Solution Architect Skills Assessment Idea

I’d like to talk about another idea I have for improving system architecture which is growing Solution Architects. I believe that one of the primary value propositions of an architect is to mentor and transfer knowledge from their architecture experience to the less experienced. I’ve observed that self-proclaimed architects tend to pull from their background such as software/hardware/mechanical engineering, business analysis, packaged software implementers/configurators, even project management! Not too surprisingly there is a significant bias to what these individuals feel are required skills for Solution Architect. I’m not all that confident that there is a right and wrong skills set for the generic Solution Architect, but I wonder if there is a set of core skills that an architect should obtain before acquiring the title Solution Architect to mitigate poor solutions as well as confusion from those around him/her.

I admit, what has triggered this entry is a result of trying to quantify what a Solution Architects is as a result of meeting countless imposters and witnessing their countless system design blunders. It appears that there is no accepted, industry-wide standard skill set that a Solution Architect must have and I see this as a need that must be filled…so I’ll invent one. Here is an approach a fellow colleague and I have come up with which I’d like to throw out to see if it might be interesting to the Architect Community.

The Approach: I used to perform skills assessments while a technical consultant to measure an individual’s skills for a particular project. The result of the skills assessment was a gap analysis which I would use to contribute to a Readiness Plan that would be used to ramp up the technical team for a large project. This approach has worked well for me and mitigated poor system design and solution delivery risks early in the project lifecycle. I’ve taken this concept and applied to produce a development plan for those wanting to become a Solution Architect. The high-level process we’ve come up with to date goes something like this:

1. Build Skills List for a Solution Architect

2. Have an experienced Solution Architect assign the maturity an individual would require for each skill such as:

a. Value Description

b. 0 0 Non Existent. This skill does not currently exist.

c. 1 1 Weak. This skill exists but not able to work independently without assistance

d. 2 2 Moderate. Good skills exist but requires periodic assistance.

e. 3 3 Strong. Highly capable, this person is often sought after to assist others.

3. Have an experienced Solution Architect interview a candidate and assign a value based on the same value table above to as accurately as possible determine the candidates ability for each skill in the Skills List

4. Calculate the skills gap for each skill of the candidate

5. Stack rank the sills based on the skills gap in descending order

6. For each skill that requires maturing, have the experienced Solution Architect list prescriptive recommended guidance describing what the candidate should consider for improving that skill

7. Have the candidate then assign a priority for each skill requiring maturing based on skill gap and the estimated effort to mature the skill

8. Build the candidate’s development plan using the guidance from the experienced Solution Architect.

I’ve run this approach past a few colleagues and it seems to be intriguing…at least in theory. I think that the trick is identifying the specific skills and their maturity value. Like I noted above, I don’t know if there is a right or wrong skill set but wonder if the skill set should be maintained by a community of architects. I’ve started such a list based on information from the Microsoft Solution Framework, industry research and my experience. Below is a brief outline of the actual skill assessment document and I are building. We have more on this so if you’re interested please let me know. Also, note that the skills are grouped by MSF team role because we think a Solution Architect must have strong skills in every project team role but is an expert in Solution Architecture.

Program/Project Management

                Scope Management

                Requirements Gathering

                Acceptance Criteria

                Roles and Responsibilities

                Communications Management

                Team Model


                Inter-team processes

                Trade-off Strategy


                Risk management

                Progress Tracking

                Project Planning

Solution Architecture

                Design Documentation

                                Entity Relationship Diagrams

                                Object Oriented Design Patterns


                Design Skills

                                Design and Develop for Performance

                                Design and Develop for Security

                                Design for SOA


                                Building Blocks


                                Methodologies and Techniques

                Quality Attribute Skills

                Business to Technology Strategy

                                Alignment and Investment Strategy


                                Industry Concerns

                                Business Fundamentals

                                                Business Community Organizational Aspects

                IT Environment





                                Project Management Capabilities

                Human Dynamics


                                Situational Awareness


Product Management

                Business Analysis

                                Business Process Analysis

                                Business Process Execution


                Design Documentation

                                Unified Modeling Language

                                Entity Relationship Diagrams

                                Object Oriented Design Patterns


                Test Planning

                Defect Management


                Resource Planning

                Daily Test Process

                Testing Environment

                Function Testing

                Security Testing

                Usability Testing

                Regression Testing

                Performance Testing

                System/Integration Testing

                Build Management

                Unit Testing

                Automation Testing

User Experience

                Usage Scenarios

                Sequence Modeling

                Business Process Modeling

                Unified Modeling Language

                                Activity Diagrams

                                Sequence Diagrams

                                Use Case Diagrams

                Business Process Analysis and Design

                User Interface Design

Release Management


                Network Architecture

                Operations Manuals

                Installation Instructions