Solution architecture management

 

SOLUTION ARCHITECTURE MANAGEMENT

Solution architects fulfill a vital role in the organization. Get a high-level overview of solution architecture management.

1. What is a solution architect?

As a solution architect, you hold a pivotal role within the IT industry. The solution architect plays an important role in making IT projects successful. Your primary responsibility is to devise and execute solutions that align with the organization’s objectives and business goals.

Throughout the design process, you collaborate with various stakeholders, playing a crucial role in enterprise change processes. While your focus may be narrower compared to enterprise or business architects, your role demands intense dedication to achieving solutions, necessitating thorough research and effective communication to ensure successful change.

To excel in this role, you must possess a diverse skill set, encompassing extensive technical expertise, adeptness in business analysis, and proficiency in project management. Additionally, your excellent communication skills enable you to translate technical intricacies into simple language, facilitating the timely and cost-effective delivery of solutions. As a result, you collaborate collaborate with IT professionals , including developers, project managers, and business analysts.

what is a solution architect?
Responsibilities of a solution architect
As a solution architect, your role entails ensuring scalability, security, and reliability. You must utilize solution architecture viewpoints to promote collaboration with fellow experts and collaborate with security architects for security assessments, as well as with product managers for cost-benefit analysis.

In your capacity as a solution architect, you craft a comprehensive depiction of solution components and their interactions. Your responsibility is to choose the most suitable technology for the relevant business challenges and resolve any architectural issues that may arise.

Furthermore, it falls upon you to convey the project’s vision to the development team and actively participate in subsequent revisions to the solution. You are the one who communicates the project’s vision to the development team, guiding them throughout the project’s execution.

Different types of solution architects based on their expertise
Solution architecture experts come in various forms, each with distinct areas of focus and expertise. These roles encompass:

  • Enterprise Solution Architect: Focuses on organization strategy and business architecture.
  • Solution Architect: Specializes in solution design and integration.
  • Technical Architect: Concentrates on software design, software development, and cloud strategy.
  • Infrastructure Architect: Responsible for an organization’s IT infrastructure.
  • Security Architect: Specializes in ensuring the security of solutions.
  • DevOps Architect: Focuses on the integration of development and operations.
  • Data Architect: Specializes in managing and organizing data.
  • Network Architect: Concentrates on designing and maintaining network infrastructure.

These roles can be further divided into two main categories: generalists, who have a wide-spanning understanding of multiple tech areas, and specialists, who possess deep knowledge in particular niches like data science, cybersecurity, or network management.

Furthermore, there are hierarchical distinctions such as Chief Architect, Head Architect, and Strategic Architect, each signifying different levels of seniority and responsibility within the field.

Titles and specific responsibilities for solution architecture experts can differ based on the company, with additional designations like application or software system architect being possible based on how a company is structured.

In essence, the varied types of solution architecture experts are integral to aligning technical strategies with business objectives, thereby driving the company’s overarching technological framework and approach.

 

Solution and enterprise architects

2. A high-level summary of solution architecture design

Your work in solution architecture design entails crafting innovative and effective solutions tailored to meet your organization’s business and technical needs. This process revolves around your ability to comprehend the problem at hand, delve into pertinent domains and viewpoints, generate and assess various alternatives, and ultimately choose and fine-tune the optimal solution.

Solution architecture management webinar
High-level steps for solution architecture design

  1. To begin, understanding the problem is crucial. This involves gathering and analyzing information about the business context, user needs, technical environment, existing systems, constraints, and risks. By understanding the problem, architects can identify key challenges and opportunities guiding their design decisions.
  2. Exploring the domains and viewpoints is the next step. This involves identifying the areas of concern or interest the solution addresses, such as business, information, application, infrastructure, security, and governance.
  3. Generating and evaluating alternatives is also an important part of solution architecture design. Architects use brainstorming, prototyping, modeling, benchmarking, and researching techniques to generate different options for designing and implementing the solution. They then evaluate these alternatives based on feasibility, suitability, scalability, performance, reliability, security, and cost.
  4. Finally, architects select and refine the best solution. This involves using methods like voting, ranking, scoring, weighting, and testing to choose the solution that best meets the requirements and expectations of stakeholders.
  5. Solution architects also use an enterprise architecture tool to create diagrams, documents, specifications, standards, and guidelines to refine the chosen solution, ensuring the solution architecture design is clear, consistent, coherent, and comprehensive.

3. Different solution architecture frameworks

A solution architecture framework provides a structured approach to design, document, and communicate solutions for complex problems. It guides you to ensure that the software solution aligns with the organization’s business needs and objectives.

RELATED WIKI: Enterprise architecture frameworks

Some of the benefits of using solution architecture frameworks include:

  • Providing a common language and shared understanding of the solution
  • Offering a structured and consistent approach to reduce ambiguity and complexity
  • Providing a set of best practices and guidelines for improving quality and efficiency
  • Aligning the solution with the enterprise architecture, business strategy, standards, and governance principles

Examples of frameworks used by solution architects include:

  • SABSA (Sherwood Applied Business Security Architecture): SABSA is a framework specifically focused on security architecture. It provides a structured approach to designing and implementing security solutions that align with business objectives [2].
  • Agile Solution Architecture: Agile solution architecture is an approach that combines agile software development principles with solution architecture practices. Agile solution architecture frameworks, such as SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), guide integrating architecture activities into agile development processes.

Examples of broader enterprise architecture frameworks referring to solution architecture:

  • TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework): TOGAF is a widely used framework that provides a comprehensive approach to designing, planning, implementing, and governing enterprise architectures.

READ: What is TOGAF and how should organizations use it?

  • Zachman Framework: The Zachman Framework is a well-known framework that provides a structured way to define and organize different perspectives of an enterprise architecture. It consists of a matrix that defines six different perspectives (What, How, Where, Who, When, and Why) and six different levels of abstraction (Planner, Owner, Designer, Builder, Subcontractor, and User) [3].

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4. What are some common solution architecture patterns?

Solution architecture patterns are reusable, vendor-neutral, industry-specific, and vendor-specific patterns for enterprise software systems. These patterns can be used to build enterprise software systems and are well-established in the industry.

The layered pattern is a widely used solution architecture pattern that organizes software components into separate layers with specific responsibilities and well-defined interfaces. This pattern allows for modularity, reusability, maintainability, and testability. However, it can introduce performance overhead, complexity, and coupling between layers.

Source: Bizzdesign Horizzon Bizzdesign Horizzon saves solution architects time by providing out-of-the-box reference models and templates

The event-driven pattern relies on the production and consumption of events to trigger actions and reactions in software components. It enables loose coupling, scalability, responsiveness, and resilience.

The microservices pattern decomposes a software system into small, independent, and self-contained services that communicate through lightweight protocols. It allows for agility, flexibility, innovation, and fault tolerance.

The serverless pattern leverages cloud computing services to run software components without managing underlying servers or infrastructure.

The CQRS pattern separates read and write operations into different models and components. It handles high volumes of read-and-write operations with different performance, scalability, and consistency requirements.

Each pattern has its benefits and drawbacks, and the choice of pattern depends on the specific requirements and constraints of the software solution.

5. Definition of a solution architecture diagram

A solution architecture diagram is a visual representation of a software system’s components, interactions, and dependencies. It provides a high-level overview of how different parts of the system work together to achieve the desired solution.

The diagram typically includes various elements such as:

Components: These are the building blocks of the system, representing the different software modules, services, or applications that make up the solution.

Interfaces: These depict the interactions and communication channels between the components. They show how data or information flows between different parts of the system.

Dependencies: These illustrate the relationships and dependencies between components. They indicate which components rely on others for their functionality.

Data Flow: This shows the movement of data or information within the system. It helps understand how different components process, transform, or store data.

Infrastructure includes the hardware, network, and other infrastructure components required to support the software solution.

Source: Bizzdesign Horizzon Bizzdesign Examples of solution architecture diagrams at a financial institution

How do you make clear solution architecture diagrams? 
Creating a clear and effective solution architecture diagram requires considering the purpose, scope, level of detail, and intended audience. Different tools can be used to develop solution architecture diagrams, such as general-purpose drawing tools like Visio or PowerPoint or specialized enterprise architecture tools like Bizzdesign Horizzon.

RELATED WIKI: Enterprise architecture tools

Following principles such as using a clear and consistent notation, organizing elements into logical structures, ensuring suitable levels of detail, and using descriptive and concise naming conventions can help improve the clarity and readability of the diagram.

To ensure accurate solution architecture diagrams, Regularly review and refine the diagram, check for errors or inconsistencies, and incorporate stakeholder feedback.

6. Key solution architecture principles

Solution architecture design involves applying various principles and patterns to ensure the solution is scalable, reliable, secure, and aligned with the business goals. As a solution architect, you must follow key principles guiding your decisions and actions throughout the lifecycle.

Understand the problem: Before designing a solution, it is important to thoroughly understand the problem, including stakeholders, business needs, constraints, risks, and success criteria.

Choose the right architecture: The architecture of a solution should be chosen based on the problem domain, technology stack, and organizational context.

Apply design patterns: Design patterns provide reusable solutions to common software design problems.

Follow design principles: These general rules and recommendations guide design decisions and help achieve quality attributes.

Validate and refine the design: Once a draft of the solution design is created, it should be validated and refined to ensure it meets requirements, objectives, and feasibility.

Adapt to changes: Design should be flexible and adaptable to accommodate changes that may arise during development or deployment. Agile and iterative approaches should be used to deliver value and improve the design.

READ: Ameren’s top 5 tips to establish a robust solution architecture process

 

7. Different types of solution architecture certification

There are several certifications available for solution architecture that can help professionals validate their skills and knowledge in this field. Here are a few popular certifications:

AWS Certified Solutions Architect: This certification validates the ability to design and deploy scalable, cost-effective, and secure applications on the AWS platform.

Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert: This certification focuses on designing and implementing solutions on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) Certification: TOGAF is a widely recognized framework for enterprise architecture. The TOGAF certification program offers different levels of certification, including Foundation, Certified, and Expert.

Salesforce Certified Technical Architect: This certification is designed for professionals who design and architect Salesforce solutions.

Google Cloud Certified – Professional Cloud Architect: This certification is offered by Google Cloud and focuses on designing and implementing solutions on the Google Cloud Platform.

 

 

8. Key components of an enterprise solution architecture roadmap

An enterprise solution architecture roadmap is your strategic blueprint, charting out the steps and milestones for implementing and evolving your organization’s software solutions. It provides you with a high-level view of the desired future state of your architecture and lays out the path you need to follow to reach that destination.

Your solution architecture roadmap is your guide for transitioning from your current software architecture to a new one. It starts with an assessment of your system’s current state, followed by a detailed plan for achieving the desired future state. Within this plan, you’ll find an exhaustive list of tasks and changes that are necessary to reach your architectural goals.

This plan is a collaborative effort between you as a solution architect, project teams, and business leaders. Together, you ensure that the proposed solutions align seamlessly with your business objectives and complement your business unit processes. Additionally, your roadmap should encompass potential risks and specify deliverables for each phase of your projects. In essence, it serves as an indispensable tool for effectively managing the execution and evolution of your software solution over time.Here are some key components and considerations for creating an enterprise solution architecture roadmap:

Current state assessment: Begin by assessing the current state of the organization’s architecture. This includes understanding the existing systems and technologies and identifying any pain points or areas for improvement.

Business goals and objectives: Align the architecture roadmap with the organization’s objectives. Identify the key drivers and priorities that the architecture needs to support.

Future state vision: Define the desired future state of the architecture. This includes identifying the target technologies, platforms, and architectural principles to enable the organization to achieve its business goals.

Gap analysis: Conduct a gap analysis to identify the gaps between the current and future states. These gaps will inform the roadmap’s priorities and initiatives.

Prioritization and Phasing: Prioritize the projects based on their business value, feasibility, and dependencies. Determine the logical sequence and phasing of the initiatives to ensure a smooth transition.

Initiatives and milestones: Define the specific initiatives, projects, and milestones in the roadmap. Each initiative should have clear objectives, scope, deliverables, and timelines.

Governance and change management: Establish governance processes and mechanisms to ensure the successful execution of the roadmap. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, establishing decision-making frameworks, and implementing change management practices to manage the impact of architectural changes on the organization.

 

9. What does a solution reference architecture include? 

A solution reference architecture is a predefined architectural blueprint or framework that provides guidance and best practices for designing and implementing a specific type of solution.

A solution architecture roadmap comprises several components that streamline and guide the architectural decision-making process. Here’s a clearer breakdown of its components:

  1. Business cases: These are integrated through the Oracle Primavera portfolio management system. They provide the rationale for different initiatives.

2. Attributes of business cases: Specific details about each business case, shedding light on their distinct characteristics and requirements.

3. Data governance & PII data risk: Data governance is crucial, especially the risk scoring of Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This scoring helps determine the sensitivity of the data being handled.

4. External interface risk evaluation: A specialized team assesses the risks associated with data interfaces connecting to external organizations.

5. Key diagrams: These visuals depict critical elements such as: Project scope, process models, use cases, logical views, data flow diagrams.

READ: How KeyBanks integrates ServiceNow and Bizzdesign to create a solution architecture diagram repository

6. Ongoing enhancement categories: The roadmap continually evolves, with plans to incorporate categories like Assumptions and risks and pattern alignment

7. Architectural platform: It plays a pivotal role as the foundation. This platform contributes to a central repository where various resources like design patterns, templates, and interconnected models are stored for collective insights.

8. Project specifics: Details about the nature and category of the data guide the solution architecture process. With established standards, these specifics assist in suggesting appropriate patterns to be employed in a solution.

9. Early engagement: The architectural team aspires to participate in the project’s initial phases. This ensures they have a say in vendor selection, early identification of business requirements, and risk assessment.The solution architecture roadmap provides a comprehensive framework, ensuring that all architectural decisions align with business needs and established standards.

Sources:

[1] https://www.opengroup.org/togaf/10thedition

[2] https://www.opengroup.org/togaf/10thedition

[3] https://zachman-feac.com/zachman/about-the-zachman-framework

 

 

 

 

Solution architecture management

Jan Jaap Elskamp
As the Head of Global Custmer Success at Bizzdesign, Jan Jaap Elskamp leads the company’s customer success initiatives, steering the helm with his expansive experience in consulting and project management. In particular, Jan Jaap’s expertise lies in digital transformation and strategic implementation. During his career, he’s worked in the public sector, utilities, and IT services industries, where he has applied his expertise to drive significant advancements. He is adept in fostering enterprise and business architecture, propelling innovation management, and orchestrating project and program management to enhance business process efficacy.