What does a system architect do and what skills do they use?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

IT strategies are often at the core of an effective business, as the digital world takes over a significant proportion of world enterprises. This means that having the right people in place for the creation and development of IT strategies can be fundamental to a company's long-term development. This is where the role of a system architect can be essential. In this article, we discuss what a system architect does and its importance in the process of developing a digital strategy for a company.

What does a system architect do?

Many people wonder 'What does a system architect do?' when considering their ideal career path. A system architect has a wide range of tasks in their day-to-day work. This is because the role can vary significantly depending on the company that a system architect works for. Here are some of their most important tasks:

Communicating with management

The first step a system architect takes in the system design process is to communicate with management staff. This is a key aspect of the role as digital solution design focuses on achieving organisational goals. Cooperating with management can help ensure that every individual feature of digital infrastructure contributes to the end product, which helps to optimise the company's digital services.

Talking to managers can be a key part of the role as it allows everyone in the organisation to fully understand each other's perspectives. For example, if a manager requests something outside the budget of the digital system, a system architect can inform them of this, allowing both parties to reach a compromise. Communicating on a consistent basis means that everyone can be in the best position possible to produce results, and it can reduce misunderstanding of the other's views.

Researching industry developments

Because a system architect has responsibility for the systems, services and processes within a digital ecosystem, understanding the wider industry can be an essential part of the role. IT is one of the fastest evolving industries in the world, with new developments, such as blockchain-oriented software, becoming more prominent over time. A system architect typically researches industry developments to understand the nature of new products and processes. This often benefits the wider company.

As the system architect understands company software at a granular level, they can choose to implement or forego individual pieces of technology depending on their benefits or drawbacks. This research can allow a business to gain a competitive advantage through implementing technical solutions that other companies aren't yet aware of. A company can then profit from the research carried out by a system architect and produce better results.

Related: Research skills: definition and examples

Analysing existing systems

Completing an analysis of existing systems is a key task of a system architect. Understanding the systems that a company has in place allows a system architect to convert existing systems in a more informed way. Whilst the goals of a business may change, the underlying hardware can be more lasting. Therefore, understanding what the organisation works with on a day-to-day basis allows a system architect to have a better understanding of the system's potential and the limitations of the existing equipment.

A thorough analysis of existing systems often requires meeting early deadlines. Early completion means that a system architect can make the necessary adjustments before the company starts any complex new processes, so everything is ready and in the right state for employees to work with. Companies can be more effective when their equipment is in the right condition for completing work, making a system architect's understanding of the existing systems a core part of the workflow.

Related: How to write a critical analysis for business with examples

Designing new systems

One of the most important tasks a system architect has is to design and develop new systems. In the event that a company has a drastic shift in long-term goals and ambitions, shifting the capabilities and capacity of IT infrastructure can help guarantee the fulfilment of these new requirements. Due to the expertise of a system architect and their research into the market, the system architect typically holds the responsibility for this redesign.

Redesigning new systems is a very thorough process. This includes the logistics of removing new systems, introducing temporary placeholder technology and implementing new systems included in the reshuffle. Each individual part of a new system requires assembly, so focusing on doing this in a comprehensive manner helps ensure productivity and profitability for a company while reaching the new business goals.

What skills do system architects have?

System architects can have a wide range of skills. This is due to the shifting nature of the work they do and the wide range of roles they work within. Here are some of the skills system architects use in the development of digital systems and services:

Communication

Communication skills are an essential part of a system architect's role. Working closely with a range of interested parties, including company management, clients and individual members of staff, system architects often coordinate with several parties in the development of solutions to system issues. This relies on significant levels of communication as striking the right tone with each party can keep the project as productive as possible.

Organisation

Digital systems can have a range of moving parts, with servers, routers and software all playing individual roles in the process. This means that system architects are likely to keep track of hundreds of items and dozens of services from third parties. Making full use of their organisation skills ensures that a system architect knows where each individual item is at all times and that there's no risk of losing an item, which could cause a higher level of spending in the long term.

Technical knowledge

Technical knowledge is often very important in any system architect's work. Understanding everything in the digital landscape, such as the hardware requirements of individual programs, the interfacing requirements of a wide range of digital features and the reliance of one piece of hardware on another can make a huge difference to a system architect's purchasing patterns. For example, a well-informed system architect can make sure everything is compatible before purchasing, which can save the company money on repurchasing incompatible equipment.

Related: Common solution architect interview questions (with answers)

Preparing for unforeseen circumstances

In the world of IT infrastructure, it's rare for a plan to work out as expected. From hard drive failures to faulty processors, a range of different issues can occur with new IT systems. Preparing for these in advance can greatly benefit a company as they can swap out faulty equipment for a functional replacement and get the system running again quickly. Preparing in advance can be a key skill in a range of industries, and this is especially the case in IT system architecture.

Time management

Time management is a fundamental part of work as a system architect. Company goals can have distinct timeframes, such as achieving a certain level of profit by the end of the quarter or transferring data to a new platform in a set timeframe. By effectively managing their time, a system architect can control the rate at which the new system develops. This helps ensure that a company achieves a more effective IT infrastructure and benefits from new systems in a timely manner.

How much does a system architect earn?

A system architect earns an average of £73,420 per year. But this can depend on a range of factors. For example, in the event that a major company hires a system architect for a rework of their IT infrastructure, they pay more to attract the best possible talent to guarantee a more functional IT system.

Companies often hire system architects to be part of a much wider team. This means that, depending on your specific role within the team, pay can vary from member to member. The most experienced members of the team often have a higher level of responsibility, and due to this, they usually receive a higher compensation package. System architects often receive extra compensation in the form of performance-related bonuses, but these are relatively rare as the performance of a system architect usually has a minimal impact on the company's bottom line.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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