Dani Davies, Social Media & Marketing Manager
When I started working in the IT executive search industry, I found myself frantically Googling ‘What is Solution Architecture?’ It’s fair to say a lot of people are left feeling a little stumped when they come across this job title. In order to understand what solution architecture is, maybe it’s worth asking the question- what skills are needed for a solution architect?
1. Risk management/identification
The solution architect is responsible for helping organisations deliver technology solutions that avoid potential unfortunate results. The best architects will understand what the technology needs to do and will zero in on and mitigate risks that may inhibit the technology delivering what the business needs. They will be advocates for specialist risk management activities such as performance testing and security testing. Essentially, the architect will need to recognise a risk before it even happens.
You could say that an SA is a techie-sales-person-hybrid. This role is all about understanding needs and providing advice whilst delivering the right technology results. These guys won’t be working face to face with tech keeping themselves to themselves – they’ll be business decision makers, analysts, project managers and vendor representatives. This requires the SA to be able to listen, empathise, explain, advise, influence, and negotiate.
3. Resolving technical issues
You may find that most SA’s have jumped from IT roles in a variety of technical disciplines. Typically, most will have at least seven years’ experience in the industry. They will have the credibility, knowledge and skills to provide advice to companies – this experience can stem from software development and IT infrastructure to telecommunication engineering or database administration.
4. Detail orientated
Any SA worth their money will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff – especially the chaff that no one else notices. The best solution architects understand the technologies and methodologies used are designed for much larger scale activity and are highly skilled at using what is valuable and discarding what is worthless within the given context.
5. Solution shaping
The ideal SA will give the right advice for the business result required. This may mean standing firm on a decision and not being persuaded by vendor hype, product claims, or unwanted jargon. This may also mean telling organisations the hard facts that they may not want to hear. This of course only works when it is communicated respectfully, focusing on the genuine needs of the organisation.
6. Solution management
Depending upon the nature of the project architects may need to look at the big picture – what the organisation is trying to achieve and what business processes it’s using. At the same time they need to zoom in on the specifics – the technical solutions, the data, risks and so on. The architect must easily be able to manoeuvre between the two and must be comfortable doing so to ensure the solution is properly managed.
7. Calm, confident and good common sense
When dealing with any potential risks and problem solving, it’s essential for SA’s to be calm. It’s also important for them to be confident in their delivery in order for their team to be confident in them. Their common sense is used to ensure that the right people are communicated with and that support for the project is aired in the right circles. Like most roles, confidence and common sense are crucial when it comes to SA.
8. Stakeholder management
Stakeholder management is an important aspect of any project. Most projects you work on will involve multiple shareholders, and each one potentially has the ability to speed up, slow down or completely obstruct your progress. Stakeholders may not be in the driving seat, but they can be extremely useful advocates, sponsors and agents of change. The ideal SA must be able to manage the expectations of stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project, as well as being politically savvy.
9. Commercial Acumen
As I said before, an SA is like a sales person with the technical knowledge, so they’re going to need to be able to look at a scenario from a commercial and business perspective. This is especially critical when working on projects that involve third parties.
10. Resource Management
Any SA should be able to efficiently use the resources within their organization. Additionally, they will provide a formal line of communication between departments on larger projects. When your team understands where and how your resources are being used, they can better visualize how the project is going.
At Freshfield Services we have plenty of Architect opportunities - contact Lauren Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her LinkedIn page for more details.