What does a solution architect do and why is it important?

Updated 7 June 2023

Software companies work with several different programmes, implementing a series of different languages in search of the perfect end product with a range of features specifically tailored to their customers. This means that issues may occur in the coding of the programme due to conflicts throughout the design and implementation of features. This is where a solution architect, or a solution engineer, is an essential part of a development team. In this article, we answer the question 'What does a solution architect do?' and explain the work they do and why they're important to development processes.

What does a solution architect do?

If you've ever wondered 'What does a solution architect do?', the answer is likely simpler than you expect. A solution engineer's role is examining the specific software and codebase in question, building an understanding of what the problem is and developing a solution to the issue that ensures the software works as effectively as possible. This is an important part of the software development process, ensuring that before the programming shipping every aspect works as effectively as feasibly possible.

A software engineer has a series of specific tasks within this responsibility. Each task makes the role of other employees as easy as possible, benefiting outcomes throughout the entire company. Read on to learn some of the key tasks of a solution architect's day and why they're significant parts of the software development process:

Finding software issues

A solution architect's role is in solving issues with code and ensuring programs run reliably without any issues. Understanding the source of the issue is the first part of the process. Thoroughly reading from the code and establishing the issue is the first step in a solution architect developing a response to the issue and ensuring that the software runs effectively in the long term.

Depending on the nature of the organisation, this is not necessarily a task that the solution architect completes. Some organisations have comprehensive quality assurance teams, examining the software in question for bugs and reading through the code. In these instances, a solution architect looks into relevant pieces of code for the issue in question, trusting the QA team's examination of the programme.

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Communicating with management staff

Management staff play a significant role in the development of programmes, software and other digital goods. A manager holds responsibility for the features within their product and aims for the completion of a brief, whether from the internal design team or an external client. This means that the manager is accountable for the final condition of the product, and any adjustments from the initial brief in the final product.

As a solution architect adjusts the nature of the product in question, having detailed conversations with management staff is a key part of the role. For example, in the case that a key feature causes issues with the functionality of the rest of the program, a solution architect removing the feature is a key decision including management staff. As the solution architect affects the product, conversations with the manager are an essential part of completing the role in a way that benefits the client and company alike.

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Resolving coding issues

After finding and discussing issues with a program or piece of software, the solution architect works through a solution. This comes in a range of forms, from correcting a few minor lines of code, shifting some features around within the codebase and even completely restructuring the programme. This leaves the software in a reliable state, operating under the brief and satisfying all involved parties.

Ideally, a solution architect's work is complete before this stage of the process. Their focus on the planning stages of the project, such as establishing the functionality of each feature of work, mitigates the risks of unsuccessfully developing products and ultimately leads to a functional product. In the event of unforeseen issues, solution architects respond by examining the issue and developing a solution as quickly as possible.

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Planning early functionality

In addition to responding to issues, a solution architect plays a key role in the initial planning phase of the software. This includes setting out workflows, establishing the roles of individual members of the team and examining the necessary code for the implementation of requested features. This is a key aspect of the process, as planning in advance for the duration of a project ensures that everyone has an understanding of their tasks and the importance of the project as a whole.

In an ideal situation, the solution architect mitigates issues in the software at this stage of the process. Planning in the most effective way possible means that you have relatively few issues with the implementation of the process, and every aspect of the project is as efficient as can be. With the right people coding the right parts of the product, the overall project thrives and a solution architect minimises their issues further down the line.

Working with third-party software and teams

In some cases, the creation of a piece of digital work from the ground up is difficult and necessitates the use of a third party. Whether this is in the form of third-party employees or the implementation of a common piece of software or an engine such as Unity, understanding third parties is a key part of software development and something a solution architect holds responsibility for. Better third-party interactions mean a better product, so interacting well is key.

This involves a few different skills. Negotiating with third-party vendors for access to the software or staffing is key, as is managing the individual members of staff. Furthermore, adapting to new engines and codebases such as Unity, Godot and Git make the rest of the process significantly easier, as you lead your team with new tools. Solution architects, therefore, make all of the difference in performing more effectively with external support.

Managing a development team

Another key aspect of a solution architect's work is the management of a wider development team. This is essential, as a solution architect working with others completes tasks more quickly and to a higher standard. Better team management ensures that the organisation functions in the most effective way possible, leading to both employee and client satisfaction.

Although team management is an essential part of the early planning phases of a solution architect's role, it's not their only management task. Managing the team throughout the rest of the process is essential, guiding and assisting members of staff in their work. Good management prevents issues from arising, lessening the problem-solving responsibilities of the solution architect in the long term.

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How much does a solution architect earn?

The national average salary of a solution architect is £73,647 per year. This varies depending on the industry in question, in addition to the nature of the company offering the role. For example, a startup developer likely offers less in terms of a salary with further performance-related compensation as an incentive. As solution architects have high skill levels, their compensation is higher than that of members within their teams.

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What skills do solution architects use?

Solution architects use a wide range of skills in their time in the role. This is due to the varied nature of the tasks they complete and the individuals they communicate with daily. Read some of the key skills for a solution architect below:

  • Coding: Competence in a range of coding languages such as HTML, CSS and Python is essential. This improves a solution architect's potential in the workplace and assists in finding and responding to issues with features.

  • Communication: Communicating within the team, with managerial staff and with external clients are all key parts of the role. Better communication skills remove the potential for misunderstandings and get everyone working well together.

  • Time management: Development projects take significant amounts of time and work within tight deadlines, set at the beginning of a project. Good time management keeps deadlines intact and delivers products as early as possible.

  • Negotiation: Negotiating with third parties is a key part of the role and effective negotiation makes the difference between project success and failure. Good negotiations reduce the costs of a project and improve provisions from external entities.

  • Organisation: Organising the workloads and structures of a company is a large task, and having strong organisation skills simplifies the issue and speeds up the process of workplace organising.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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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