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Not all architects design buildings. Some architects design the complex interactions between business processes and the technologies that enable those processes to function in today's data-driven age. A solutions architect works in the field of information technology. He focuses on establishing the best technology solution to meet a specific business need in his area of expertise, whether it be applications, hardware or infrastructure services. A lead solutions architect guides other architects in the definition, design and project delivery of services in the workplace.
A solutions architect is part of an organization's enterprise architecture group, although the scope of his work is at a tactical level. He focuses on individual projects rather than enterprise-level ones. The lead architect works directly with business representatives to understand the specific requirements that are driving the need for a solution to be designed. He then plans and implements the design activities required.
A lead solutions architect is technically focused but must also understand business planning. He leads teams of both business and technical colleagues throughout the course of the project, and he has to be able to communicate with each of them effectively. He should know what questions to ask and when to ask them to verify that nothing crucial to the success of the project is overlooked. Although his project addresses tactical business objectives, he must consider the impacts his solution could have to the organization's overall business processes and strategies.
The lead solutions architect works with his team to formulate a design plan that factors technology investments and risks while providing value to the company by improving business processes and eliminating unnecessary complexities. He has the responsibility to avoid solutions that don't represent wise investments. When solutions require external resources, equipment or other expenditures, the lead architect reviews vendor proposals to identify which promises the most value and the best return on investment.
The lead solutions architect plans the technical requirements to transition a design into a working solution. After he leads the design phase of the project, he participates in all remaining phases to verify that the design is installed, configured and documented correctly. Throughout the course of implementation, he helps the project team recognize and mitigate any risks to existing business processes or to the solution's overall success. The lead solutions architect is also involved in training to make sure the solution will be supported and maintained appropriately after implementation is complete.
Background and Qualifications
Most hiring companies expect a lead solutions architect to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. An architect might also be expected to hold or to obtain certification in a specific area of expertise. As an example, a solutions architect focusing on network services might be certified as a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert. An architect is generally required to have 10 years of experience working in the field before they are given a lead role.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.
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