As IT roles go, the solution delivery architect is more important than ever. “Today’s world is in constant flux and organizations need to have the capability to rapidly adapt their operating methods and techniques to meet emerging business challenges and shifting customer preferences,” says Gilad Rom, founder of pet GPS tracking company Huan, who has worked as a solutions architect for Ericsson and Fabrix Systems.
At the most basic level, solution delivery architects are responsible for creating the framework of the technical solution being designed to meet a user’s or customer’s goals. “The job requires a mix of technical and business skills and focuses on being able to choose the most appropriate solution to achieve optimal business outcomes,” Rom says.
[ Considering architect jobs? Read also: What companies are seeking in a Cloud Architect: Five trends. ]
What skills does a solution delivery architect need?
A solution delivery architect’s value lies in their ability to connect business needs to technology architecture, strategy, and resources. “The role requires technical, business, and people-related skills,” says Chris Bergh, CEO of DataOps consultancy and platform provider DataKitchen.
As technology capabilities advance and become increasingly complex, organizations rely on the solution delivery architect to create a well-constructed solution that takes all factors into account – key stakeholders, business objectives, technology strategy, security requirements – and that can be handed off to the deployment team for successful and on-time delivery, according to Jason Pohlman, director of cloud solution architects with hybrid cloud solution provider Otava.
“Before there were solution delivery architects, many would try to simply retrofit a solution regardless of the challenge or need,” Pohlman says. “Now, with solution architects, all factors are considered and questions are answered so that a better solution can be delivered.”
They create the framework that makes or breaks adoption rates. “As such, it is very important for solutions delivery architects to be good listeners,” says Pohlman. “In order to be successful in this role, solutions architects must consider the 6Ws: who, what, why, where, when, and how.”
6 myths about solution delivery architects
Yet confusion around this role remains – which can be dangerous. “Misconceptions around the responsibilities of chief architects can negatively impact outcomes, so I find it’s important to clearly articulate my background and role when meeting a new colleague or customer,” says Marc Caruso, chief architect at managed cloud provider Syntax.
Indeed, multiple misunderstandings around this pivotal role remain. It’s important to debunk them at a time when digital transformation is priority number one for organizations. Let’s explore:
1. Solution delivery architects are hyper-focused on a specific type of solution or service
Not so, says Sivan Tehila, director of solution architecture at secure network access provider Perimeter 81. “The solution architect must be very strategic,” says Tehila.
“They have to see the whole picture, understand the business and security strategy, and understand the market better than anyone else.”
2. They are enterprise or technical architects
“Solutions architects focus on tailoring software engineering to achieve business objectives,” Rom says. “Enterprise architects focus on constructing complex enterprise ecosystems. Technical architects focus on software architecture and technical engineering.” For optimal outcomes, organizations should employ enterprise architects, solutions architects, and technical architects to work together as their skills complement each other.
3. Solution delivery architect is a static role
Quite the contrary, the solution delivery architect must be dynamic. Because no customer or user is the same, “the solution architect has an amazing opportunity to be exposed to many different use cases,” Tehila says.
4. Infrastructure is their sole focus
“For many people, the title induces images of physical or cloud infrastructure or software development, and there may be some confusion around whether it’s more an internal or external-facing role,” says Caruso of Syntax.
In addition to on-premises and cloud infrastructure work, Caruso says, the role also involves working with customers as well as with internal teams such as sales, marketing, product, engineering, and operations to develop solutions for their enterprise applications that optimize cost/value while providing high levels of performance, availability, and security.
5. They're married to outcomes
Instead, good solution delivery architects seek the win-win. “If in discovery, they determine that their particular technology solution is not a good fit for the customers’ business needs, or if the organization can’t deliver the desired outcome, it is important to communicate this and try to help customers in other ways,” Pohlman says. “Making the right referrals or pulling in key partners to help accomplish certain goals is a far better strategy than trying to proceed with architecting a solution that simply will not meet goals and objectives.”
6. You want them to be superheroes
“When hiring a solution delivery architect, many enterprises strive to hire the smartest, most experienced, and hardest-working person possible. If that’s all they are thinking about, then they are making a big mistake,” says Bergh of DataKitchen. “The concern with this approach is that it often devolves into an addiction to heroism.”
Throwing solution delivery architects at problems to save the day when a system goes offline at a critical time sets a bad precedent. “Heroes are a precious resource, and when they become a bottleneck, a company can’t grow, evolve, and achieve its potential. Heroism accepts unplanned work as a way of life,” Bergh says. “Heroes will eventually burn out and leave the company. When heroes leave, their expertise goes with them.”
Organizations that leverage solution delivery architects along with a process-oriented approach (like DevOps) to build applications not only for performance but also agility, quality, maintainability, governance, and transparency are less likely to fall into this trap.
[ What questions will you be asked at a solution delivery architect interview? Read also IT careers: How to get a job as a solution delivery architect. ]
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