plans that prove project feasibility and keep them updated. Develop proofs of concept that validate the solution. Identify project risks and present alternatives to solve the issue. 

Document client-user stories and technical constraints/requirements. Produce detailed component specifications. Create detailed designs for implementation. 

Is a solution architect a good career? 

Yes, a solutions architect is an important and senior position that is both well-compensated and highly sought-after.

What skills do you need to be a solutions architect?

Solutions architects need a combination of hard and soft skills to succeed in the role. These include a strong knowledge of business processes, IT systems, and solutions, while also being able to communicate complex software processes. Solutions architects also need strong leadership skills and several years of hands-on experience in a related field.

What is the difference between an architect and a solution architect?

Solutions architects are one of several architectural roles within an organization – including business architects, technical architects, and IT architects – whom all play a vital role in overseeing various points in the lifecycle of enterprise architecture projects and improvements.

How do you become a solution architect?

There is no set career path to becoming an SA, but most come from a background in architecture, project management, or software development.

How do you become a good solution architect?

To become a successful solutions architect, you will need a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in IT, computer science, software engineering, or equivalent. There are also several certificates recommended solution architects achieve before applying for the position.

You will also need at least five years of experience working in software development and project management. Experience is one of the key paths to becoming a great SA.

What tools do solution architects use?

Solutions architects will use various tools to develop their solutions and design IT infrastructure. The LeanIX EAM is one tool used by solutions architects to help with application modernization and cloud migration.

Does the solution architect require coding?

No, solution architects do not require coding since many IT architects will already have experience with languages and Linux systems. Most of the time in their role they will analyze and lead software engineers and application architects to complete their projects.

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