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The role title has a wider meaning in relation to solving problems, but is more often used in the narrower domain of Technical architecture - the context for the remainder of this definition. In this context, the Solutions Architect outlines solution architecture descriptions across domains, functions, and industries, then monitors and governs their implementation.
The role of "Solutions Architect" requires the knowledge and skills that are both broad and deep. To be effective the Solutions Architect must have experience on multiple Hardware and Software Environments and be comfortable with complex heterogeneous systems environments. The Solutions Architect is often a highly seasoned senior technocrat who has led multiple projects through the Software development process or Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), and has usually performed in a variety of different roles in that life cycle. The person needs an ability to share and communicate ideas clearly, both orally and in writing, to executive staff, business sponsors, and technical resources in clear concise language that is the parlance of each group.
A practitioner of Solution Architecture, Systems engineering and Software engineering processes, the Solutions Architect is the person who organizes the development effort of a systems solution. The Solutions Architect is responsible for the development of the overall vision that underlies the projected solution and transforms that vision through execution into the solution. The Solutions Architect becomes involved with a project at the time of inception and is involved in the Functional analysis (FA) of developing the initial requirements. They then remain involved throughout the balance of the project.
The Solutions Architect is an expert in many categories. They should have hands-on experience in multiple industries and across several disciplines. They can master a variety of hardware platforms including mainframes, distributed platforms, desktops, and mobile devices. Akin to that they should also possess skill and understanding of a variety of Operating Systems. A broad and deep understanding of Databases is also required.
Solutions Architects decide which technologies to use. They work very closely with developers to ensure proper implementation. They are the link between the needs of the organization and the developers.
Positioning solutions architects in relation to enterprise architects
Solutions Architects in large organizations often act as the bridge between Enterprise Architects and Application Architects.
An enterprise architect’s deliverables are usually more abstract than a solution architect’s deliverables. But that is not always the case, and the main distinction between enterprise architect and solution architect lies in their different motivations. The enterprise architect is primarily employed in the design, planning and governance of strategic and cross-organisational rationalisation or optimisation of an enterprise’s services, processes or components. The solution architect is primarily employed to help programme and project managers in the design, planning and governance of implementation projects of any kind.
A solutions architect may have a reporting line to an enterprise architect, but the influence the enterprise architect team has on solutions architects depends on an organisation’s policies and management structure. So, the extent to which a solutions architect’s work derives from enterprise architects’ road maps will vary from 0 to 100 percent.
When the solutions architect starts and stops depends on the funding model for the process of solution identification and delivery. E.g. An enterprise may employ a solutions architect on a feasibility study, or to prepare a solution vision or solution outline for an Invitation to Tender. A supplier may employ a solution architect at “bid time”, before any implementation project is costed or resourced. Both may employ a solutions architect to govern an implementation project, or play a leading role within it.
An IT services provider may employ a solutions architect in a role that reports to a senior architect who is: 1. focused on operational services rather than implementation programme/projects, where understanding managed operations is important. 2. responsible for coordinating all services provided to one organisation by way of strategy, business consulting, projects and operational services. 3. working on a bid to supply one organisation with all the services above, or a framework bid that covers more than one customer organization at a more strategic level. In cases 2 and 3, the senior architect is a kin to an enterprise architect, but (in the UK at least) is more likely to be called Solution Director, Service Director, Technical Director or CTO.
The Solutions Architect has several essential duties and responsibilities, which include all or some combination of the following:
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