Software Architect Role, Skills, and Impact on Product Success
“Software Architect ranks #1 in the list of the best jobs of 2020 based on salary, growth potential, and employer demand.”
Most of the projects require an expert who can make essential project-related decisions, such as selecting a high-level design, defining software coding standards, tools, and platforms. This expert is a software architect who can optimize your development process and, as a consequence, your business.
“Who is a software architect?”
“What skills does he possess?”
“What are his responsibilities and duties?”
Let’s discuss all these questions one by one in detail.
A software architect is a person that drives all critical decisions about the organization of the software system. He performs the following functions:
- Defines a high-level structure of an architecture (software system) and its main components and their interfaces.
- Defines the interactions of these components with each other and also with external systems.
- Defines the general architectural vision (that guides the organization and serves a basis for mutual understanding among all parties involved in product development).
The software architect takes care of significant aspects (such as functionality, technology constraints, performance, resilience, scalability, comprehensibility, reuse, security, and tradeoffs), and ensures that his decision is effectively communicated to stakeholders as well as the technical staff.
The function of a software architect depends on the project size and requirements and differs from other key specialists like a senior developer, tech lead, product manager, and other architects.
Skills of A Software Architect
A good software architect must possess the following skills:
Extensive Technical Background
A good software architect must have a Master’s degree in engineering or computer science, a vast portfolio of multiple projects utilizing different technologies, and 5-10 years of experience in programming.
A software architect must not lose touch with programming as he requires writing code examples, proof of concepts, and prototypes for developers so that developers can work with such snippets to get them to production.
Proven Knowledge of Cloud Technologies
Cloud service providers offer numerous ready-to-use solutions to speed up software development. A software architect must be an expert in cloud technologies to know which tool should be used in which project. He can get such expertise by working with a particular provider for 3+ years and/or by getting certification from Google Cloud, AWS, or Microsoft Azure.
Communication is a crucial skill required in a good architect as the architect often requires to communicate with stakeholders, business analysts, and engineers. For instance, talking to developers about the advantages of implementing a specific pattern, or explaining management the cost-benefit tradeoffs of buying middleware.
A software architect is responsible for mentoring and coordinating technical teams and promoting their vision of the right solution and quality standards. Solid leadership skills are the base for winning respect and authority.
Knowledge of Business Domain
Developing an architecture will be difficult without domain knowledge; even if created, it will not solve the business problem effectively. Therefore, understanding domain specificity helps the architect to select the most appropriate approaches and patterns and to speak the language of executives and business representatives, thus fosters trust.
Responsibilities & Duties of A Software Architect
The responsibilities and duties of a software architect depend upon various factors, such as organization structure and business requirements. Here, we are outlining the duties based on the engineering stage.
A software architect is a part of a discovery team to identify what customers want to build and what resources will be used. He studies high-level functional as well as non-functional needs related to important aspects such as performance, security, reliability, and other quality aspects. The architect also considers constraints placed by compliance requirements.
First, the architect decides whether there is a requirement of custom software or whether he can take an existing solution and configure it to meet the client’s needs. Further, the engineering team can handle tasks in the development process without the architect.
In case the idea is not feasible within reasonable timeframes and on sensible budgets, the architect can manage expectations and offer alternative ways to achieve the client’s business goals.
After evaluating early project requirements, the architect delivers a high-level system diagram (describing the most basic concepts and interactions). He selects the technical stack and deployment strategies, roughly estimates working hours of developers, and accordingly forms a development team. All these decisions are combined to make a final proposal.
Once the proposal gets approved, the next step is to specify requirements and create a detailed architecture that can best solve the problems of stakeholders. In simple words, the architect decides how to create the solution.
While working on the architecture, a good architect maps out the ways to implement the initial idea from the technical perspective, pinpoints potential constraints and risks related to essential aspects, and offers methods to reduce them. He must also incorporate scalability in the initial design to enable change and growth.
In the end, the architect delivers design blueprints showcasing major modules, their interactions, and the most critical low-level components inside them.
In this stage, the architect creates the architectural prototype (i.e., a system’s working skeleton). This prototype covers the most significant problems and addresses major architectural risks.
In case the prototype gets successful, it proves that the architecture is stable. Also, the project is realistic and feasible. In short, you can proceed to the next phase.
In this stage, the architect works on designing less significant features and components. The software architect acts as a leader, mentor, or supervisor. The architects promote their vision of a project, set quality standards (to maintain consistency across various teams), provide code snippets (to facilitate development process), and reviews the code (for compliance with predefined rules).
In case some alteration is required in the initial design (due to changes in requirements), the architect takes care of the changes and prevents their negative effect on expected characteristics (such as performance, speed, and security).
The architect works together with the development and testing team and defines how the product release will be done. He participates while selecting the quality assurance tools; makes decisions on different things like code freezes, environments and infrastructures (to roll out new features), and deployment methods, i.e., he is accountable for continuous integration and deployment.
The architect further makes changes in the infrastructure based on the performance testing result. However, if the software was well-designed in the initial stages, these changes will not lead to the time-consuming and costly rebuilding of the system.
Do You Require A Software Architect?
Generally, the software architect is required for big projects to coordinate various technical teams such as frontend, backend, DevOps, etc. He can also be employed when a development team is handling a complex and specific business domain. He can help the team by translating the business language to technical terms (and vice versa), thus resolving communication issues.
It is worth noting that a software architect is not required for small projects to solve narrow technical problems as it can be easily resolved by a senior developer.
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