What is a Solutions Architect?
The standards for a robust digital experience have accelerated in recent years. Today’s digital consumers demand more from a brand’s website. They need an aesthetic appeal, but more importantly, they want to easily and quickly navigate a business’s website, along the way discovering the information or value they need to make purchasing decisions.
A solutions architect builds websites that attract and retain consumers in your sales funnel by producing a user-friendly experience that effectively displays the value of your product or service, all while increasing team productivity, streamlining day-to-day operations, and securing technical support systems.
In this article, I’ll tell you what a solutions architect is, what value he can bring to your business, and how to determine whether or not you need one.
What is a Solutions Architect?
Systems are imperfect. They become outdated, can be complex to use and if they have a one-size-fits-all layout, can fail to be flexible and accommodating enough to display the full value of your products or services. This means they can be problematic.
When your website extracts more value than it should be extending, a solutions architect goes through an exhaustive process of understanding your pains with your system, taking into account business and operational impacts.
He wants to know from you and your team what the system should look like, what it must do, how it must behave, the properties it should exhibit, the qualities it should possess, and any constraints the system and its development must satisfy.
He then examines your system’s architecture closely—working with it to see how it reacts in a real-world environment, both from the back-end user and front-end user perspective.
After his assessment, he recommends solutions that result in a concrete software architecture specification, translating Agile requirements into the architecture and design that makes up the blueprint for a web solution. He clearly defines the context of a specific solution or deliverable, or weeds out and addresses non-functional aspects of a solution.
He is a technical leader, working across your business, applications, and infrastructure domains to supply a deep technical knowledge that your stakeholders rely on to make informed decisions. His technical knowledge and experience solve broad, project-wide issues.
For the solutions architect, problem resolution means he focuses on:
- Which technology platform to use and how it will solve a business problem
- Which framework, platform, or tech-stack can be used to create a solution
- How the application will look, what the modules will be, and how they interact with each other
- How things will scale to meet expected user demand for the future, as well as how they will be maintained
- How the components of the solution should be deployed/activated
- Figuring out the risk in third-party frameworks/platforms
His involvement stretches the entirety of the project, for he will organize the development effort and provide motivation and guidance to the entire development team during the systems development life cycle.
Having such a role, he has to able to explain a complex problem in terms everyone can understand—saying the same thing using different words for different types of audiences and creating a cohesive vision around the technical solution.
This makes him ultimately responsible for the vision that underlies the solution and the execution of that vision into the solution, which should not only have the end-user experience in mind, but also the requirements of the technology and cost of development versus the intended outcomes of the web and software development project.
Do You Need a Solutions Architect?
Everyday consumers turn to the internet to conduct research on products and services before making a purchasing decision. This constitutes your website as one of your business’s biggest assets because before a lead even comes into contact with one of your sales reps, she has engaged with your website first.
Your website is the starting point for new prospects. It is where they go to fully assess your offer and, based on the information you provide, determine whether your product or service effectively resolves their pain.
In a nutshell, your website is a strong representative of your company. It can say everything about you or nothing at all. And what your website tells the consumer helps them make their purchasing decision.
I’m not just talking about aesthetics either. Sure, aesthetics are a big part of what allure a consumer, but you can have the most eye-catching website and still fail to draw in leads if, say, users have trouble loading or navigating your website, your website lacks organization, or your website lacks narrative.
These issues could be the result of the back-end user or the system itself. Whichever it is, it matters not to the consumer, because they can and will go to your competitor to get their needs met, but it should matter to you since your bottom line is largely affected.
Answer these questions for me:
- Is it difficult to understand the exchange of value between your website and your customers?
- Is it difficult to add new features to your site?
- Is it difficult to explain the requirements of your business or software application to your development team?
- Does your website lack visual appeal? Is it outdated compared to your competitors' sites?
- Do users have trouble navigating your website? Are they bouncing from your site quickly, before they’ve had a chance to learn of your offer?
- Do you have directional cues that tell consumers what actions you want them to take as they move through each page?
- Does your website lack narrative? As users move through your website, does it flow, taking them from the discovery stage of their buyer journey to the closure stage?
- Does your website cause problems for back-end users (your team)? Does your team have trouble publishing content or other assets? Are your systems dated and medieval, sapping time from other day-to-day operations? Are tiles, blocks and other features fixed in place, preventing your team from highlighting products or services in the manner you desire?
If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these, you need a solutions architect to build solutions for your website that will improve the user experience, increase team productivity, and create conversion opportunities.
What Value Can a Solutions Architect Bring to Your Business?
As previously noted, a solutions architect heavily weighs business outcomes when developing the technological solution to your problem. His aim is to provide:
- Greater productivity
- Greater back-end support
- Streamlined day-to-day operations
- A secure, stable and supportable environment for IT
- Better conversion paths for users
- Improved user experience and better site narrative
What you end up with is a web solution that makes your business more profitable in every aspect.