What Is a Solutions Architect (SA)?
In my experience, Solutions Architect is a job title applied to one of these two roles:
A developer who has been with the company a long time and knows the digital systems inside and out, backwards and forwards. They know who controls the most important systems and who to nudge when something need to get through the bureaucracy. They know where the bottlenecks are, which dependencies are crucial, and which systems are troublesome and risky. Their knowledge is valuable to the company so, over time, their seniority is recognized with new job titles: perhaps they started as a Developer, then Senior Developer, then Technical Team Lead, and so on, eventually becoming Solutions Architect.
They’re usually close to or within the delivery teams. But they rarely have time to write code. If they still write code it’s during their spare time. Their responsibilies as SA are time consuming — because helping the organization figure out how to build new behaviours into their digital systems amidst technological
chaosis a full time job.
I have great respect for these individuals and I wish to help them facilitate the principles and practices of incremental and emergent architecture.
The other role, for which I often see the SA monicker, is actually a marketing and sales position. For example, every cloud provider educates Solutions Architect to explain how their
productis the silver bullet you need to wrangle your technological chaos.
This recent Salesforce job advertisement exemplifies the role (edited for brevity):
Solutions Architects (SAs) (a.k.a. “Success Architects!”) are core members of our Customer Success Team, providing Enterprise Architecture Thought Leadership, Technology Strategy…They triage customer assistance requests and lead corresponding engagements that increase Salesforce adoption…support add-on Sales and Services growth, and minimize attrition risk. They closely collaborate with a team of SAs and Success Managers…SAs also create C-Level relationships with our most strategic customers…
You can clearly see the role is evangelical by design. They are not impartial. Their goal is not to provide their client the best possible architectural guidance; their goals are to “increase Salesforce adoption”, “add-on Sales”, “growth”, “minimize attrition”, and “create C-Level relationships”. I have great respect for these individuals, they do important work for their employers — but these are not the Solutions Architects I’m advising in this article.
The certification path above would be valuable to Solutions Architects first by providing a crash-course in iterative & incremental product development with self-organizing teams (APS: Applying Professional Scrum). Then, a refresher course for Agile engineering practices featuring emergent/incremental architecture (PSD, PSU, and Spec by Example). And as most Solutions Architects interact with multiple teams, it is helpful to enhance their hard-skills and soft-skills for multi-team environments _(SPS, PSU, PSK, PAL-E, and Wardley Mapping).
Certifications for Solutions Architects Explained
Core Scrum.org Courses
Core courses I recommend for Solutions Architects are illustrated above along the main horizontal path (left to right).
Related Scrum.org Courses
Related courses are illustrated below the main horizontal path.
Related Courses (Beyond Scrum.org)
Recommended courses through other organizations (not Scrum.org) are illustrated above the main horizontal path.
All About Certification — A Blog Series: Table of Contents
This article is one part in a series I wrote in 2019 to address questions that I frequently receive about training courses and certifications.