Expectations of a solution architect
To be successful, a solution architect should be capable of performing several soft skills. This unit explores some of these key skills. Those who aspire to be a business application solution architect should spend time on projects observing how the project's solution architect engages. The best solution architects learn from blending experiences from many projects along with lessons learned from their successes and failures.
While some items are produced solely by the solution architect, most of the deliverables will involve collaboration with other team members. If you like to work alone and are not a good team player, being a solution architect might not be an ideal role for you. Solution architects need to be comfortable asserting their expertise while simultaneously not rejecting ideas of other team members. You should look for others to respect you because of your demonstrated knowledge and expertise, not because you demanded it due to your role. A solution architect should be good at negotiating positive outcomes for challenges with both the customer and project teams.
As size of the project team increases, so does the need for better coordination. Much of this situation can be handled by the team leads and the project manager. However, the solution architect generally has the best overall understanding of complex technical issues that cross teams. For example, working with the data migration team and the team that is customizing the data model to ensure that they are ready for dry runs of the data migration. Solution architects should be skilled at driving consensus across the parties involved.
As a solution architect, you need to be adept at communicating across many different channels, including diverse audiences from technical to all business focused. Successful solution architects can translate a technical problem or design to a non-technical business user. Excellent listening skills are essential to understand what others are saying, including being proficient at asking probing questions to clarify and get to the main cause of the topic being discussed. Both written and verbal communication skills are a must.
A large part of the solution architect role involves reviewing and providing feedback on project deliverables. This responsibility ranges from requirements to technical designs and technical implementations. The solution architect must be adept at identifying problems without causing the receiver of the feedback to react defensively. The solution architect should be a leader in promoting constructive feedback sessions across the teams and lead by example.
As a solution architect, you should be willing and able to accept interesting challenges. Often, the problems that reach the solution architect will be the toughest on the project. Typically, these problems are ones that other teams have already tried to solve. Solution architects must be skilled at breaking down complex problems into smaller ones that can be solved. Having the ability to differentiate between a problem's symptom and cause will help the solution architect solve the problems more directly.
Ultimately, it's the adaptability of a solution architect that makes them successful on projects because one project is never like the next.
Solution architects should be endless optimists and feel that their team can tackle any challenge. A solution architect needs to be mindful that their attitude (both positive and negative) is reflected across their team.
The solution architect's collaboration, communication, and feedback styles also heavily influence the others on a project. As a solution architect, you need to realize that the broader project team depends on you; therefore, you must lead by example.