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The inside knowledge of a Solution Architect

5/11/2013 by

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We asked a candidate some questions regarding Architecture and specifically the job role of a Solution Architect. Here he shares his answers with us and some advice on how to develop a career as a Solution Architect.

What attributes does a Solution Architect need?
There are three things that are required over and above the technical know-how and mastery of their domains
a. Ability to understand and act on the business constraints that the solution needs to be delivered under. There is no point in having a wonderful solution if it does not deliver what the business needs and when it needs it.
b. Commercial awareness and going beyond just the basics. Each business (or business unit) goes through good times and not so good times and an understanding of how much commercial exposure the business can take for a given initiative is very important. Not every solution needs large investments but can deliver what is required with some compromises and as long as the compromises are taken as informed choices, there is nothing wrong with it. One needs to start thinking like an investor.
c. Change is the only constant – this needs to go beyond lip service. No one has a crystal ball (including the business units, i.e. marketing, sales, operations, strategy etc.) and hence waiting for ‘the business’ to tell you exactly what is required is a fallacy. If you force the issue then you will be told ‘stuff’ only for it to go wrong later or people starting to change their minds as things progress, i.e. pain all around. In today’s market, the strategic planning horizons are shirking from 5 years to 2 years to reflect the rapidly changing market and all solutions (people, process and technology) need to cater for agility and velocity.

What groups or network are available to join for advice on architecture?
I am bowled over on this on. I did try finding some groups / networks in the start of my career with no luck. I think the primary reason is that for a Solution Architect to be successful, they will have to be close to the business (as answers to previous question mentioned) and groups / networks typically are nowhere close to the business.

What are the most challenging aspects of being an Architect?
Handling and driving change. Any new solution or major enhancements to existing solution requires the business to do things in a different way, right from Senior Management to people on the ground. Whilst change planning and good stakeholder management is an essential part, we all know that winning everyone over is next to impossible. Each solution might be different, the people it impacts might be different and the way it impacts them is also likely to be different. Unfortunately, I have no simple solution for this except for judging each situation on its own merit and then good old fashion elbow grease.

Do you agree with his answers? Would you add anything in addition to these responses? We look forward to your comments and if you would like to feature on our blog, please do get in touch.

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