Exploring this Job
Iasa Global provides several ways to explore the field. First, check out the What is IT Architecture? section (https://iasaglobal.org/itabok/what-is-it-architecture) of its Web site to learn about IT architecture career paths (including solutions architects), read a glossary of commonly used terms, and access other resources. If you’re a full-time college student, consider participating in its IT Architecture Competition, in which student teams devise and present an end-to-end architecture solution for a real-world business problem. Additionally, the association offers a discounted membership category for college students, as well as a free membership category for those who just want to explore the field. “Free” members receive access to an online membership directory and the organization’s virtual library, the opportunity to attend networking and social events with fellow architects, and discounts on e-books, videos, and print publications.
Other ways to explore this career and develop project management experience include reading books about the field (such as IT Architecture For Dummies, by Kalani Kirk Hausman and Susan L. Cook), talking with solutions architects about their careers, and taking on management roles in school clubs and other organizations.
Iasa Global defines the role of IT architects as “the technology strategist for the business…[who has] a broad understanding of technology that spans programming and development of custom applications, the infrastructure environment that the solution must reside in, and the operational environment that provides support.” Solutions architects (SAs) are specialized IT architects who devise “big picture” plans and strategies on how technology and IT professionals in various disciplines will be utilized to solve business problems (e.g., upgrading antiquated online customer service systems, addressing security breaches and implementing security infrastructure to avoid future problems, etc.) and launch new products and services. Before they begin a project, they ask questions such as:
- What are the development concerns and goals of the various stakeholders (clients, colleagues, executives, outside vendors)?
- How much money and time is available to complete the project?
- Should the organization buy or build a solution to the problem?
- What technology platform should be used?
- How will I leverage the skill sets of in-house and contract IT workers to solve the problem?
- How will the solution be scaled to meet expected user demand?
- How will the proposed solution integrate with existing IT systems?
- What are the risks associated with the proposed solution, and how can they be ameliorated?
Once these and other questions are answered, the solutions architect gets to work on the project. Job responsibilities for solutions architects vary by employer and project, but most SAs perform the following duties:
- create a concrete software architecture specification (i.e., the overall design of the IT system and interrelationships between its components) and design artifacts (documents, reports, analyses, models that support the specification)
- test technology that will play a critical role in the architecture to ensure that it will work correctly when work on the project begins
- review patterns that might be useful to the architecture (patterns are previously described and validated approaches to commonly occurring problems in software architecture)
- explain the architecture to members of the team to help them understand and “buy into” the proposed plan
- participate in reviews of the prototypes, designs, and other technical deliverables to ensure that they meet project requirements
- consult with development team members to address issues relating to performance, security, supportability, risk, etc., and identify options and recommend solutions
- refine architectural decisions related to the infrastructure, application architecture, data architecture, patterns and designs, and other criteria
- reduce risk to their employer by working with risk managers to identify and address issues that may affect the success of the project, profitability, etc.
- act as a key member of the project team and provide leadership in both application design and development
- resolve problems and serve as the go-to technical expert for the development team
- participate in solution design reviews and other project milestones